A dairy farmer accused in April of starving his cattle and pigs for at least six months pleaded not guilty in Whatcom County Superior Court Friday.
Seth Daniel Snook, 35, was charged last month with five counts of first-degree animal cruelty. A month earlier, investigators found emaciated cows, along with the carcasses of cows and pigs, on Snook Brook Farms near Ferndale, according to court records.
Investigators returned to the farm and seized 23 cows, the only living farm animals, charges say. The five counts refer to three emaciated cattle, a fourth cow that had to be euthanized and a pig that had died after surviving on garbage and dead animals.
Most of the seized cows have since been euthanized because of their condition, Laura Clark, the executive director of Whatcom Humane Society, said in an email.
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“The Whatcom Humane Society will continue to work closely with the Whatcom County Prosecutor's Office to provide them with the evidence they need to prosecute Mr. Snook and hold him accountable for his deplorable actions and crimes against these innocent animal victims,” she added.
A hearing in Whatcom County District Court at 3 p.m. on May 19, will determine if any living cows can be returned to Snook’s farm, Emily Beschen, his defense attorney, said during Snook’s Friday arraignment. He is capable of feeding 15 cows through the end of this summer, she added.
Snook is the third-generation owner of the farm, she added. His family went through a “rough time” last summer when his wife underwent a craniotomy, Beschen said. He’s since been caring for his wife and their three daughters, which made it hard to manage the farm.
During the Friday hearing, prosecutors agreed to let Snook keep his two dogs, three cats and about 20 chickens.
“Things must be really tough with the surgery and everything else,” said Whatcom County Superior Court Commissioner Martha Gross. “I’m glad we don’t have to take away their pets.”
Beschen, after the hearing, said Snook “cares a great deal about the welfare of his animals and we hope the community will refrain from passing judgment until they have all of the facts.”