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Gladstone rancher appears in court on animal cruelty charges

A Gladstone rancher who is accused of neglecting his horses and cattle made an initial appearance in Southwest District Court on Wednesday morning in front of District Judge Rhonda Ehlis.

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Gary Dassinger testified on the potential seizure of his animals on June 14 at the Stark County Courthouse. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press

A Gladstone rancher who is accused of neglecting his horses and cattle made an initial appearance in Southwest District Court on Wednesday morning in front of District Judge Rhonda Ehlis.

Gerald "Gary" Dassinger, 66, is charged with four counts of animal cruelty, all Class C felonies, and six counts of animal neglect, all Class A misdemeanors.

While no plea was entered on Wednesday, Dassinger previously told the Press he intends to plead not guilty. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 31.

Court documents state Dassinger "intentionally caused the prolonged impairment of an animal's health when he failed to provide veterinary medical care" for multiple horses, including two that had to be "destroyed due to (their) condition." Court documents also state that two horses, a colt and a mare, "had no food and no water source", which left them "emaciated" and "in eminent danger of starvation, dehydration, and parasitism."

Court documents state Dassinger "willfully failed to provide food and water that was appropriate for the species and breed and sufficient to sustain the animal's health" and that he "further failed to provide medical attention in the event of an injury or illness, as appropriate for the species or breed."

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Stark County Assistant State's Attorney Amanda Engelstad said Dassinger could be released on a personal recognizance bond because she believes he will show up for future court appearances. Thomas Murtha, Dassinger's attorney, agreed to the personal recognizance bond.

Dassinger's animals were temporarily seized by the Stark County Sheriff's Office in late May following a court order, but Dassinger filed an injunction on May 25 to stop the seizure. The injunction stopped authorities from taking the animals and horses that were already in transit to a rescue in Mandan.

Earlier this month, Dassinger appeared for a civil case about the seizure. The case lasted nearly 13 hours over a three-day period. No decision has been made in that case.

Last week, Ehlis, who also presided in the civil case, asked the defense and state's attorney's office to send her their briefs by June 26. They will then send in responses to one another's briefs by June 30, after which Ehlis will make a decision.

Related Topics: CRIME
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