GLADSTONE, N.D. - When animals are neglected or abused, people can get pretty upset at the news. Gladstone rancher Gary Dassinger is under the hot spotlight, heading for trial on Monday. But he says what happened to his animals was not his fault.
This time last year, Gary Dassinger was recovering from surgery. He hired help for his ranch. Hiring that employee led to a visit from Stark County deputies.
"When they first came out I had over 100, and that's one reason I hired that other guy that was supposed to work for me cause I knew I had more animals than I could take of,” said Dassinger.
Deputies were called to his house on April 22 after a report of animal abuse. Court documents showed that the vet who initially examined the animals recommended supervised care of about 100 horses and cattle. The Sheriff's office requested a seizure order on May 18. They tried to take control of the animals on May 25, but a court injunction stopped Dassinger from losing them.
In June, a hearing determined whether the seizure order would stand. During that hearing, which both parties agreed to, veterinarians had conflicting reports about the condition of Dassinger’ s animals. Dr. Kim Brummond recommended in her April 24 report that all the horse should be placed under supervised care.
Dr. Carolyn Woodruff examined the animals four weeks later, finding that no animals were in imminent danger of death. She called the improvement "remarkable."
The court ruled in favor of Dassinger on July 10, saying there was evidence of neglect on April 22 but no convincing evidence of neglect on May 18 when the Sheriff office filed for seizure.
Since then, he's sold or shared about half of his animals. Dassinger says his original plans of retiring have changed.
"I'm planning on keeping with the animals and hopefully I'll find a foreman that would be able to do what he needs to do and we can work it out,” said Dassinger.
Dassinger was charged with four felony counts of animal cruelty and six other counts of animal neglect in May.
If Dassinger is convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. We also reached out to the Stark County Sheriff for a comment, but they declined to comment before the trial.