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I've mentioned in passing over the last few months that things haven't been going well. A serious understatement, but I don't like to whine and the situation has been embarrassing as well as infuriating. I've also mentioned in disgust over the years that Lincoln County, Oregon is the slimiest, most corrupt place I've ever lived, and I lived forty miles from a Klan center for several years in Indiana. Now the slimy, lying bastards have gone beyond charging me with neglecting horses that were out on breeding lease and hadn't been under my care for months, (three months for one and eighteen months for another), and taking horses from locations that weren't covered in the warrant, (obtained via trespass and illegal search), now they've outright stolen them. And gelded two stallions with irreplaceable bloodlines, one of which was the third generation of my breeding and recognized with the German verband RPSI. Randomize

Two and a half years ago I offered safe haven to a woman I considered a friend and her husband when they lost their house in LA and had nowhere to go. I let them bring their RV onto the farm, install a forty foot storage container and take up most of one of the outbuildings with their stuff and charged them nothing but electricity and a minimum to board their two horses, one of which I bred and sold to her, (that's how we met). If I'd known her husband was an alcoholic, I never would have let them on the property. If I'd realized she wasn't all that far behind him, I'm not sure what I'd have done, but it wouldn't have involved letting them get burrowed in and firmly ensconced where he could vandalize at will whenever he felt aggrieved. He had a rotten childhood and a violent, emotionally abusive father and a couple of bad marriages before they got together, I understand where his drinking and feelings of inadequacy are rooted. My specialty was critical care, but I have a very solid background in psych and chemical dependency as well and I was very willing to help him deal with his past, but he wasn't interested, so I let it go. They are devoted to each other and she is unconditionally supportive of him. Which is fine; for her. If she wants to overlook him breaking things half a dozen times before he manages to cobble them back together, that's entirely her prerogative. And he is very bright and capable when he's sober, I originally considered him a friend as well. If she feels moved to forgive him and never mention him leaving his shop in a state that caught fire and burned their house down and later sent it into foreclosure, then I admire her for being a better person than I am. But he's not my husband and I'm not under any obligation to put up with that crap or any other manifestations of his disease. And apparently last fall she decided that my setting and holding to boundaries on the subject makes me a horrible, mean person and that we were no longer friends. Unfortunately for me, she didn't mention this decision to me. I understand choosing to support a spouse over a friend that one's only known a few years, but outright backstabbing on this scale is utterly beyond my comprehension.

Our local dog catcher, Kerri Tyler, is the Frank Burns of animal control. I know that she means well, but her ignorance and ineptitude is not much short of staggering, at least as it relates to livestock and large animals, especially horses. Which one would think is kind of an issue for a rural county with a considerable proportion of citizens still involved in farming or ranching to some degree. My background and training is extensive, unusually so. I have my 10K+ hours logged on horseback, and many times that on the ground, mucking stalls, training, loungeing, handling, breeding, bucking hay, running tractors and backhoes etc, etc. Involved with horses in various venues for forty years, professionally involved, on and off, for thirty-five. I don't expect people to have my degree of training and expertise and I try to be polite and keep my mouth shut in general, or offer assistance or opinions in as supportive a way as I can. I like teaching and I'm a pretty decent teacher most of the time. But it doesn't take me very long to totally lose my patience when I have idiots getting up in my face with a cop's arrogance and a pre-teen's understanding of the field in which I'm a seasoned professional, so she and I have gone round and round periodically for several years and she's been just itching to have an excuse to come at me.

But there's a confluence of interests, Lincoln County has a long history of what Barbara Ehrenreich recently called 'Preying on the Poor'. I read that just before this last chapter came down in my situation and realizing that people were finally starting to recognize this behavior in local governments moved me to start roughing out a series on this because Lincoln County is the poster child for predatory local governments. They seize the vehicles of people accused of DUII, which doesn't sound unreasonable until you add their twists on implementation. Depending on who you are, or aren't, they seize the vehicles, throw them in impound and hold them while the DA's office drags its heels getting around to filing charges, so that by the time a person has the opportunity to prove themselves innocent, the impound fees are often more than the vehicle's worth or the person just doesn't have that big a chunk of cash to retrieve it. Now, I hate drunks and I have no use for those who drink and drive, not the least because I've spent so many shifts taking care of victims and it's almost always the innocents that end up dying in ER or up in CCU while the drunks are sleeping it off somewhere. But when you can lose your car just for being accused, I have a problem. I don't know how it stacks up against the more traditional speed trap, but it provides a tidy little additional revenue stream for the county. It does occasionally backfire and they get caught, like they did after Christmas when they popped a county commissioner, not recognizing him before they started running their little game. He's been sober twenty years, but apparently they just thought he was another mark in an old faded shirt with a truck that'd bring in some decent money.

Last year Lincoln County started a new hobby, accusations of multiple animal neglect and they did three 'big operations' last year alone. Quite the feeling of power, I imagine, to bring in a crew much larger than necessary, give orders and feel yourself to be the hero. Oregon statute allows charging the owners 'fair board' for care until trial, obviously intended to defray the costs of caring for any seized animals, and that's perfectly reasonable, but they've taken advantage to an outrageous degree to drum up money for the agencies involved. For example, the owners of a pet store last fall were being charged board of $20 per mouse per day. And the bills can't be challenged for veracity. They've twisted the reasonable intent into a profit center and another revenue stream. Then comes the kicker, they have the option of requiring that the owner post a bond to cover the alleged costs to hold the animals until trial and if the owner is unable to do this, then they forfeit the animals and the county can give them to friends and cronies or sell them off and keep the proceeds. But this is pursued in civil court, prior to and separate from the criminal charges and not covered by the court appointed attorneys, who only do criminal defense. So if you're accused and don't have ten, twenty, thirty grand in your back pocket to retain an out of area lawyer and post the cash bond, you can lose all your animals or property, whether they're pets or stock-in-trade, and then be found innocent of the charges. And of course they use that as leverage to take the incentive out of fighting the charges, once your animals are gone, why not make a deal and put everything behind you?  IANAL, but how in the hell is this not an illegal taking, deprivation of due process and racketeering?

But back to me, if you don't mind. Janet was supposed to be feeding the goats, (with my feed), since she and John don't pay for anything besides minimal horse board and electricity, but she let the oldest wether get very thin before mentioning his loss of condition. He's really old for a Nubian goat, but she should have said something when he started dropping off, not wait until he was down and actually thin. Her horses were getting really thin, too, and the Clydesdale's legs weren't being cleaned or treated for the chronic 'draft horse crud' that a lot of the drafts are inclined to because of the heavy feathers on their lower legs. I was angry about the goat, and trying not to be too critical of the Clyde's legs and the young warmblood mare's condition. She was thinner than my twenty-four year old Thoroughbred, and TB's are known for being hard keepers, (tough to keep weight on) and old TB's are worse. So I was working in the office trailer in mid October when I hear yelling and pounding. Tyler's outside with a couple of dozen people and several cattle trailers. She sends someone else to say that they have a warrant and take a ridiculous amount of time to read the damned thing out loud instead of just handing it to me. I've got more than a ton of feed on the property, both grass hay pellets and high quality alfalfa hay, none of my horses are thin, none were injured. The only ones even close to thin are the twenty-four year old TB mare and a twenty-two year old Arab ex-endurance racing mare. The embarrassing part is that the place is messy and run down, the horse market has been in the gutter for several years and I've been scraping by and juggling. And I'd been covering everything essentially alone for several months since the barn guy had a manic episode and went walkabout when we didn't have the meds to treat him yet, (he'd been awarded SSDI, but the Medicaid coverage hadn't kicked in), and it's been deteriorating for a couple of years as my knees got worse and I had less help in keeping up on maintenance. But one of the things about understanding a field so thoroughly is that you know the difference between the niceties and the necessities and how to juggle and cut corners safely.  So the place looked bad, but I had just sold a colt, (YouTube-Redacted RgF 2), to some people in Michigan three weeks earlier and that was going straight into the deferred maintenance issues, (and Tyler knew, through Janet, both that the colt had been sold and how much he sold for, she apparently felt she had to swoop in and get things in motion before anything else was caught up). But my horses were all well fed. Pasture condition, not show shape, but no one was thin and even their damned vet admitted that most of them were in the upper range and a couple were actually fat. Their manes were tangled and their feet were due for trimming, but with straight-legged horses on soft ground, not working, they were not in any way stressing their legs. And yet, none of that mattered, they took all of the horses on the farm, they went down the street to where two others were out on breeding lease and had been there for months and took them. They went to another place where I had two TB broodmares and took them, too. No warrant for those two properties? No problem, we'll just take them anyway. They also took all the barn cats that they could catch, (none of them were thin, either) and all of the chickens, (half of which were killed that first night by predators, oops).  The only horses they missed were the ones over in Corvalllis, where they would have had to show actual cause to actual professionals from Benton County in order to snag them. Then they went over to the house and took my Sun Conure and the other chickens, plus my stepmother's dogs. The yard of the house isn't visible from the street, Tyler has a habit of trespassing, (which she has conveniently documented in a couple of her written reports), and had gone up the driveway a hundred yards or more or she never would have known that those animals were there to include in the warrant. You want to talk about actual neglect and terminal ineptitude? Half the chickens were killed the first night because she didn't know enough to put them somewhere that the coyotes and raccoons couldn't get to them. My stepmother's oldest dog, Scrappy, 13, mostly blind and always a picky eater, had been born into her hands, as was Scrappy's dam, (she and my father had bred champion Toy Fox Terriers), and spent, literally, her whole life snuggled up next to my stepmother under the blankets. She emphasized to Tyler that Scrappy needed to be kept warm because TF Terriers have almost no coat and she was elderly and thin and had no insulation to hold in body heat. Tyler's people put her in a kennel with no heating pad or any other heat source and the following day she died of hypothermia. The vet said that when they finally brought her in to him her core temp was 85 F, barely enough to register on the thermometer. Her breathing was agonal, and there was a question of whether she may have had cancer, so they euthanized her. Without telling my stepmother. Even though Tyler had promised, faithfully, that Scrappy would go to a foster home as a special needs dog and kept warm and that if anything happened, they would call her to come in and hold Scrappy if they had to put her down. So Scrappy went from her safe nest under the covers that she'd had all of her life to dying of cold, alone among strangers.

I was pro se at the forfeiture hearing, my appointed criminal attorney offered to do it pro bono, but while he's smart and a really great guy, he knows virtually nothing about animals and even against a mediocre vet you need to know what you're talking about to get anywhere and keep from being buried. I thought I had done a good job undermining the vet, (he was arrogant, strongly biased and barely even mediocre, but I overheard him tell some of the officers that he took his family on a very nice scuba vacation over Christmas, presumably with the $3,000+ they paid him), and the judge had seemed open to the arguments about Tyler's personal bias against me, (she doesn't have a good reputation among the other Sheriff's deputies). Because Janet was helping them, her horses had been left in place, even though I had their own videos of Janet's horses being in worse shape than any of mine. And documenting that I had well over a ton of feed on the property. I had called my own vet in Corvallis as soon as this mess happened and told him what was going on and asked him to examine and document their condition. He agreed immediately, he loves Chance, (Randomize), and has known me and been my vet for a decade, ever since I moved here. The LC Sheriff's department dithered and stalled and 'lost' hand delivered messages and refused to pass on messages for almost two weeks before I finally sent an email that they couldn't deny having gotten to demand access for my vet. They hadn't taken any injuries from being stuffed into cattle trailers and hauled over the hill, but one of the TB mares had lost a ton of weight because she had a history of a broken pelvis and couldn't kick to defend herself and the idiots had thrown her out with a herd of others and cheap grass hay instead of the 25-30 pounds of alfalfa per day that she needed to keep weight on, (she's 17.1h, really big). Plus they'd taken off her turnout rug, so she was burning calories to stay warm. Did I mention that they took all of the horses without taking any of their accustomed feed with them? That they didn't ever even ask who was fed what or how much? Who was on grass pellets and who needed alfalfa to hold weight? Did I forget to mention that? Or that I had wormed the barn horses two days earlier, but was waiting for the new turnout rugs to be delivered, (they arrived 3 days later), before doing the pasture horses? But they didn't ask about worming or vaccinations or health history, nothing that responsible people would want to know to properly care for animals. The upshot from my vet, when he was finally allowed access, was that their condition was confirmed as perfectly fine and he testified, (for free), that there was nothing that justified seizure of any of my horses. Then the judge took almost a month to issue his ruling on the hearing. And all the while the meter is running. The DA's office had taken 60 days after taking everybody to get around to charging me with misdemeanor 2nd degree negligence in order to run up the bill, (they did the same thing to the pet shop people, over $40K for them), the hearing was broken up over more than a month, (that was mostly me getting witnesses and running into the court's busy calendar), and the judge's ruling took another month. So they're claiming the board due was over $34,000. Bullshit.

And the final straw, the newest slap, adding cheating and insult to total bullshit, the order with the 72 hour window for me to post bond, (I had some people willing to sponsor the bonds for some of the horses), wasn't mailed until after the 72 hours had elapsed. No copy was mailed to me, even though I had been acting pro se, a single copy, with hand written spellling corrections, was mailed to my criminal attorney's office and logged in the day after the time expired. So they've stolen my horses, all of my children. They've gelded the two stallions, both of whose sires are dead. I owned Chance's grand dam. I bred her and delivered his mother. I bred his mother to an imported German stallion and delivered him. He was the first horse born on this farm when we moved here ten years ago. Some of those horses were in their 20's and the fourth and fifth generation descendants of the first horse that I rescued in 1972, offspring and grand foals of her son, my first stallion, Sonny.

And now they're gone. All through the tough years we shared. My teens, doubling up classes and graduating at 16 and moving out three days later because they had nothing left that made being thrown against walls worth staying. It was easier to go out on my own. I left Sonny and his mom with friends when I went back to Earlham that fall, but had to drop out after freshman year when my grandmother was murdered. The years of scraping by in Indiana during the Rust Belt Depression in the early 80's, being homeless several times before I managed to drag myself back to CA and through nursing school. It was the four of us, Sonny and his dam, my first cat, Jasmine, and me. All those years I had to hang on to take care of them. I had responsibilities, I couldn't let them down. And now they're all gone and there's nothing that holds me here anymore.

Sorry it's not put together better, I'm pretty tired.

Originally posted to FarWestGirl on Wed May 30, 2012 at 04:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by PWB Peeps, Daily Kos Oregon, and Community Spotlight.

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