|Photo Credit: One Badger Farm LLC
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On Sunday, April 7, Colorado farmers Ethan and Renee Abbott were in their house with their two children, ages 7 and 4 months when law enforcement officers from Weld County showed up and eventually arrested Renee for an offense that had allegedly occurred several months earlier: “grazing animals in the municipal right of way.”
Renee was handcuffed and taken off to jail. Ethan reported that the arresting officer said that she would be held without bail and would not be released until she appeared before a judge in the morning. Ethan was beside himself, as his 4-month-old son was exclusively breastfed and would surely need nourishment before the morning.
Ethan called the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund Hotline and was connected to Attorney Elizabeth Rich. Attorney Rich could hear the baby crying in the background, and recognized the cry as one of a very hungry baby. She consulted Nourishing Traditions and read Sally Fallon Morell’s recipe for infant formula to Ethan.
Elizabeth then called the Office of the Weld County Sheriff and lit into the deputy doing the booking for Renee about the officers dragging a nursing mother off to jail for a minor ordinance violation. She asked the deputy if there were any aggravating circumstances, such as resisting arrest, threats to the officers, or disorderly conduct. There were not. [According to the "Daily Arrest Report" on the Weld County Sheriff’s website (no longer listed), Renee was being held for “failure to appear on a warrant”. When questioned by Attorney Rich, the booking deputy did not mention this charge. The “warrant” in question, however, was based upon the “grazing animals in the municipal right of way” charge.]
The deputy doing the booking told Attorney Rich that he did “not appreciate [her] tone,” but he did agree to release Renee from custody. Shortly after the call, Ethan was able to pick up Renee and she was able nurse her hungry son.
According to Ethan, the incident giving rise to the charge occurred earlier this year when damaged fencing (which Ethan suspected was the result of vandalism) on the Abbotts’ property allowed their livestock to escape. The Abbotts were unaware that the livestock were loose until a deputy sheriff knocked on the Abbotts’ door and advised a very pregnant Renee that she needed to round up cows in the municipal right of way, she did so immediately—resulting in a fall and subsequent hospitalization. The ticket the deputy issued her for “grazing animals in the municipal right of way” formed the basis for the arrest on April 7th.