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CONVICTED: Was justice served?
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Friday, Mar 31, 2000County: Snohomish
Case Images: 1 files available
Defendant/Suspect: Keith Amberson
On December 8, 2000 Amberson, owner of Amberson Egg Farm in Everett Washington was found guilty of cruelty to animals. Amberson was sentenced to two years probation, which also prohibits him from owning, controlling or possessing any poultry or other farm animals during the 2-year probation. He also was fined $500 and given a 90-day suspended jail sentence and ordered to serve 200 hours of community service.
In March 2000 almost 1000 chickens were rescued by Pasado's Safe Haven, about 150 hens died in the first week. Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California and Humane Farming Associations' Suwana Ranch have since taken some 500 hens and given them life-long homes.
In March 1999 Amberson was starving his chickens to death but the owner of this egg-laying operation, with over 50,000 chickens was not prosecuted despite the extensive evidence provided which included video that showed chickens eating dead chickens and rats in the chickens houses. Charges were not filed at that time because poultry experts at Washington State University showed that it was not uncommon to withhold food from chickens for up to 22 days, to keep them from producing eggs. They also stated that chickens could safely be without water for 24 to 48 hours. Based on this information Attorney Michael Downs felt there were no laws regarding animal care that were broken.
Washington States Department of Ecology inspected the farm and found it to be in violation of environmental regulations because manure runoff was going into nearby Stevens Creek and also into Lake Stevens. Amberson was fined $21,000 for this pollution but on July 16th 1999, the fine was reduced to $10,000 with the stipulation that if he doesn't violate the state Water Pollution Control Act during the next year, he would not have to pay a penny of the fine. Amberson's appeal was granted because in September 1998, while delivering eggs in Everett, WA he was knocked unconscious and run over as a suspect attempted to steal his truck. Amberson was hospital9ised for about 3 months. Even though fecal cliform levels dated back to June 1998, the appeals board ruled that Amberson's injuries prevented him from responding to that complaint.
The Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's office finally had officially charged Amberson with 2nd degree animal cruelty. The conviction could have meant a sentence of one year in jail and a $5000 fine. Amberson could not be charged with 1st degree cruelty because the charge requires proof of intentional harm.
Pasado Save Haven (http://www.pasadosafehaven.org), a Washington animal sanctuary provided video and photographic evidence as well as the autopsy (necropsy) reports to the prosecuting attorney. The original trial date was set for August 21st, 2000.
Complaints about the farm have been on file at the Snohomish Health District and the county as far back as 1977. In 1986 a plan was drafted by the Natural Resources Conservation District, to correct the manure problems.
In May 2000, the U.S. District Court for Western Washington had directed the U.S. Marshal's Service to sell Amberson's 20-acre farm at 9131 42nd St. NE because of a farm loan debt of more than $97,600. The foreclosure sale would allow Amberson to have a year to buy back the property by paying the bid amount, plus taxes and interest. If he doesn't buy it back then the purchaser would become the new owner. Amberson could farm the property during the yearlong "redemption period" however he no longer is licensed to sell eggs and his operation has reportedly shut down.
- The Humane Society of the United States
- Pasado Save Haven
- The Washington Herald
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