Birch Bay couple charged in dead bird case

Published on Thu, May 8, 2008 by Jack Kintner

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Birch Bay couple charged in dead bird case

By Jack Kintner

The former owners of a Birch Bay property where county officials found more than 80 dead domestic fowl last winter have been charged with animal cruelty.

The Whatcom County prosecutor’s office announced this week that three counts of misdemeanor second degree animal cruelty have been filed in Whatcom County District Court against Michael and Melinda Koenen, former owners of the 7061 Jackson Road property where animal rescuers found 84 dead chickens, turkeys and ducks last December.

The Koenens sold their four-acre property to the BP Cherry Point Refinery last November 19 for $325,000. According to refinery spokesman Mike Abendhoff, an employee had been assigned to care for the property, including feeding animals they found there.

A week later staff from the Snohomish County animal rescue service Pasado’s Safe Haven went to the property and found 80 dead birds, many of them locked in pens without food or water, others dumped into garbage cans.

Susan Michaels, founder of Pasado’s, said that the “horrible” smell made the situation obvious to her.

Michaels said that her Sultan-based agency had been contacted by a Jackson Road neighbor who had tried without success to contact three other animal rescue services in the area.

The unidentified neighbor eventually found Pasado by Googling duck rescue, Michaels said, and that as a result 24 birds were rescued and taken to her shelter in Sultan.

Second degree animal cruelty, under Washington law, occurs when an owner fails to provide an animal with necessary shelter, rest, sanitation, space, or medical attention, or abandons the animal and it suffers bodily harm as a result.

According to the prosecuting attorney’s office the couple has not yet been arraigned so a trial date has not been set.