Commentary: Pursuing the ‘cruelty’ scam

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There’s a story like this in every state, virtually every week and they’re all are slanted pretty much the same.

Courtesy of the Kitsap Sun newspaper, here’s the headline from the most recent “Animal Tragedy” story, which occurred in Olalla, Wash., a rural area about 30 miles southwest of Seattle:

“More than 180 animals seized from Kitsap County property”

The story continued: “Investigators hope to wrap up their investigation by next week and submit their findings to the prosecutor’s office, according to Jake Shapley, the [Kitsap County] Humane Society’s animal rescue chief. The seizure, which stemmed from an investigation that started in April, is the society’s largest rescue effort to date, Shapleysaid.

“Authorities seized rabbits, birds, miniature horses, cows, goats and llamas from the property, with the most exotic animal being a golden pheasant.Veterinarians said the animals were not living in sanitary conditions, with multiple animals in one cage.The animals were treated and remain at the Humane Society’s facility in nearby Silverdale, Wash., until the investigation is completed.”

Now here’s the problem—actually, multiple problems—with this story.

First of all, it’s not at all clear from either the reporting or accompanying photos (made by local ABC affiliate KOMO 4 TV) whether the “investigators” were county animal control officers or Humane Society personnel. There is one photo that shows somebody wearing what looks like an official uniform, but mostly the images show what appears to be Humane Society personnel and/or volunteers.

In fact, the KHS website notes that the society operates its own animal control service: “Borrowing a very successful code enforcement and criminal investigatory model from local fire departments, the Animal Rescue Department at Kitsap Humane Society provides communities with specialized ‘Animal Control’ code enforcement and animal cruelty investigations.”

That’s fine, but their “Animal Rescue Department” isn’t an official public agency, and the news coverage doesn’t make that distinction—which I have to believe is just fine with society officials.

Second, even a cursory review of the photos—several taken by circling news helicopters, no less—shows significant clutter on this farm(if that’s what it is), but interestingly, no apparent mistreatment of any of the critters that were seized. Infact, every animal appearing in the photos seems healthy, well-fed and well-groomed.

Granted, the property looks like the aftermath of one of those aerial shots of somebody’s homestead after a tornado passed through, but the animals themselves look fine.

The real bottom line

So what was really going on here? Was this truly a case of rampant animal cruelty worthy of a media circus of TV reporters and hovering newscopters?

Apparently not. According to the newspaper, Kitsap Humane Society officials said they’re facing a $180,000 shortfall, and indicated that their facility might have to shut its doors if they can’t convince the public “to donate a little more freely and permanently.”

“It would be a shame should it come to that,” the newspaper editorialized. “The low-kill facility provides an indefinite home to animals with no place to call their own.”

As a result, of its fiscal crisis, the society announced that it isseeking 1,500 people to commit to $10 a month. Does anyone really believe that conducting the society’s “largest rescue effort to date” wasn’t part of a kickoff to that fund-raising effort?

And why isn’t the national Humane Society of the United States forking over some of its multi-millions to help out this struggling local agency? Oh, that’s right. HSUS doesn’t actually fund animal rescue efforts; they just talk about their “commitment” to ending animal cruelty—which doesn’t come with a check attached.


One of the local residents commenting on the story summedup the situation perfectly:

“[Calling it] animal cruelty gives the impression these people were beating the animals and allowing them to starve to death. Not the case at all. Multiple complaints were launched over a sickly cow that they probably should have slaughtered a long time ago, but they felt the need to keep doctoring & feeding it when they should have cut their losses. Overcrowding & algae growth in some water bottles is the other complaint KHS has, stating [that] the living conditions were unsanitary. They should have mandated the owners to downsize and given them a timeline in which to do it. Instead, they took every animal these people own and try to present them as monsters to the community.

“They invited every media they could gather with helicopters circling overhead & rolled in with a lineup of vans and trailers that went down half the road and made of circus of the entire situation. If you ask me, someone at the KHS is looking for a promotion, and these poor people, who have been suffering from multiple deaths in their family and illnesses of their own, having each been hospitalized themselves twice in the past two years, provided the perfect medium for them.”

“Looking for a promotion,” indeed. It appears as if this local Humane Society, while it might not be receiving funding from the national HSUS, is downloading and deploying their tactics to a “T.”

And that stands for “tragedy,” which is what you call it when the animal welfare community adopts heavy-handed tactics aimed at making a media splash, rather than righting any wrongs which the animal owners they target might have been guilty.

Review the photos of this animal seizure.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, who is a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.

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Whitney Moody    
Washington  |  November, 26, 2011 at 11:34 AM

This is what I've been saying the WHOLE TIME since these animals were stolen! THANK YOU!!!

Poulsbo  |  November, 26, 2011 at 08:29 PM

What you all may not understand it is the courts that order the Humane Society to take the animals. They can not just go in and take them because they want to. A judge orders this...

Anamaria Yhaya    
Olalla  |  November, 27, 2011 at 12:48 AM

Yes, they need a court order to remove/seize someone's animals but they society goes to the court & requests the required warrants based on what "they feel" is justified. The judge surely isn't out there inspecting people's animals. The humane society does and asks for a judge to sign off on a piece of paper that allows them to take the animals.

Anamaria Yhaya    
Olalla  |  November, 27, 2011 at 12:48 AM

Yes, they need a court order to remove/seize someone's animals but they society goes to the court & requests the required warrants based on what "they feel" is justified. The judge surely isn't out there inspecting people's animals. The humane society does and asks for a judge to sign off on a piece of paper that allows them to take the animals.

Terry W    
Ashtabula, Ohio  |  November, 27, 2011 at 08:40 PM

Whhat is really bad, people who know NOTHING about agricultural standards are making the decisions. When was the last time the average 'Humane Society" volunteer actually raised a livestock species? When was the last time they actually received training in body scoring?And since when did a field full of forage not qualify as food for herbivores? This was out and out theft- The aerial footage I saw some clutter and recent storm damage-- But I saw HEALTHY animals, being put in inappropriate carriers and set out in the sun-- almost an exact duplication of what happened in Colorado in July. JUdges need tobe aware that these AR people have an agenda, and that is to remove the rights of people. The judges who sign these seizure orders are being played like

NH  |  November, 27, 2011 at 09:07 PM

It is getting to the point that these Humaniac Groups are pushing the limit in their goal to end all animals, and brainwashing non agricultural people to believe their propaganda. Jeez, they are seizing animals in situations that they would not seize children in!!! And I can say that these groups will twist and turn and doctor photos to support their claims to get a search warrant, the truth doesn't come out until a deposition or a trial.

Joyce Williams    
Oakland, Ca.  |  January, 01, 2012 at 10:28 PM

I do not know about cattle and horses. But I do not that dogs, cats and rabbits should not have food available 24/7. Mother rabbits nursing kits, and babies up to six months can have free food available, but adults will eat themselves to death. Just as happened with the Bailey's cow. Some dogs can have food available freely, others will dangerously over eat. The real test is the condition of the animals. All of the animals were found to be healthy. They should be returned and the Bailey's should be paid for any animals that are not returned in tact and in good health. When individuals act with the authority of the Public trust behind them, they need to be held to the highest standards. For institutions to abuse individuals in this way needs to be regarded as a dangerous abuse of authority. In this case the people making demands and decisions were ignorant and arrogant. We are all at risk when this is allowed to occure. This agency needs to reimburse the Baileys in full and with punitive damages to put an end to this abuse of authority.

OR  |  January, 02, 2012 at 12:07 AM

About that sickly dairy cow, which was 'starving' before HS personnel forced the owners to put feed and water in front of her 24/7, predictably resulting in bloat and death. Has anyone ever seen a *fat* dairy cow? But more and more all these animal 'experts' characterize any animal which is not rolling fat as being 'thin and underfed' if not outright 'emaciated'. Dairy animals put all their feed into milk, and always show off their elegant skeletons. Just more evidence of the ignorance of the public and 'rescues' where livestock is concerned. So far as the judges are concerned: they sign the order on the request of the petitioners. If the petitioners are ignorant, and acting on ignorant complaints, why would a judge not sign the order? Particularly when you consider that the judges themselves rarely know anything about animals, whether pets or livestock. Those of you who believe these animals have been stolen may want to contribute to the legal case. Here's a link:

Sandra Lewis    
January, 04, 2012 at 01:33 AM

I have been following this story since the seizure. I have searched HARD and not been able to find a SINGLE photo of a sick, underfed, or injured animal. Do you really believe that if they had pictures like that , that KHS would keep them secret? They would be blown up to front page size just like all the ones they use to get $$$ on TV! The Baileys were victims of home invasion robbery at the hands of KHS and NOW their animals are being abused, surgicaly mutilated, and dieing at the hands of their RESCUERS. I will be contributing every dollar I can to the lawsuit I hope the Baileys bring against KHS.

Terry W    
Ohio  |  January, 17, 2012 at 04:39 PM

the only animal I saw, in the pictures, that had ANY evidence was a young rabbit-- wet, urine soaked feet-- in a photo taken AT KHS, AFTER it had spent HOW LONG in an inappropriate carrier..... Lets not forget to mention the poultry laying on their sides in the same types of carriers-- those poultry were shoved together into cages the way AR groups picture egg farms!!! So, it is bad for commercial egg famrs, but okay for rescue orgs!!!

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