Charges: Stanwood farm owners starved alpacas, killing some

The alpacas were to be slaughtered for Thogersen Family Farm’s raw dog and cat food business.

STANWOOD — The owners of a Stanwood farm are accused of starving a herd of alpacas, killing at least two of them.

James and Jennifer Thogersen, of Thogersen Family Farm, were charged with first-degree animal cruelty April 14. They pleaded not guilty at their arraignment on Tuesday, and were released from custody under the promise that they return to future court hearings.

According to its web page, Thogersen Family Farm sources livestock from homesteads throughout the Pacific Northwest, “providing an outlet for aged out animals.” The livestock — including the alpacas — typically have been slaughtered for the Thogersens’ raw dog and cat food business. A one-pound tub of alpaca meat runs for $8.99.

“We oversee the entire process from field to bowl and waste nothing of the animals that give their lives to feed your pets,” the website states. “It is our goal to provide humanely sourced products, and give purpose to every animal.”

The Thogersens declined to comment through their attorney, Scott Lawrence, of Seattle Law Hawks.

Snohomish County Animal Services received a tip via email on March 25, 2021, with an address and two pictures that appeared to show two dead alpacas, according to charging papers.

Animal control officers went to the property the next day. Jennifer Thogersen, 34, reported that she and her husband, 49, bought a herd of alpacas and brought them to the property about a month before. They already were old and had health issues, she said, according to charging papers. Later, a veterinarian noted the alpacas in the herd were between the ages of 1 and 4. Alpacas often grow up into the mid-teens.

Since their arrival, four of the alpacas have died, reported Jennifer Thogersen.

On the way to the barn, she stopped, according to the charges.

“Oh, there’s another one down, and maybe two,” she reportedly said.

An animal control officer noted they looked like the alpacas in the photos that were sent to the county. Inside the barn, Thogersen reported they had run out of hay about a week earlier. Since then, they fed the herd grain out of a two-gallon bucket once daily, at night.

According to the animal control officer’s report, the bucket wouldn’t have been enough food for a herd of 13, not including the other alpacas that already had died. There also wasn’t enough grass to make up for the lack of food, the animal control officer wrote.

A trough was the only source of water, according to James Thogersen’s account in the charges. The water was discolored, and the trough looked like it hadn’t been cleaned recently, an animal control officer wrote.

All but two of the remaining 13 alpacas were emaciated, noted Dr. Timothy Cuchna, of Northwest Veterinary Clinic in Stanwood.

Jennifer Thogersen said she was pregnant, and has been relying on her husband to feed and care for the animals.

The alpacas were removed from the property. While in Snohomish County’s custody, another reportedly died of starvation. A necropsy showed the dead alpacas had no body fat, and that there were no other apparent causes of death.

“Although the sole purpose of the animals is for slaughter, the animals need to be provided adequate daily rations of food, water, and care prior to dispatching the animals,” an animal control officer wrote.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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