February 11, 2012

Country Mouse, City Mouse

On July 21, 2011 Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies joined county animal control personnel in a warrantless raid on a private farm in Arvada, Colorado. Goverment agents were acting on an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers.

The owner, Debe Bell, 59, was charged with 55 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty after Jefferson County investigators found "deplorable conditions" at the Arvada farm. Nearly 200 animals were seized from her property at 12820 W. 75th Ave. in Arvada. The "deplorable conditions" included: Cages the animals were kept in were urine-soaked, caked in feces and had little or no food; with few exceptions they had no water; animal's fur was matted and caked in feces; 20 dead animals were found in a freezer.

After seizure the 200 animals were moved to a private animal shelter where they were cleaned, fed and watered then, adopted out to other owners. The original owner filed a legal motion to halt the adoption, which included sterilization of the confiscated breeding stock. "The court denied the motion," Mollie Thompson with the Foothill Animal Shelter said.

On January 27, 2012 a jury found Debe Bell guilty of 35 counts of animal cruelty. Sentencing is scheduled for March 20. Each misdemeanor count carries a potential sentence of up to 18 months in jail, according to the Denver Post.

According to Bell's attorney a potential fine of $1000 per count may also be assessed. The private shelter may also seek reparation for costs it incurred.

You've noticed by now I intentionally omitted the animals' breed. I did so to prevent your prejudice in this case from being affected by cute cuddly bunny rabbits. The County Court judge in Ms. Bell's case, however, had less concern over prejudice - she granted a motion by the state to prohibit defendant's council from referring to the rabbits as "livestock."

Ms. Bell and her attorney, having lost the legal battle under terms imposed by the court, appealed their case to the court of public opinion in an interview with Jon Caldera on the Mike Rosen Show Friday morning.

Among her comments:

"Rabbits are food." "Yes, I put the rabbits in my freezer. I also put in some chickens and some pork chops." "I sold rabbits to the Denver Zoo. Now they buy them from China." "Rabbit is the number one meat sold in California." "I thought I lived in America."

Also discussed (11:30) is the Crime Stoppers program and its well publicized $2000 reward for animal abuse tips.

No word yet from Colorado 4H.

I'm also including a link to the first account that I read of this story. It is on Huffington Post. The comments are, I believe, indicative of the mindset that enables our legal system to apply anthropomorphic attitudes to livestock and their producers.

UPDATE: More attentive blogs were on the case six months ago.

Colorado From the other side The World According to DP We're from the government, and here to help. Posted by JohnGalt at February 11, 2012 11:43 AM

I've so little free time nowadays, but I should post a reply here, and turn it into the blog post I've in fact wanted to make for a long time.

It is an absolute necessity that animals be seen as mere property, whether it's this case, Michael Vick with dog fights, or a case in Utah some years back I'll never forget. A father went nuts and stomped a poor dog to death in front of his kids.

I often like animals more than people. Animals can't be blamed for acting out of instinct, when I detest most of humanity for not having the sense God gave them. However, either animals are property, fit to dispose of as the owner wishes (without harming others), or they aren't. There is no middle ground. Once you say, "They're the person's property, but there are conditions," then you are saying they are not truly property. Once "society" can attach conditions, then society is the true owner, and the "owner" is merely using the animals with permission.

This is precisely what happened to Bell. She wasn't harming anyone, but the state declared that she didn't meet the conditions to keep the rabbits. They could have been Greyhounds, lions or salamanders, and the principle would stay the same.

Once you say that there are limits to how a person can peacefully dispose of property, then anything goes. While specifics always differ, you are advocating the basic idea that a person's neighbors, via "elected" representatives and their armed enforcers, can order someone about. This is how the state claims the power to control phosphates in our detergent, to make us apply for permits to add onto our homes, and to forbid us to farm because some worm might be on the land.

I don't want my neighbors to rule my life, just as I have no wish to rule theirs. If I noticed someone mistreating a horse, I'd confront the person with reason, not a threat to get government involved. I'd ask why, and ask if there's something I could help with. There was a news article a while back about an old horse taken far out somewhere, tied up and left to die. I think it's a shame it wasn't put down peacefully. Horses aren't really used for glue anymore, but if the idea was to leave it for the buzzards, at least it wouldn't have suffered. It's not my right to demand the owner do that, however. If he told me to go mind my own business, so be it.

Most people, however, would never talk to the person first. They'd simply call the police first when they think an animal is being mistreated. Government has conditioned them to be both cowardly and lazy.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at February 12, 2012 5:25 PM | What do you think? [1]