News

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

contends.

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

ordinance.

"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.

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