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☛ Animal cruelty now a felony 4-29-17





By Glory Ann Kurtz
April 29, 2017


The Dayle Kountz case:

According to a May, 2015 article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Dayle Kountz, owner of Kountz Arena in Bozeman, Mont., was charged with two felony animal cruelty charges after a horse with a missing foot and a comatose calf were found on his property. Kountz was charged with aggravated animal cruelty and a second offense of cruelty to animals.


A deputy contacted Kountz, who owned the horse named Young Doc Bar. Kountz told the deputy that the animal was 22 or 23 years old and he was going to get some semen from the horse and then put him down. He said the horse was injured around Christmas 2014 when he got his foot caught between panels and “hurt the foot real bad.” He claimed he cared for the horse but the foot was so damaged that it fell off. The horse was never taken to a veterinarian. Kountz had previously been convicted of misdemeanor cruelty to animals in Gallatin County in 1999.


It is now 2017 and Kountz hasn’t had a trial yet and he was recently denied a request for a change of venue in his upcoming trial for animal cruelty, saying that despite the defense’s claims, media coverage of this case has not been overwhelming. In an order issued Tuesday, April 25, Butte-Silver Bow District Judge Brad Newman denied a request by Kountz to move his trial to Madison County.


In a motion filed by Kountz’s defense attorneys in September, the defense claimed that stories written by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Belgrade News and two local TV stations were sensational, inflammatory and one-sided. The motion also noted a Facebook page called “Justice for Young Doc Bar created by animal supporters and a petition lobbying for Kountz to be prosecuted. However, Gallatin county Deputy Attorney Erin Murphy; however, said pretrial publicity was not overwhelming or prejudicial and the judge ultimately agreed, stating the news media coverage has been factual rather than editorializing designed to sway public opinion. The case is scheduled to go to trial before Newman in Bozeman for seven days starting Sept. 11.


However, the most important part of this case is that it is being held in 2017, rather than 2015 when the animal abuse charges were filed. On Jan. 1, 2016, “acts of cruelty against animals” was counted alongside felony crimes like arson, burglary, assault and homicide in the FBI’s expansive criminal database. At that time the Bureau’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) began collecting detailed data from participating law enforcement agencies on acts of animal cruelty, including gross neglect, torture, organized abuse and sexual abuse.


Before Jan. 1, 2016, crimes that involved animals were lumped into an “All other Offenses” category in the FBi’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s annual Crime in the United States report, a survey of crime data provided by about 18,000 city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies.


In September, Kountz could be found guilty of a felony and be sentenced from a database as if he had committed a burglary, assault or even a homicide, which could include years in prison, rather than days in jail.


The Sherri Brunzell case:

Showing the difference a couple of years can make, Sherri Brunzell, who owned the 10 horses, including an emaciated Quarter Horse cutting stallion, Dual Peppy, along with llamas, that were found living in a crypt-like Black Forest, Colorado, barn in 2014. The barn contained the decomposing remains of the living horses’ former stablemates.


In May 2015, an El Paso county jury convicted Brunzell of eight “misdemeanor” counts of animal cruelty; however, she filed appeal after appeal until they ran out. However, Brunzell had paid a financial price, as she was ordered to pay $5,400 per month for the horses’ care and the AQHA automatically suspended her and denied her any and all privileges, including privileges associated with registration related to transactions and participation in any AQHA events. The horses were sent to a Colorado rescue and Sherri never received ownership of the horses again.


At that time, the judge said he would have liked to give her more time, but during her 2015 jury trial, that was all he could give her, according to the law at that time


But her freedom time was up! This week, after her appeals were exhausted, the same Colorado judge ordered her guilty of horse abuse, giving her a 60-day jail term, beginning at 7 p.m. that evening, followed by a 5-year probation term and banned her from owning or possessing livestock, including horses and llamas. .


If this case would have been held in 2016, Sherry could have more than likely been sentenced to prison for years rather than days in jail.


Robert Dimitt, a hoof-carving horse trainer:

Recently, an Oklahoma judge sentenced a hoof-carving horse trainer to five years in prison for the mutilation deaths of multiple horses.


Robert Dimitt, Sallisaw, Okla., looked shocked when Sequoyah County District Judge Jeff Payton announced his fate. Officers immediately remanded him to custody to begin serving his sentence. After he is released, he will spend 10 years on parole and he is prohibited from being around any horses during that time. If he skirts the conditions of his release, he will be returned to prison. Dimmitt’s attorney had sought probation for his client.


Dimitt was arrested in August 2015, when authorities were alerted about dead horses on his property. He had cut the frogs out of the horses’ hooves to “make them run faster.” Several racehorses died, one in a paddock without water or veterinary care before her body was burned.


Awesome Ashley had to be euthanized after three weeks of treatment, as the mare’s foot turned to mush causing her coffin bone to protrude through her hoof. A third filly, Gold Digging Ashley was a race winner in her 3-year-old division. Her left hind foot separated from the coronary band. She also suffered from pneumonia; however, a veterinarian reported her other three feet had injuries similar to the left rear from the severe trimming, frog mutilation and infection. Dimitt even “applied live electric wires to her chest to make her cough,” according to a vet.


Had Dimmitt gone to court and been sentenced in 2015, he would have more than likely had to serve only days in jail rather than years in prison.



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