We did not want the animals to be taken at all, but if they were going to, we wanted it to be as smooth as it could be. We put all the stallions and geldings in together so they wouldn’t get mixed in with the mares and foals. And just as I was closing a gate, I could hardly breath as the reality hit me again. That although EVERY ANIMAL WAS HEALTHY, they were going to be taken from us.

Missy Dassinger

exclusive for Free Range Report

My grandma Hilda used to always say “there’s good in the bad you just have to find it.” I am hoping you reading about our story will be one of many of the “good” things that will come out of this. Because once you learn about what happened to us, hopefully we can help prevent it from happening to you.

The story I’m going to tell you is more than bad, it’s unconstitutional, and it has all been carried out against the rights and freedom that I thought we had in this country, specifically in Stark County North Dakota.

There is a very long story behind what I am going to share with you, and you can read all about it at Protect the Harvest. This report is accurate and we will stand by it in a court of law.

The very obvious issue in this story is that there is a huge disconnect between people who know livestock, and those who don’t. The State’s Attorney claims that a 6 year old cow was a 6 year old heifer, and he didn’t know the difference. The Assistant State’s attorney also doesn’t know the difference between a horse and a pony.

My dad, Gary Dassinger, loves his animals and his land. He registered his first Quarter Horse in the early 1980’s and has been raising American Quarter Horses ever since. There are few things in life that bring a sparkle to his eye like when he is talking about his horses.

Despite what some may say about it being a hobby, because he hasn’t made a fortune on it, he has spent more hours than you can fathom fixing fences, feeding, and toiling over paperwork to ensure it is all filed properly for these registered Quarter Horses.

Missy Dassinger on her dad’s ranch

Although I would prefer just to tell you how horses make my dad happy, I have a horrible story about the circumstances that led to my Dad’s heart being broken, and caused my  faith in Stark County North Dakota to be destroyed.

There have been many tough years, but when you are a third-generation farmer/rancher, that comes with the territory. He has been doing this for as long as he can remember, because some of his first memories are of the farm where he was born and raised and still lives today. I still go home as often as I can, but my job takes me all over the world. I am a member of the US military, currently stationed overseas. But, this is not a story about my job. This is a story about my personal life and how a perfect storm can threaten to destroy a family ranch that you love.

After allegations of animal abandonment and neglect were called in by someone from out of state who had never been on the property, my dad, and my family’s life was turned upside down. In my worst nightmare, I never imagined something like this could happen. Dealing with the aftermath and trying to prove your innocence after you are already proven guilty in the court of public opinion is not something I would wish on my worst enemy.

And despite that, when my dad was given a list of demands, and he met ALL of those demands, people who are supposed to protect the citizens of the county as peace officers, disregarded the constitution in favor of a horribly written law and their own biases, and put plans into motion to steal our family legacy and part of my dad’s livelihood right out from under him.

If this happens to you, I wish you the best of luck, because you will need it. You may or may not have time to fight back with the assistance of a lawyer. But, you will have to be able to afford this attorney first, and it will cost thousands of dollars for a retainer. If you don’t get some type of injunction, they will take all your animals. Well, maybe not all your animals. Only the ones worth money. When I got to the ranch on May 20 I videoed every animal on the place and, because the animals had greatly improved, I couldn’t tell which horses had been reported as a body condition score of a “1” less than just 30 days before.

They didn’t care about removing the dog or the farm cats. The seizure order specifically said “approximately seventy horses, twenty cows, and other livestock (other than dogs or cats).  And they also didn’t care about property ownership. I know this first-hand because I owned some of the animals in question, and was NOT allowed to file a claim on my livestock. If you refer to North Dakota Century code 36-21.1 there is plenty of contradictory and vague wording.

But, one part that is very clear though, is 36-21.2-06. This is where it says that even if the animals owner is not known, the officer shall publish notice of the seizure and if the owner doesn’t claim the animal within five days, the animal will be sold, placed for adoption, or humanely destroyed.

When the Sheriff’s department arrived on my dad’s property on May 22 with a seizure order, I told Deputy Kaylor that some of the animals were mine. They told me to go to the States Attorney’s office. I did. The State’s Attorney and Assistant State’s Attorney told me to go to the Sheriffs Department. I did. And there I was told they couldn’t and wouldn’t do anything. A horse rescue had been given a bill of sale and the only way I could get my animals back was to go through the rescue. This bill of sale was also done just two days after the seizure order, despite the fact that the law says the animals can’t be sold for five days.

But I digress.

The real thing I want to tell you about is the feelings I experienced on May 25. I will never forget the horrible dread I felt when I realized every animal I was looking at, could be gone within 24 hours. My dad and I have always loved going to check the mares and watching the foals frolic in the pastures. On May 24, going and looking at them was miserable. My dad and I would go back and forth from feeling angry to bawling our eyes out and having those deep sobs that make you think you might puke. You pull yourself together, and catch your breath. You hope your attorney is worth the money, and that this will get stopped.

We did not want the animals to be taken at all, but if they were going to, we wanted it to be as smooth as it could be. We put all the stallions and geldings in together so they wouldn’t get mixed in with the mares and foals. And just as I was closing a gate, I could hardly breath as the reality hit me again. That although EVERY ANIMAL WAS HEALTHY, they were going to be taken from us.

That night, I couldn’t sleep at my dad’s. I would hear the horses whinny and it would bring tears to my eyes. So, I went to my mom’s house to see if I could sleep there. In the morning I drove to my dad’s. In pasture where we put the stallions and geldings, they were running and playing like I had never seen. How anyone could say some of these horses were “starving” and a body condition score “1” just over a month ago brought up a deep feeling of rage. I couldn’t believe that a second veterinarian AND the Sheriff’s Department had gone along with the notion that these horses had to be removed.

As I drove up my dad’s driveway, there were a few Sheriff’s Department vehicles. One officer asked me who I was, and I told them. One deputy said they were just doing their job and didn’t want to be here, but they had to follow orders. I said I thought his orders were unjust, but I appreciated that he was cordial.

I parked my car out of the way, but I should have parked it somewhere else, because later that day one of the Sheriff’s deputies HIT MY CAR with their vehicles. Not only were they there to take our livestock, they were damaging my other property too.  

I took a short video, because I thought this was the last time I would be seeing the horses. I took pictures of some of the mares and their foals in the hopes that a friend of ours who was trying to adopt some of the horses might be able to use them to identify some of our best stock and preserve our bloodlines.

We were told that we could help load the horses if we wanted, but if we weren’t helping we had to stand out of the way. We didn’t want to make anyone upset, especially since the Sheriff’s department all had their rifles at the ready. I am still surprised by the amount of intimidation they exuded on May 25.  It was a very unnerving feeling. There were so many of them, I really can’t guess how many people were there.

Word came through to Sheriff Oestreich that we had filed an injunction. The Sheriff’s Department was standing by to see if they should continue. I heard someone say the State’s Attorney said to go ahead. Next, I heard Sheriff Oestreich holler out “We’re goin with it! Load ‘em up.” And it started.

I have been to Afghanistan more times than I can recall, and as a Nurse, I have seen things that you can’t fully understand or comprehend unless you have worked in a Trauma Emergency Room in a deployed environment. These are some of the most rewarding, and most horrible experiences of my life, but I would not trade them for the world. What I would gladly trade is the second worst experience in my life, which is May 25, 2017. When despite what the constitution says, Stark County tried to use a state law to steal every cow and horse that my dad and I owned.

At first they were using halters and leading the horses into trailers. Later they started trying to run them down into the trailers and it was spooking the horses. I asked them why they didn’t just keep leading them. They said they seemed to be a bit wild. I told them “these horses are all halterbroke. Put a halter on this mare, and she will walk right into the trailer.” They did, and she did. It was also frustrating that it seemed like a lot of the people who were helping didn’t seem to be that knowledgeable about horses. Lots of the trailers were slant trailers, and those are pretty unsafe for a mare with a foal. Luckily someone pointed this out and they only put one mare and one foal in these trailers. About 13 horses were loaded up (mares and foals) when a deputy came over to me. He had been talking to me on and off throughout the morning, trying to comfort me, and I got the feeling he was on our side. He said “are you okay?” and I replied that, “it comes and goes.” I wasn’t sobbing at the moment. Then he said, “your injunction got approved.” I looked at him and dropped to my knees and cried out. I was beyond relieved! My dad was in the house and came outside quickly because he heard me scream and thought I was hurt. I told him our injunction got approved and we hugged each other. We cried tears of JOY for the first time since this had started.

Next we coordinated with the Sheriff’s Department how and when the horses that had already been removed would be returned. It took a while to get all of them back, because the first trailer that left, had an old very pregnant mare, and a mare who had one of the first foals of the year. The foal was very strong and did NOT want to get back into the trailer. Eventually they had to sedate the foal to get it loaded back in the trailer. In all my experiences, I have NEVER had to sedate a foal to get it loaded. I have no idea what was going on at West Dakota Vet clinic, but I heard it was very chaotic. I am sure the horses were all stressed to the max. Luckily, as soon as they were all back we put them back out to pasture. Not to mention, the trailer bringing these horses back has a significant maintenance issue, because I head it squeaking and squealing before I saw it. But, finally, all the horses were back.

Our livestock was staying right where they were supposed to be. At least for now.

On July 10, the judge assigned to the hearing (that is not required by law) regarding the seizure order, ruled in our favor. Her 23 page finding was not glowing, and she seemed to still give more weight to the veterinarian that said horse were a “1” than the two vets we had who both disagreed.

There is an article from The Minuteman that breaks down this report, and shows how concerning it is.

We are optimistic that the whole thing may still be thrown out because the investigation was handled so ineptly.

Until then, we are taking steps to do what we were going to do before John Connor came into our lives, sell the cattle and have a partial dispersal of the horses. My dad is getting older and I want him to be able to enjoy the farm more. We are also in a severe drought, and will not be able to afford hay to feed all the livestock through the winter.

My dad sold most of the cattle last week, but the market has taken a serious hit from when we were initially considering selling and the seizure prevented us from doing so.

We are thankful that a man who runs an online animal auction website heard about our story. He is letting us set up an online auction on July 30, and the sale at showstock.com can be found here.

We are confident in our attorney and will fight this to the end.

But, what would you do if this happened to you?

What can they do to you in your state?

Do you know what your state law says?

Because, in North Dakota, and maybe in our state, they can seize your animals without you even being charged, let alone being found guilty. And, they are not required to give you a hearing to contest the seizure. The State’s Attorney’s office agreed to our hearing to correct the error in the law that did not allow for due process.

Missy Dassinger


Free Range Report

Comments

  1. What is happening on your ranch is nothing more than a trial to see how far the federal government along with our state, city, and county can push the civilian population before we revolt. It’s a shame the sheriff did not have the balls or the education to do what was right. I feel sorry for what youve experienced but be aware it’s happeni g throughout the West and it will only get worse.

  2. That’s NOT animal rights it’s law enforcement. They did what they had to. You just clearly Stated you don’t have enough hay for the winter so selling is best. You spoke of repairing tons of fencing, and all your expirience, but not one AR and when people who are trained as law enforcement go to school they don’t train with Equestrians so you cannot knock lack of knowledge. You can hire any veterinarian but the truth is sometimes you get lucky and this time you dif. What if you went into winter with very little hay and tried to make it then got busted? They wouldn’t have returned them. I sympathize about the law however that law wasn’t out in place by AT a little research shows it was put in place by Government officials in your area. They apparently did so concluding a major case of livestock neglect. I feel for your situation however it sounds like your just complaining about the law. If that’s the case then why put it on Protect the Harvest? If you take care of your horses better as your Dad AGES then they won’t have a reason to Ever return. Simply sorry they relocated them but that’s all they really did. PS simply being a Rancher doesn’t make people smarter, you come off as attempting to say your a bit smarter than say the Rest of the World. I’m not judging you, I wont, but take this opportunity to learn and do what’s the upper most possible scenario for your animals and your Dad’s retirement will be full of future beautiful memories.

  3. Porter, you really need to take a look around you because if you don’t see what is going on with our out of control government, your blind. Or your in, or related to, someone in law enforcement. Or your just like the rest of the sheep.

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