Animal cruelty is a crime that many people believe is not taken seriously enough. There are many cases of abuse, dog fighting, neglect, and hoarding that go overlooked and unpunished. However, a recent case of animal cruelty charges in Olalla, Washington may be going too far.
Those who live off the grid or on a homestead know how important animals are. They provide you with meat, milk, wool, eggs, and they do jobs like plowing, guarding, and pulling. If you raise and co-exist with animals, you know that doing so creates a bond between humans and animals. And if you want them to thrive and provide you with what you need, then you need to treat them well. Those who don’t live on a farm or homestead may not understand the connection that you make with your animals. A recent event in Washington State illustrates this fact.
The News Story
According to reports in the Kitsap Sun, the Kitsap Humane Society seized 173 animals from Simon and Rosalind Bailey of Olalla on November 10th. They were removed for allegedly being hoarded by the Baileys. The Baileys were accused of not only hoarding, but also of failing to provide sanitary living conditions and adequate water for the ducks, chickens, rabbits, quail, and alpacas.
The Humane Society first contacted the Baileys in April of 2011 after an anonymous complaint. The Humane Society visited the Bailey’s five-acre residence and determined that the property was poorly maintained and littered with junk. They described the animal enclosures as being improvised and veterinarians claimed that some of the animals were matted and had sores. However, photographs of these supposedly mistreated and ill-fed animals show fat, plump, healthy specimens, hardly the abused, malnourished creatures the Human Society claims.
The couple and their lawyer state that their animals were well cared for and healthy, in spite of the fact that their farm did not appear to look perfect. The Baileys both grew up on farms and say that they know very well how to care for animals. The Humane Society sited a dead cow found on the property. The Baileys say that the cow died from overeating after they were told by Humane Society workers to leave food out for it at all times.
The Baileys were blind-sided by the seizure in November. They said that they complied with all Humane Society demands since they first visited their farm in April. This included selling several animals at auction to reduce their overall numbers. Since the seizure and news stories about it, the Baileys have suffered threatening phone calls and harassment when out in public. They also miss their animals and are now being charged with second degree animal cruelty. This carries a possible $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
What is the Real Story?
The Baileys and their lawyer claim that this is a case of gross over reach by the Humane Society and law enforcement. The Baileys freely admit that their farm is far from picture perfect, but they deny all allegations of animal abuse. They loved their animals and cared for them well. With the seizure, they not only face legal charges and public humiliation, they have also lost a major food and income source.
So why would the Kitsap Humane Society bother the Baileys and take away their companions and food animals? Perhaps they have the animals’ best interest at heart, but maybe there is something else at work here. In late 2010, the Central Kitsap Reporter published a story about the Kitsap Humane Society. In September of 2010, the Humane Society announced that they would devote all of their efforts to fighting cruelty cases. That sounds reasonable, right?
This represented a change for the Humane Society. They actively decided to move away from simple nuisance cases, say a dog bite or a stray dog running around a neighborhood, and only act on high profile cases of animal cruelty. The shift came as the organization lost a chunk of funding from the county. While the Humane Society claims that the change means that they will be able to prioritize better for the welfare of animals, the fact is that individual tickets to owners of nuisance dogs just doesn’t bring in much money.
It would seem the Baileys are an early victim of this new policy. With over 100 animals on their property, the Baileys represent a possible source of revenue. If the Humane Society can charge and convict the Baileys and others like them, they can get some of their funding back.
There may be two sides to this story. Maybe the Baileys had a few more animals than they could handle. But, the fact that they sold some to reduce the numbers at the Humane Society’s request should have settled the issue. At one visit to the small farm, Humane Society workers found that there was not enough food for the animals for more than a day. That justifiably raises concerns, but perhaps they should have listened to the Baileys. Simon and Rosalind live very close to a feed store and have limited space at their farm. They bought feed each day because they did not have storage for it.
The bottom line in this case is that the Humane Society and law enforcement have overstretched their authority. It would seem that they could find actual cases of cruelty and leave small farmers like the Baileys alone. While caring for their animals and living off the land, the Baileys were the victims of a greedy government looking for more funding and accolades from the public.