United Poultry Concerns November 7, 2000
Trial of Keith Amberson Has Been Delayed

The state of Washington vs. Keith Amberson, owner of Amberson Egg Farm in Everett, Washington, has been delayed, and the reason will shock you! WE NEED LETTERS WRITTEN IMMEDIATELY!

According to Aaron Shields, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Snohomish County, Keith Amberson's defense attorney is waiting for Dr. Singh Dhillon, the Washington State University Poultry Veterinarian, to return from out-of-town to testify in defense of Keith Amberson! Calls and letters are needed immediately to be sent to Dr. Dhillon's superior at Washington State University and to the media (details follow at end).

Background re: Dr. Dhillon:

Prior to rescuing 1000 hens from starvation at Amberson Egg Farm in Lake Stevens, WA, Pasado's Safe Haven presented similar evidence fully one year before. Prosecutors declined to charge Amberson because he claimed "forced molting" caused the death of the birds. "Forced molting" is an egg production technique used to force the hens to continue laying eggs by starving them for up to 21 days and withdrawing water. (Hens do not naturally lay eggs year-round.) Dr. Dhillon, without examining any of the hens or performing any necropsies (or visiting the farm) confirmed that the deaths were due to forced molting, assuring Amberson would not be prosecuted. Pasado's Safe Haven attempted to claim that moralities of up to 50% of his flock should not have occurred, despite forced molting, but no charges were filed (other poultry operations apparently have a 2-10% mortality after forced molt).

This year, Pasado's Safe Haven (Sultan, Washington) presented videotape and photographic evidence of the same, deplorable conditions at the farm, which finally resulted in a prosecution of second-degree animal cruelty (first degree requires proof of intent). The evidence showed thousands of dead and dying hens on-site at Amberson's.

Several deceased hens were sent to Dr. Dhillon's lab for necropsies to determine if starvation was the cause of death. Additional hens were sent to leading poultry and avian veterinarians in the area. All of the necropsies, except Dr. Dhillon's, clearly stipulated that death was due to long-term starvation of the hens. There were numerous commonalties in the veterinarians' findings that backed up their conclusions. Dr. Dhillon's determination was that the hens died due to lack of adaptation to a new environment, following their removal from a commercial operation. Nobody told Dr. Dhillon that the hens he necropsied came from a commercial operation. Why did he know this? We think it is because the hens were in such a horrific state of health prior to their death and Dr. Dhillon knows that this is common in commercial operations. For him to suggest that the hens died because of attempts to save them from their hellish existence at Amberson's farm indicates that his primary motivation is to protect the farmer from potential prosecution on animal cruelty charges. As a veterinarian, Dr. Dhillon is, at the very least, a disgrace to his profession. We believe that Dr. Dhillon's conduct should be scrutinized by the state board of veterinarians and questions must be raised regarding his ability to practice veterinary medicine in the future. The WSU lab should not be a pulpit for defending blatant violations of the state's animal cruelty laws.

We implore you to write to Dr. Dhillon's superior and the news media, as soon as possible. Let them know it's despicable that our tax dollars are paying for a veterinarian who is defending a poultry farmer who is considered horrible, even by other poultry farmers! Please note the following:

  • Be polite.

  • Remind them that it was a poultry farmer who first witnessed the horrid condition of the hens and called Pasado's Safe Haven.

  • State that, to your knowledge, Dr. Dhillon defended this poultry farmer last year without examining any of the hens, without visiting the farm, and without performing any necropsies. How can he offer professional analysis without any investigatory tools? To our knowledge, he has not visited the farm since that time, either. -Describe the fact that video and photographic evidence gathered this year and seen on the news, showed thousands of dead chickens, in varying states of decomposition, that were left in cages with live birds;

  • Chicken houses were rampant with rats, infesting the feeders of the hens and eating the dead hens;

  • Our tax dollars pay for Dr. Dhillon's work. His statements are in direct conflict with numerous other avian veterinarians who conducted necropsies on the dead birds from Amberson's. Why would this be?

  • We have heard from Snohomish County prosecutors that half of the Avian Health Laboratory construction in Puyallup, which Dr. Dhillon heads, was paid for by the poultry industry! Who does Dr. Dhillon serve? The people of Washington state or the special interests of the commercial poultry industry? Who pays his salary? Do Dr. Dhillon and the WSU lab owe a "debt" of sorts to the state's poultry industry for subsidizing the construction of the Puyallup lab? Is any ongoing funding of the lab's operation subsidized by the poultry industry or is it totally supported by state funds? As the state's only poultry expert, shouldn't Dr. Dhillon be suggesting standards for the humane treatment of these animals, including establishing guidelines for standardizing "forced molts?

Write to: (copy to news departments below)

If you have time: Please write Aaron Shields, the prosecutor working on this case. He has been excellent. He has devoted countless hours to learning about the poultry industry and practices such as forced molting. We are truly impressed with his dedication to prosecuting this case, which is the first time an egg farmer has ever had to answer to cruelty charges in Washington State.

Write to: Aaron Shields (copy to his boss, James Krider, as well)

From Susan Michaels, Co-Founder Pasado's Safe Haven. November 7, 2000

Related Links:

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(Trial of Keith Amberson Has Been Delayed)