Pierce County animal control seized more than a dozen animals after finding them emaciated at an abandoned farm in Roy last Friday.
Officers found seven dead pigs on the farm, located in the 100 block of 394 St. S. in Roy, said Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, whose office oversees the Animal Control department.
All told, she said the Roy farm contained 16 pigs, including the seven dead ones; three piglets; two dogs; a horse; a cow; a steer and a cat.
The animals belonged to Fagatulu’imalemalo Fa’Agata, she said.
Anderson said her office has a duty to contact the animal owner and notify the animals have been seized, while providing an inventory of animals on the property that were taken. The property owner then has a specified amount of time in which to petition the court to have the animals returned. If a petition to return the animals is filed, the owner would have to pay a bond for their care, and the cost of veterinary bills and boarding expenses while the animals are held in custody pending a hearing would be “quite large,” Anderson estimated.
Technically, the animals are evidence of a crime, Anderson said. They must be sequestered as evidence at contracted facilities in the county. The county maintains contracts with several facilities, she said. Some of the animals seized in Roy are at veterinary hospitals receiving care, and others are at boarding facilities, she said.
Anderson said the county has seized just about every kind of animal imaginable, but said this is the largest livestock seizure she remembers.
“In cases like this, I always like to remind the public that animal control officers are part of the law enforcement community,” Anderson said. “We’re constantly having to balance property rights and Constitutional rights of individuals with the best welfare for animals. That means we can’t just welcome ourselves and stroll around on 20 acres of property looking for problems when we don’t have reasonable cause or a warrant to do so. We have restrictions, but they’re important restrictions to observe.”
Since 2008, Pierce County Animal Control received 20 calls at the Roy address. More than half were for loose or roaming animals, and about 20 percent were complaints of dangerous or aggressive animals — aggressive pigs, in this case. There were also five calls of animal abuse or neglect, but those were all several years ago.
Anderson said Animal Control officers happened to be on the property for another complaint and were able to observe emaciated animals from the vantage point of a cooperative neighbor’s property.
“We’re always looking for opportunities like that,” she said. “We want our cases to hold up and violators to be prosecuted. That means we can’t contaminate cases … by violating the law. Procedural law is more important in animal control than people would like to think. We definitely want to prosecute this man to the fullest extent possible.”
Anderson added they may seek to deem Fa’Agata’s behavior “habitual” in court, which would mean he can’t own animals again.
Fa’Agata has an outstanding bench warrant, issued in July 2013, for a dangerous animal violation, Anderson said. Two of his dogs had been declared dangerous in May 2011, she said. One dog was impounded on a warrant in June 2011 and the other animal’s location was unknown, she said.