Part II: Despite compliance with demands, harassment and threats continued against ND Rancher

Even though Gary was served with a list of demands, plans were being made to seize the animals.  These plans to seize and dispense of the livestock were being made despite the fact that none of the veterinarians involved recommended it;  Dr. Brummond did not include a recommendation of seizure in either of her two written reports,  Dr. Noyce saw no need for a seizure, and Dr. Woodruff stated that she would not have recommend seizing the animals.

From Protect the Harvest

The First Seizure

On April 22, the same day it was discovered John Connor cleared out, Gary started moving animals around so he could restock all their feed. While Gary was out in one of the big pastures moving horses, a vehicle drove up the section line.  It then drove into Gary’s pasture, approaching him.  Inside the vehicle were Stark County Sheriff Oestreich and veterinarian, Dr. Kim Brummond.  When Gary asked what they needed, Sheriff Oestreich said, “We have a problem.” Without letting Gary speak or asking him any questions, Dr. Brummond announced, “We are taking the mare and foal that are back at the house.  There is no discussion. That’s what’s going to happen.” Gary asked, “Why?” and she replied, “So they don’t die.”   Dr. Brummond was referring to the 21 year old dun mare and her foal.

Gary was informed that the mare and foal were going to be moved to Dr. Brummond’s veterinary clinic.  Gary said that he didn’t’ see any reason for them to be taken to a veterinary clinic.  He also said he would prefer it be any other facility based on his previous interactions with Dr. Brummond. He asked if they could be taken to a stockyard or someone else’s property with a veterinarian checking in on them. The Sheriff informed Gary that it was out of his hands and up to Dr. Brummond.  Not wanting, or able, to argue further, Gary then went back to the house with the Sheriff and Dr. Brummond.  There he found a number of other vehicles and law enforcement officers walking around his property.  This made him nervous.  They did not have a search warrant, nor was Gary served with any documentation.  Gary thought this whole thing was just a big misunderstanding.   Once the Sheriff realized they would need a trailer to move the mare and foal into town, Gary was asked if he would transport them. Gary refused to do that.  Instead, he acquiesced and offered to loan the Sheriff his horse trailer and hitch so they could haul the dun mare and her foal to Dr. Brummond’s veterinary clinic.

Dassinger Ranch Dun Mare North Dakota

During this first encounter, Dr. Brummond had also asserted to the Stark County Sheriff’s Department that two horses needed to be euthanized due to lameness. She claimed one mare was unable to get up after lying down and was unable to walk without significant pain. This was something Gary had never observed. He stated to them that he did not believe that was the case.  As their conditions were chronic, he knew there would be a day where it might be necessary.  However, he believed they still had a good quality of life.  They were not working and were living out on soft ground and pasture.  Sheriff Oestreich told Gary he had to put the animals down and he had to do it that day.  Gary was confused and distraught.  He felt intimidated by the whole situation.  Even though Gary did not think it was necessary, to prevent the situation from escalating, once again he acquiesced and put the two horses down.   Gary now regrets that he didn’t get a second opinion.

Later in the court hearing regarding the seizure, Dr. Brummond stated that she only did a full assessment on the dun mare and foal that were seized on April 22.  Additionally, in one of the photos of Stark County’s own evidence, the mare Dr. Brummond claimed could not get up and walk, and that Gary was ordered to euthanize by Sheriff Oestreich due to Dr. Brummond’s assertion,  can be seen walking comfortably of her own free will.

The Assessment

On April 25, Gary Dassinger received from his lawyer a written complaint completed by the State’s Attorney.  The complaint demanded compliance with a list of conditions. It also stated that he had to work with a veterinarian to develop a health and nutrition plan and return it to the office by May 1.  This complaint was based on Dr. Brummond’s opinion that multiple horses were a grade 1 out of 9. A separate report written by Sheriff Oestreich, stated that the animals needed to be removed immediately but where in such poor shape that transportation was not recommended.

The Henneke horse body condition scoring system was developed by Henneke et al. (1983) at Texas A&M University. It is a universal numerical scale used to both assess horses’ bodyweight and evaluate the amount of fat on a horse’s body. The system is based on both visual appraisal and palpable fat cover of the six major points of the horse.  It is a standardized system that can be used across all breeds without specialized equipment. A horse’s condition is assessed visually and by palpation.  Henneke horse body condition scores range from 1 to 9 with one being poor and nine being extremely fat.  In the Henneke scoring system the ideal range for most horses is from 4 to 6.

Compliance with Demands and Care of the Livestock

Gary Dassinger readily admits that some of his horses were not in ideal condition.  Gary makes his living from his livestock and is proud of his breeding program.  He had taken note that some of his animals appeared to be getting thinner. Considering how many animals he was managing, every livestock owner knows that there are sure to be a few animals in less than ideal condition. However, the condition of his animals was of major concern to him and he had been addressing this with John Connor.

Gary contacted his veterinarian, Dr. Noyce, and asked him to come out to his ranch to inspect all of the livestock and develop a plan to comply with the list of demands.  Wanting to ensure he was being thorough, Dr. Noyce developed his plan off of the written complaint.  This is why so many of his “recommendations” match with the demands. He wanted to ensure all the aspects of the complaint were significantly addressed.  The plan was completed on April 27.  It was hand delivered by Gary to the Stark County State’s Attorney’s Office the next day, April 28, three days prior to the due date.  At the time Gary submitted the document to the State’s Attorney’s office he asked to speak with the State’s Attorney concerning the plan of compliance.  Gary was told the State’s Attorney was unable to speak to him so Gary requested that the State’s Attorney call him.

Gary and Dr. Noyce followed through.  On April 29, Dr. Noyce, his wife, and father-in-law came out to the ranch and took care of the yearlings. They noted that the yearlings did not seem to have been handled very much.

On May 5, the cattle were dewormed and deloused. An investigator commented about moss in a stock tank.  She claimed that because there was moss in the water, it would be “no good” for the horses.  This assertion concerned Gary.  Wanting to be proactive, he had the water in his stock tanks and wells tested.  He did this despite the fact that water testing was not on the list of demands.  Initially Gary thought this person was a veterinarian.  It turns out she was the Stark County Assistant State’s Attorney.  All those samples came back not only fit for animals to drink, but were fit for human consumption.

Also on May 5, and then again on May 6, farriers arrived to trim hooves on the yearlings.  Both farriers noted that they saw no problems with the condition of the horses.

On May 7, Gary’s new ranch hand, JR, arrived to help care for the stock and comply with the list of Dr. Brummond’s demands.  JR had previously volunteered at an animal facility that worked with starving horses.   JR had heard from a friend in North Dakota that there was an opening on the Dassinger Ranch.  JR called Gary.  Over the phone Gary informed JR of the situation and of the urgency to find new help.  JR had heard about Gary’s situation and wanted to go help save the animals.  However, once JR started working with the stock it became clear to him that the charges against Gary were wrong.  JR didn’t see anything that made him concerned about their condition.  JR told Gary, “These horses have it made, with all the room they have to run and play, plenty of fresh grass to eat, and they are simply beautiful”.

On May 12, except for the pregnant mares, JR and Gary dewormed the rest of the horses except for the pregnant mares.   Treating the pregnant mares was not recommended at that time. 

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Repeated Unannounced Inspections

Dr Brummond reported that Deputy Kevin Eldridge was on the property on “the day before April 22”, which would have been April 21.  He reported the red dun mare and foal did not have water in their tub. However, in his statement to the Sheriff’s Department, John Connor said that he “fed and watered everything on Thursday” before he left.  Gary and his family were not aware that Kaylor had been on the property that day.

April 24, Major Kaylor showed up to see if the horses ordered to be euthanized were in fact put down.

May 1, a Sheriff’s Deputy arrived at the Dassinger Ranch and said he wanted to know where the plan Gary had developed with his veterinarian was.  Gary informed him it had been hand-delivered on the April 28 (which was three days prior to its due date). Several times during that conversation Gary asked if they were investigating John Connor since he had been the one caring for the animals.  His questions went unanswered.

On May 5, a Sheriff’s Deputy, and a State’s Assistant Attorney showed up to do an inspection.  This was the day that the State’s Assistant Attorney made assertions about moss in the water tanks.

There were other dates where Gary’s daughter and JR noticed Sheriff’s vehicles casing the ranch to inspect the animals.  The frequent visits from the Sheriff’s department had an impact on his livestock and the horses were startled more easily than normal. Gary cannot substantiate if law enforcement did in fact enter his property unannounced many other times, but he suspects that they had.  

The Secret Reassessment

On May 12, Dr. Brummond wrote a reassessment of the animals and submitted it to the court.  Dr. Brummond had not returned to the ranch to examine the animals since the initial surprise visit on April 22, when the dun mare and foal were confiscated, nor was an official inspection completed by the Sheriff’s Department.  Gary was not informed that a reassessment had even taken place on May 11.  In fact, he had been informed that a reassessment would be taking place on May 12.  In preparation for the reassessment, Gary had blocked his counseling schedule for the entire day of May 12, in order to be available. Interestingly, Dr. Brummond’s second assessment dated May 12, just 20 days later, reflected observations as far as condition scores similar to Dr. Woodruff’s assessment (see The Independent Veterinary Evaluation below). 

The Independent Veterinary Evaluation

During this investigation, Gary and his daughter, a nurse who is serving in the military and stationed overseas, grew more concerned.  They were worried about the behavior of the investigators.  They were concerned that they were purposely being kept in the dark.  Gary’s daughter recommended that he hire an outside veterinarian.  She felt he needed an unbiased opinion from a veterinarian who didn’t know him, or his ranch.

On May 17, Gary contacted, Dr. Carolyn Woodruff.  He informed her about his current situation and asked if she would be willing to provide an honest opinion of the status of his animals, and his ranch.  As a part of agreeing to make an assessment of the livestock at Dassinger’s Ranch, Dr. Woodruff informed him that she would make it a requirement to also prepare a report and send it to the State Veterinarian’s Office.  Confident that she was not going to find any problems, Gary was relieved that she would be submitting the assessment.  He was hoping her assessment would help clear up the situation.  As a part of the conversation, Gary also asked Dr. Woodruff if she would be willing to examine a yearling palomino filly.   The filly had the type of wounds an animal could get from running into and tangling in a wire fence.   Dr. Woodruff said she would examine the filly.

Dr. Woodruff conducted her inspection on May 18; 26 days after Dr. Brummond initially arrived at the Dassinger Ranch.  She reviewed the list of demands and inspected the horses and cattle. She took 46 pictures as a part of her report.  According to an interview with radio broadcaster Trent Loos of Loos tales, Dr. Woodruff explained that, “The lowest condition score present was 3”, and she reported that some of the animals were clear up in the 6 and 7 condition score area.  She also commented about the fact that the animals had been assessed with a score of 1, just 26 days earlier.  She said, “…I’ve been a veterinarian for 39 years and I’ve never seen a turn around like that…” 

Loos Tales Interview with Dr. Woodruff (click here)

Interest in Dassinger Ranch Horses

Gary sold a horse at the horse sale in Dickinson on May 13.  After the sale, the trainer of that horse arrived at Gary’s ranch.  He was interested in purchasing more.  Gary also had two other interested buyers arrive at his ranch.  Unsure of the requirements of the written complaint, specifically that he had been told he was under quarantine, but did not have any paperwork to prove it, Gary declined selling any further horses.  Since this case has been in the news and videos of the horses have been viewed by the public, Gary has received numerous calls and inquiries about purchasing his horses.

In fact, people that had volunteered to help remove the horses on May 25, later contacted Gary expressing their interest in breeding their mares to some of his stallions.  Other individuals also indicated that they wanted to purchase some of his horses once the seizure order was removed. 

Visit from North Dakota State Representative Luke Simons

Luke Simons North Dakota State Representative

Hearing about the case, Representative Luke Simons visited Dassinger Ranch on May 17.  He interviewed Gary and took a tour, filming the livestock.  Luke Simons then posted the video of the interview and the stock on social media to help make the public aware of the actions of the Sheriff’s Department.  Luke Simon’s wife set up a GoFundMe account to help the Dassingers raise money for their legal expenses.

Of note:  Representative Simons was also a Stark County Volunteer Deputy.  However, after the Sheriff’s Department learned of his support of Gary, Sheriff Oestreich called Simons and told him his services were no longer needed.

Dassinger Ranch Mares and Foals May 17

Dassinger Ranch Yearlings May 17

Dassinger Ranch Cattle May 17

Boarding Horses and Ownership Claims

A horsewoman who has been buying horses from Gary for more than 10 years, bought 2, 2016 foals. These foals were born in August, and Gary told the new owner that she could leave the foals at Gary’s ranch until they were weaned. After the foals were weaned there were significant winter storms, and Gary recommended that she leave them at his ranch until the spring. After the events of April 22, Gary contacted the owner to inform her of what had happened. The owner wanted to pick up the foals/yearlings on April 29. However, Gary informed her that he was told that he was under “quarantine”. Wanting to be compliant, Gary told the owner that he felt he needed to confirm if he was under quarantine or not before she came to get the horses. When this owner heard about the seizure, and the pending removal, she contacted the Stark County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Oestreich told this owner that “all the horses belong to Triple H” and that she could not file a claim. The owner knew this to be incorrect and was able to get someone within the Sheriff’s Department to take down her information so she would have a record of her attempt to claim her livestock.

Several of the mares on Dassinger Ranch were there to be bred to Gary’s stallions during their foal heat. There is a bill of sale for the mare and foal removed to Dr. Brummond’s veterinary clinic that support that that mare did not belong to Gary.  When Gary learned that the horses were going to be seized, he contacted their owners.  Those individuals were allowed to file ownership claims.  Of note is the fact that many of the horses on the ranch were owned, or partially owned by his daughter.  When she went to the State’s Attorney’s office and the Sheriffs Department to file ownership claims on her horses, she was denied.

The Planning Meetings

Even though Gary was served with a list of demands, plans were being made to seize the animals.  These plans to seize and dispense of the livestock were being made despite the fact that none of the veterinarians involved recommended it;  Dr. Brummond did not include a recommendation of seizure in either of her two written reports,  Dr. Noyce saw no need for a seizure, and Dr. Woodruff stated that she would not have recommend seizing the animals.

It was discovered that bills of sale were prepared to transfer ownership of the horses once they were seized. There were plans to remove the horses as early as May 11.  There was a post on Dickinson Last Chance Companions Facebook page, that the Stockman’s Livestock Yard was contacted about selling Gary’s cattle.  It was later learned that Larry Schnell of Stockman’s informed the Sheriff’s Department and the State’s Attorney that he refused to sell any of Gary’s cattle without his permission.  The Stockman’s Livestock Yard has offered to testify to this fact.   It was also discovered that during the planning process multiple people from different agencies informed the Sheriff’s Department and State’s Attorney that what they were planning wasn’t right.  They were ignored and told to “stay in their lane”.

Wednesday’s Post–Part III: Continued Harassment and ‘No Trespassing Signs’

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  1. More acts of tyranny and war against the people, Governments not serving the people as is there duty, but ruling over them like they own them.
    One big problem is that most every so called government agency, even the sheriff’s are corporations, which is unlawful, further more they act out side of the law and are therefore “outlaws”.

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