Yukon farm operator sues, claiming civil rights violated when agents seized animals
A South Huntingdon farm operator alleges in a federal lawsuit that agents from a Westmoreland County-based animal humane agency used an improper search warrant when they seized several animals from her farm last February.
Stormy Gower, operator of Thundering Hill Farm in Yukon, claims her civil rights were violated Feb. 6 when agents from All But Furgotten Humane Rescue in North Huntingdon seized various animals from her property. The lawsuit alleges Gower’s 4th and 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution protecting her from unreasonable search and seizure and guaranteeing due process under law were violated during animal cruelty investigation.
Gower said in the lawsuit that no animal cruelty complaints were filed against her, and many of the seized animals including a number of cats were returned within a month. She said the agency has refused to return a dog that was taken. Gower also claims that the search warrant was not valid.
Gower states in the lawsuit that she operates a business on the property that sells various animal products and raises chickens and turkeys. She also has cats and dogs.
She alleges in the lawsuit that the animal cruelty allegations against her “were patently false, and which a reasonable person under the circumstances would have known were false. …”
“Each and every animal kept by (Gower) and at all times, has been kept and maintained under proper, lawful and humane conditions,” the 14-page lawsuit states.
Gower said that a state trooper summoned to the scene informed agents on Feb. 6 that the search warrant initially used to seize the animals was insufficient. The humane agents then obtained a second warrant.
“(The agents) claimed to have seized a dead dog on premises even though no dead dog existed on (Gower’s) premises, nor did anyone else take one off the premises during the incidents that form the basis of this complaint,” the lawsuit alleges.
In addition to allegedly violating her constitutional rights, Gower alleges in the lawsuit that she suffered emotional trauma, “fright, horror and shock” and economic losses as a result of the seizure of her property.
In addition to the non-profit organization, Gower also names three humane agents with the organization: Erin Cassidy, Andrea Palmer and Cassie Wilson, as defendants.
Officials with the non-profit animal rescue organization did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.