A Bay View man facing felony charges related to a 2018 animal cruelty case has filed suit in federal court alleging the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office violated his constitutional rights.
Roger Edward Pederson, 91, is facing six charges of first-degree animal cruelty in Skagit County Superior Court after 70 dead cows were found on his property in January 2018.
Aside from the dead animals, the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office removed about 170 live animals from the property, some of which had to be euthanized or died after being removed.
Pederson also faces one count of second-degree animal cruelty and one count of transporting or confining an animal in an unsafe manner. Both are misdemeanors.
According to Skagit County Animal Control Officer Emily Diaz, starvation, dehydration and parasites were the likely causes of the deaths, or contributed to the deaths, according to court documents.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Pederson’s lawyers assert that the Sheriff’s Office, Diaz and Skagit County violated Pederson’s constitutional rights by unlawfully seizing his property, and violated his right to due process, among other claims.
“Defendants breached their duty to keep Mr. Pederson’s cows alive,” the claim states. “And further, defendants breached their duty to properly preserve evidence, which caused damage to Plaintiff. They further breached their duty to safely transport property seized. They further breached duty to properly store the animals in a safe environment, provide them proper shelter, and provide them with proper medical care or food. Their actions ultimately caused the death of the animals.”
The suit also alleges several violations of the state constitution and asserts the county committed animal cruelty by transporting some of the animals, some of which later died.
According to the suit, 15 of the animals were euthanized on Pederson’s property without him being notified or without him being consulted.
The suit also states that without his consent or knowledge several of the removed animals were given to private individuals, while others were taken to an auction market in Everson, where about 60 of them died.
“All economic value from the potential sales of cattle was lost when the cattle died in (the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office’s) care due to the conditions the cattle were placed in by (the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office),” the suit states.
It states that the animals were removed from Pederson’s property “under the guise that they were being taken for evidence. Yet for the majority of the animals, no testing was ever done, no photos ever taken, nothing to preserve any evidence.”
The suit states that during the investigation numerous volunteers were allowed by the Sheriff’s Office onto the Pederson property, where they used Pederson’s equipment without his permission and then broke that equipment.
The suit also states that Diaz, the Sheriff’s Office and Skagit County “intentionally deprived” Pederson of his cows, interfered with his right to possess cows and intended to damage his business prospects by removing the cows.
Additionally, the suit asserts that the defendants intentionally caused Pederson emotional distress, negligently interfered with his business relations, invaded his privacy and trespassed on his property.
“Defendants acted in ways that would be objectionable to a reasonable person by: appropriating the Plaintiff’s name to advance their own interests, intruded upon the Plaintiff’s affairs, published facts about the Plaintiff in a false light, and made public disclosures about private facts about the Plaintiff,” the suit states.
Pederson seeks damages including “up to three times the actual damages resulting from loss of livestock.”
The county, the Sheriff’s Office and Diaz will be represented by the civil division of the Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, said Prosecuting Attorney Rich Weyrich. The criminal charges against Pederson are being handled by the office’s criminal division.
Pederson’s criminal trial is scheduled for September.