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Court Decision is `Cat' Meow'
Ed Sinnema of Carnation and his "working" cats
and dogs had their day in court recently and won,
even though the judge wouldn't rule on whether or not
farm cats or dogs were workers or just animals.
The outcome of the court case isn't over yet.
Sinnema and three other farmers _ Ken Sikes, Russ Pfeiffer
and Scott Wallace _ are following Judge James Kaiser'
advice to contact the King County Council to change
the ordinance which does not distinguish between urban
and rural licensing for animals.
Unless the law is changed, many Valley
residents could find themselves in the same predicament
as Sinnema, who went to court over what his wife
termed a case of "principle is principle." He was charged
with harboring 12 unlicensed cats and two dogs. He has
contended that barn cats and dogs, like herd cows, are
working animals and as such should not be licensed. "If
they should be, then so should cows and horses," he
Sinnema's attorney, Richard Holt of Issaquah,
donated his court time to the case, which he termed
"a fascinating one. This is a terrible ordinance as
applied to farmers and large ownerships of land." He
explained the ordinance holds the landowner accountable for
animals found on that land and are deemed to be the
legal owner of the animals. "In fact, it is conceivable,
under the ordinance, the City of Seattle could be held
liable for animals living on the watershed lands under this
"This was a law designed to protect urban
dwellers, not the farmers. In fact, Judge James Kaiser
(Northwest District Court) originally dismissed the case last
year following testimony by former county councilman
Ed Heavey, who said farmers weren't even considered
by the council when the ordinance was adopted."
The long hassle has cost Sinnema plenty, but he
has maintained from the beginning it was a matter of
principle. The Record carried the story last year
when Sinnema first ordered the animal control officer off
his property after he had purchased a license for his pet
dog and refused to license the barn cats. The officer
entered the farm from another road and Sinnema again
ordered him off his property. The officer then called in the
King County Police, who informed him that failure to
sign the citations could lead to his arrest.
Has it been worth it all? His attorney, Holt, said,
"It will be worth it when the King County Council
establishes the difference between urban and rural
requirements for licensing." And that is just what Sinnema
and the farmers who have supported him are in the
process of bringing about.