This came from a friend of mine in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately it is not a rare occurrence. We have many people with good intentions in positions of power without the basic knowledge of how farms actually function, and the real needs of animals. I recently heard from someone who was cited for feeding their rabbits some children’s cereal. The cereal in question is nearly 100% oats, which are a healthy grain for rabbits to eat. When people wonder why farmers worry about the lack of “common knowledge” about their livelihoods, this is exactly why.

When over 170 animals were confiscated by Kitsap Humane Society (KHS) in Olalla, WA, many of us were surprised because the photos of the raid didn’t appear to show neglected or abused animals. In fact, the photos appeared to show clean, healthy, well-cared-for animals—several shown eating food or grazing in pastures before they were seized.

The Bailey family, who raised animals on their acreage in unincorporated Kitsap county for decades, had been complying with KHS requests. Among other things, they were downsizing their animals and they did have a vet scheduled to come do health checks on the animals in a few days at their own expense as had been required by KHS. KHS knew this. Yet before any of this could happen, KHS came with law enforcement and every major media outlet and seized the Bailey’s animals. Photos published by the media show KHS handling and transporting animals in ways inappropriate for the species, and even doing some of the same things mentioned as evidence of supposed cruelty.

But many of the things quoted as evidence of cruelty don’t appear to make sense.

KHS reportedly instructed the family to have food and water in front of the animals at all times, despite the fact that for many animals overfeeding can cause health problems such as obesity, bloat and colic—some of which can be rapidly fatal. When the Baileys complied with this order, their cow died.

The Baileys lived near a feed store and, according to news reports, did have food for the animals when inspected. But KHS said it wasn’t enough—they were apparently supposed to have large amounts of food stockpiled at their home instead of buying enough fresh feed for a week or two at a time as needed. Algae in water was cited as evidence of abuse, although this is a common occurrence and well within the range of normal on farms. A vet was quoted in the media expressing concern that some of the rabbits didn’t have bedding, although even the ARBA recommends against putting bedding in wire rabbit cages.

Despite clear language in state law requiring them to do this, Kitsap Humane Society did not provide the Baileys any “written notice of the circumstances of the removal and notice of legal remedies available to the owner.” The Baileys did not sign over their animals, and did file a petition to get the animals back as specified in the law to “prevent the animal’s destruction or adoption.”

But before they could even have a hearing, Kitsap Humane Society sent many of the animals to a remote rescue, and both organizations began castrating the Baileys’ livestock animals—including rare breeds—and adopting them out. When the Baileys’ lawyer contacted the Humane Society, and then their attorneys at the county Prosecutor’s Office, all the communications and requests for information were ignored. Law enforcement MUST be held accountable to comply with the law and due process.

(Update: At the 1/3/2012 hearing, the judge ordered that no more of the Baileys’ animals under the control of the Kitsap Humane Society be adopted out, altered or otherwise devalued at this time.)

The Baileys have been stripped of a large portion of their livelihood and self reliance without due process, and need your help to fight this. They will especially need help with funding, as legal fees are expensive, it costs money even to file paperwork, and posting bond for the animals could become extremely expensive very quickly.

Many may not know that WA state law was modified just this summer to add the words “accessible” and “appropriate” to the definitions of necessary food and water. This could become an important test case as to how that is interpreted. If the court rules that standard husbandry practices—such as feeding a specific ration tailored to the animal’s needs rather than having unlimited food available 24/7—qualify as animal cruelty, this will affect all farmers, breeders, hobbyists and pet owners.

We need to make sure justice is done and reason prevails.

Gifts to help with legal fees and other costs for fighting this case can be sent directly to the Baileys’ attorney:

Paul Richmond, Attorney at Law

210 Polk Street, Suite 3 – Office
PMB 263, 2023 East Sims Way- Mail
Port Townsend, WA, 98368
Phone 379-5575
Fax (360) 554-4206
paulrichmond_attorney@yahoo.com
http://www.olympicpeninsulalaw.com

Contributions can be mailed, or even made via credit card over the phone. Please note that these are not tax deductible and are considered a gift rather than a charitable donation. Any money left over after the case is done will be donated to similar causes.

Mr. Richmond is also in need of information, evidence and affidavits from experts and lay experts about commonly accepted care practices for each species of animal: various types of poultry, rabbits, cows, sheep, goats, equines, camelids, pigs, dogs and cats. If anyone can testify about personal experience with the Bailey family and their animals, or has had similar experiences with KHS, please contact Mr. Richmond.

Additional information is being compiled at this website: http://justice4pnw.weebly.com

Photos taken at the seizure can be found here. From the looks of their coats, their eyes, their weight and the combs on the birds, all appear to be in good condition at the time that they were taken from the farm.

This is why many towns have Agricultural Commissions, so that people who understand the concerns of the farmers are in positions to express opinions of what is “appropriate.” But as small farms become scarcer how will this problem get any better? If we are to have locally raised food, humanely raised animals and children who understand proper humanity to livestock and other humans, we have to show them how these farms operate, and what is a good practice. We also need to make sure that the people who get hired into positions of authority and enforcement have a stronger handle on animal welfare than simply a membership in an animal cruelty group or a t-shirt with a pretty bunny on it. Well intentioned is a good start, but only if it is combined with sound judgement and basic knowledge.

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