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Gladstone rancher appears in court

DICKINSON, N.D. -- A Gladstone rancher accused of animal cruelty and neglect entered a not guilty plea Monday, July 31, during a preliminary hearing at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson.

DICKINSON, N.D. - A Gladstone rancher accused of animal cruelty and neglect entered a not guilty plea Monday, July 31, during a preliminary hearing at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson.

Gary Dassinger, of Gladstone, has been charged with four counts of animal cruelty classified as Class C felonies and six counts of animal neglect classified as Class A misdemeanors.

Stark County Sheriff Terry Oestreich testified during the preliminary hearing Monday in front of Southwest District Judge William Herauf. He was the only witness either side called during the hearing. Oestreich testified about the conditions of the animals he viewed with two veterinarians from West Dakota Vet on April 22. Stark County Assistant State's Attorney Amanda Engelstad presented photographs to Oestreich that he took on April 22 and had him explain the conditions of the horses. He described one colt as "weak" and the mare next to it as "very thin" with its ribs and back sticking out. He also noted that Dr. Kim Brummond said the mare could have died if it had not been seized.

Oestreich also said there was a black mare in the pasture that was lying on the ground and had to be assisted by the veterinarians to get to its feet. He said that Brummond said it needed to be euthanized.

Murtha asked Oestreich whether he was aware of lab results from the colt that was seized on April 22. Oestreich said he was not aware of any lab work, only hearing about it briefly during the civil case in June. Murtha also questioned whether Oestreich was aware that the lab results from the horse came back as "normal," Oestreich said he did not know that.

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Murtha argued that the state did not present enough evidence to actually charge Dassinger with a felony, stating that someone does not cause the prolonged impairment of animal by failing to seek veterinary care, as the state claims in the criminal complaint. He noted several problems he had with the statute and said the state needed to show that it was Dassinger's intent to cause the impairment of the animals.

Engelstad argued back that failing to get veterinary care caused the animals to suffer for a prolonged amount of time and that is where the cruelty aspect comes in. She added that the animals belonged to Dassinger so he was ultimately responsible for them.

Herauf noted that there are many ways the statute could be read and that could be up for proceedings at a later time. However, on Monday he stated that the state had met its minimal burden to move forward with the case, with the possibility of Murtha's issues being bound over for trial.

Dassinger entered a not guilty plea and the case will be set for further court proceedings at a later date. 

Related Topics: STARK COUNTYNORTH DAKOTA
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