United Poultry Concerns
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5 September 2014
United Poultry Concerns and Chicken Run Rescue Urge City Attorney to Prosecute Police Officer for Animal Cruelty and Oppose Chicken-Keeping in Atwater, Minnesota

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your letters to the Mayor and City Council of Atwater, Minnesota on behalf of the hen who was beaten to death with a shovel next to her coop by Police Chief Trevor Berger. United Poultry Concerns has written the following letter, cosigned by Minneapolis-based Chicken Run Rescue, to Atwater City Attorney Brad Schmidt. Please read and feel free to share our letter. If you choose to contact City Attorney Brad Schmidt, please address him courteously. To contact Atwater Mayor Mark Olson and City Council Members, see Pet Chicken Decapitated by Minnesota Police Officer, and please sign this petition on Animal Petitions.

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United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
P.O. Box 150, Machipongo, Virginia 23405-0150
Phone: 757-678-7875 • Fax: 757-678-5070

September 5, 2014

Brad Schmidt, City Attorney
Johnson, Moody, Schmidt, and Kleinhuizen, P.A.
Attorneys At Law
320 First Street South, PO Box 913
Willmar MN 56201
Via Email: mail@jmsklaw.com

Dear Mr. Schmidt:

On behalf of United Poultry Concerns in Virginia and Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis, we are writing to you about the episode in which Atwater Police Chief Trevor Berger beat a chicken to death with a shovel in August on the property of Ashley Turnbull. There are important issues that we respectfully urge you and the Mayor and City Council to consider in this matter.

Although Ms. Turnbull was keeping chickens and ducks illegally, and had been warned to remove them, but did not, Officer Berger himself violated the Minnesota Cruelty to Animals Statute which prohibits “cruelly beating” an animal, including a chicken, who is defined by the statute as an animal. Officer Berger should be prosecuted for his crime of animal cruelty.

Officer Berger appears to have broken other laws as well, including trespassing without a warrant and failing to notify Ashley Turnbull that he was coming on to her property.

If Officer Berger is permitted to break laws in Atwater, why shouldn’t other perpetrators get a pass as well? What message does law enforcement send to Atwater residents when a police officer is not held accountable for his violent crime, and is actually treated publicly as if he did a good thing by beating to death a small, helpless bird with a shovel? His crime was of a magnitude to which the Turnbull’s infraction does not compare at all.

Now it appears that Officer Berger and some other local residents, including Ashley Turnbull, are seeking an ordinance in Atwater to allow residents to keep chickens and other domestic fowl. Officer Berger’s violent attack on the hen has set a precedent for the kinds of brutal behavior toward chickens that will likely be imitated by people who see how a police chief gratuitously beat a hen to death, and got away with it, so why shouldn’t they? If Officer Berger is not prosecuted for his crime, that is the message the City Attorney and City Council are sending to Atwater residents and the types of people who lack compassion for animals and feel powerful in the act of hurting those who cannot defend themselves.

Apparently the chickens and ducks on the Turnbull property were kept in unsanitary conditions. Dealing with the many problems of backyard chicken-keeping over the years, we know that many people do not know how to care properly for chickens and other domestic fowl and often force these poor birds to live in filthy, rodent-infested, disease-ridden conditions. Chickens, ducks and other captive birds try to practice bodily hygiene as best they can under conditions of human-imposed squalor, but they cannot protect themselves against the effects of being at the mercy of people who do not understand the necessity of clean housing and yards, clean food and clean water – and kindness – for birds and other animals in their care.

If the City of Atwater adopts an ordinance allowing residents to keep domestic fowl, how will the city regulate this situation? Between the criminal precedent set by Officer Berger, and the unsanitary conditions observed on the Turnbull property, Atwater residents and city officials can expect trouble if an ordinance is passed letting people keep domestic fowl. There will be animal cruelty, abandonment and neglect, poor sanitation, rodents, diseases, nuisance complaints and other issues that always arise when municipalities pass ordinances of this type without a full preliminary investigation of the likely consequences and very strong regulations that are well-funded and strictly enforced if such an ordinance is adopted.

If our information is correct, Atwater residents who attended the City Council Meeting on September 3, 2014, largely supported Officer Berger’s cruel and illegal beating to death of the hen at the Turnbull home. It is horrible to contemplate that people who support beating a helpless animal to death would be permitted to keep chickens or any other animals.

Please review our Collective Position Statement on Backyard Poultry for a basis on which to deliberate the proposed ordinance that would allow Atwater residents to keep chickens and other domestic fowl and Recommendations for Municipal Regulation of Urban Chickens by Chicken Run Rescue.

We urge you to prosecute Officer Berger for his crime of animal cruelty and to oppose the proposed ordinance. Humane citizens do not beat helpless animals to death or support those who do.

Thank you for your attention. We look forward to hearing from you and will be happy to help at your request. Please feel free to contact us at 757-678-7875 and 612-521-9921.


Karen Davis Mary Britton Clouse
Karen Davis, PhD, President Mary Britton Clouse, Director
United Poultry ConcernsChicken Run Rescue
12325 Seaside Road, PO Box 1502023 Lowry Avenue North
Machipongo, VA 23405Minneapolis, MN 55411
Office: 757-678-7875Office: 612-521-9921
Email: Karen@UPC-online.orgEmail: Chickenrunrescue@comcast.net

United Poultry Concerns is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes the
compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. http://www.upc-online.org

Federal ID: 52-1705678

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