Bay View cattle farmer Roger Pederson has filed two petitions in Skagit County District Court seeking the return of 145 animals seized from his property in January.
The Skagit County Sheriff’s Office served Pederson with a search warrant Jan. 22 and subsequently seized cattle from his property, as well as documented 54 decaying carcasses.
Skagit County Animal Control Officer Emily Diaz said many of the seized cattle were in poor health, and some on the property had to be euthanized rather than moved due to their condition.
According to letters from Diaz to Pederson and his wife, Marsha Pederson, criminal animal cruelty charges are pending.
According to state law, it is illegal to inflict unnecessary suffering, pain or death upon an animal, including by starving, dehydrating or suffocating the animal, or by failing to provide necessary shelter, rest, sanitation, space or medical attention.
Animals seized due to those types of violations may be put up for adoption 15 or more days after being moved.
If the owner of the animals petitions the court for their return, as Pederson has, the adoption process is put on hold.
Pederson filed petitions Feb. 6 and Feb. 16. One asks for the return of 29 cattle, and the other asks for the return of 106.
In response to the petitions, the county is responsible for proving Pederson violated state law, according to court documents.
Skagit County law requires dead animals be buried, incinerated or turned over to disposal professionals within 24 hours of their death.
Skagit County Deputy prosecutor Arne Denny argued in a hearing brief related to the Feb. 6 petition that significant probable cause supported the search warrant used to seize Pederson’s cattle, and the petition should be denied.
Hearings for the petitions will be held in District Court.
If the court agrees with the county, the adoption process for the seized animals may resume, according to Denny’s brief. If the court agrees with Pederson, it may impose conditions on the return of the animals.
Meanwhile, the Pedersons face thousands of dollars in fines for failing to properly dispose of the dead cattle on their farm.
County law requires dead animals be buried, incinerated or turned over to disposal professionals within 24 hours of their death. Skagit County Public Health can fine violators up to $400 per day per animal.
Based on the various stages of decomposition of the 54 carcasses found on the farm, the animals had been dead well over 24 hours, according to Public Health notes.
Photos obtained through a records request filed by the Skagit Valley Herald reveal that skulls, rib cages and scattered bones were found on the property, as well as carcasses that were skin and bone.
At least one carcass was found submerged in water, and others were partially sunken into the mud.
Public Health issued the Pedersons a $15,200 fine Dec. 8 after confirming a single dead cow was visible from a neighboring property.
Another fine of $21,600 per day – an amount calculated based on the $400 per day fine county health is allowed to issue in cases of improper disposal of dead animals multiplied by the 54 carcasses found – began accruing Jan. 23.
Joanne Lynn of Skagit County Public Health said Pederson has appealed the notices of violation issued in late 2017, resulting in the $15,200 fine, and issued in January, resulting in the still accruing fine.
This is not the first time the Pedersons have been found to have numerous dead cattle on their farm and faced legal ramifications.
In 2005, Skagit County found 172 dead cattle on the Pedersons’ property.
At that time, Public Health fined Pederson about $2,000 for two of those animals, which were found submerged in water.
Skagit County District Court records show that related criminal animal cruelty charges against Pederson were dropped when the case was dismissed in 2008, following property inspections and veterinary reports completed in 2007 and early 2008.