By Ang Gilchrist
Complaints, citations, and court records on file involving animal cruelty, animal neglect, disposal and loose/roaming horses on both public and private land have this community concerned and wanting action.
The property, located at the intersection of 655th Road and 190th Lane, Gordon, Neb., is owned by Vern Sager (Porcupine, S.D.) and has been leased for years by 70 year old Arthur Anthony (Tony) Daringer. Over the past several years, Tony Daringer has maintained an average of 60-90 horses at this residence at any given time. However the proper basic care of the horses, including food, water and shelter, has been a long-standing concern of the public.
According to call logs, law enforcement has received an average of three calls per month involving Daringer horses getting out in search of food and grazing on private and public land including the Gordon Airport. For each incident, Daringer has been contacted to corral his loose horses. Area neighbors and landowners have filed complaints about the horses tearing up their private property and free-ranging. One area rancher said that he has had Daringer horses on his property on numerous occasions, however he figured it was safer to have them on his land rather than roaming the airport property.
Another concern is the disposal of animal carcasses.
The current state of the Daringer residence was addressed at the County Commissioners meeting held Monday, May 21. It was the consensus of those attending that the property itself created a public nuisance and the care and disposal of the animals (namely horses) needs to be addressed in a timely manner. There is also concern over possible water contamination due to the disposal method of the dead horses and prior use of dipping bags used to treat livestock. Serious water quality hazards and regulatory violations can occur when composted or raw manure is piled or stored on-site for long periods of time.
When asked about the well-being and care of his horses, Daringer stated, “They’re being cared for,” and went on to say he wasn’t sure how many horses he currently had on his property, as it varied. He did not comment on the environmental concerns including water quality, run-off, parasites and west nile virus, but stated that the dead horses were buried. Daringer stated, “I haven’t had any arbitrations or anything on these stock yards.”
According to Sheridan County Sheriff Terry Robbins, public concern led to reports and pictures being taken in March and April of 2012, of various dead horses piled up at the Daringer residence. One picture shows approximately eight dead horses laying on the manure pile. Another picture shows a single dead horse, which according to Daringer, had been evaluated by an area vet who determined the horse had died of a heart attack.
He also told the reporting deputy that the horse had been drug out to that location a week and a half prior and just hadn’t been buried yet. Robbins said that no citations were issued, but that the information and pictures were turned over to the county attorney’s office for their discretion on prosecution.
County Commissioner Dan Kling also expressed his concern over farm equipment and supplies belonging to Daringer that remained in the county right-of-way and the liability it presented to the taxpayers. The state Game, Fish, and Parks is responsible for maintaining that particular right-of-way.
Gordon City Manager, Fred Hlava stated that the property in question is actually within the city one-mile zoning area, but is set as agricultural. However, the city of Gordon has the ability to exercise its rights to enforce nuisance laws already on the books. The County Commissioners agreed that they would support and apply funding to help get the problems addressed and the land cleaned up.
Daringer said he was unaware of the recent discussion held during the county commissioners meeting, but that he would have attended the meeting if he had known in advance, stating, “If someone has a problem, let’s get together and discuss it.”
Jocelyn Nickerson, Nebraska State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, has also expressed an interest in the situation, and commented that she has been contacted by concerned citizens in the area.
In July 1995 Daringer was issued a citation from the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Department for animal neglect involving five horses. This lead to Daringer being arrested and charged with Cruelty to Animals. According to court records, the trial ended in a hung jury in April 1996. After six months had lapsed since the mistrial, and with no further action taken by the county attorney’s office, the case and charges were dismissed in November 1996.
In July 2007, Daringer was again arrested for Animal Cruelty: Abandon or cruelly neglect an animal (involving horses), with a total of 10 charges of animal cruelty, each a Class I Misdemeanor. One charge was later dropped. Court records obtained show that Daringer plead not guilty and a jury trial was held in May of 2008 and resulted in Daringer being found guilty on four counts of animal cruelty. He was sentenced to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail (concurrent) on each of the four counts, plus court costs. Daringer appealed the courts decision and the process continued until March 2010. With the appeal denied, the court ordered Daringer to surrender on March 30, 2010, to begin serving his original sentence that was imposed on July 1, 2008.
He served 62 days of the 90 days ordered, with work-release and credit for the remaining 28 days for good behavior/time served. The total fines/costs for this case was $12,799.22, which included the costs of care of the animals on which the convictions were based. To date, Daringer still owes over $7,700 to the county and continues to make payments.