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Stanwood pet food business owners Jennifer R. Thogersen and James Paul Thogersen pleaded not guilty April 28 to charges of first-degree animal cruelty.

Charging documents state that the Thogersens acted with criminal negligence and “did starve, dehydrate, and suffocate an animal,” a white male alpaca … “and as a result caused substantial and unjustifiable physical pain that extended for a period sufficient to cause considerable suffering and death … a felony.”

A trial has been scheduled for July 16. The Thogersens  are not allowed to have animals until the case is resolved unless approved by Snohomish County Animal Control or a court order.

The couple have been running a pet food business at Thogersen Family Farm north of Stanwood. They sell dehydrated or raw ground rabbit, goat, duck, pork, beef and alpaca meat as pet food.

Charges were filed after two Snohomish County Animal Control officers responded to complaints that two alpacas were dead on the Thogersens' farm.

Jennifer Thogersen told the officers that when they bought the alpaca herd, the animals were in compromised health and were old. Four others had died in the field in the month since their arrival.

Jennifer Thogersen showed the officers the barn. She told them they had been out of hay about a week and had been feeding the alpaca herd of 15 a 2-gallon bucket of grain each evening. A water trough had discolored water with a film on top, according to court documents.

Jennifer Thogersen told officers she was pregnant, on bed rest and unable to lift anything, according to the report. She relied on her husband to feed the animals. She said she was unaware of the condition of the barn.

When the officers went into the field, they found that the two alpacas had been dead for at least 24 hours. A bald eagle had been eating at their bodies, according to records.

A licensed veterinarian was brought to the farm to examine the 13 living alpacas and to perform necropsies on the two dead ones.

The dead alpacas had no fat where an animal of adequate weight would have fat, like around the heart and intestines, according to court documents. The veterinarian found no infections, parasites or diseases that would cause death.

The necropsy affidavit stated, “… zero white fat inside is a clear indication the animal was not being provided adequate daily rations for an extended period of time.”

Of the living alpacas, the veterinarian found 11 of the 13 were emaciated.

As for age, the veterinarian report listed the dead alpacas as 1.5 to 3 years old. Of the living alpacas, nearly half were a year old, the rest were younger than 4 years.

According to the farm's website, the farm processes livestock that have aged out of productivity from small homesteads all over Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The officers' report referred to the website claims and stated that the alpacas were not in a compromised age range, noting the typical alpaca lifespan is in the mid-teens.

“The alpacas are typically bought by them to solely be used for slaughter. They claim the animals are older and sometimes already underweight when they arrive at the location. Although the sole purpose of the animals is for slaughter, the animals need to be provided adequate daily rations of food, water, and care prior to dispatching the animals," officers wrote. "All of the alpacas at the property have been in the care and custody of the Thogersens for a month or more. Since arriving at the property approximately six have died according to the statements made by Jennifer Thogersen.”

Contact reporter Peggy Wendel at pwendel@scnews.com or 360-416-2189.

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