Ag critic, former Polis appointee Kessler charged with animal cruelty
Ellen Kessler, an animal-rights activist who was appointed to the Colorado veterinary board by Gov. Jared Polis but resigned this year, has been charged with 13 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
According to CBS Denver, which first reported the charges Monday, March 14, Kessler had 13 birds in her Jefferson County home, and Jefferson County Animal Control found one dead and another died shortly after at a veterinarian’s office.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the charges.
Kessler’s first court date is scheduled for May 23.
When reached, Kessler declined to comment.
A person who visited Kessler’s home on March 7 called the county to report multiple birds in poor living conditions, and Kessler allowed animal-control officers in to see the birds that day, said Jefferson County Public Information Officer Karlyn Tilley.
“There were 13 birds total, most of them living in the basement with food and water, but no sunlight. The cages and floors were covered in seed, dirt and feces. There was an overwhelming smell of urine. Many mice were found, both alive and dead, as well as flies throughout the house. There was no indication that any other pets/animals were living in the home,” Tilley wrote in an email.
The birds were removed the next day, Tilley said.
“It was determined the birds should not go back to the home,” Tilley wrote, in part because the birds, including doves and cockatiels, suffered from a variety of health issues.
“Ms. Kessler was given resources of places that could help fund and clean her home. She was also given information on what would need to be done in order for her to have appropriate living conditions for animals,” Tilley said, adding the birds were taken to Foothills Animal Shelter to be assessed for possible adoption.
Kessler was issued a summons for 13 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Under state law, animal cruelty, a Class 1 misdemeanor, carries a maximum fine of $5,000 per charge, with a mandatory minimum fine of $500, and could include jail time of up to 18 months.
Kessler, an animal-rights activist, was appointed to the state veterinary board in June 2020. Her appointment almost immediately generated controversy because of derogatory statements she had made, primarily on Facebook, about farmers and ranchers.
In one post a month after her appointment, she said that “4-H clubs don’t teach children that animal lives matter.” She reposted a story in August 2020, also on Facebook, that alleged dairy farmers sexually abuse their cows, probably referring to artificial insemination, a routine practice for at least 60 years.
Polis received numerous calls for Kessler’s resignation.
On Jan. 22, she called ranchers “lazy” and “nasty,” responding to a Facebook post by Marlon Reis, Polis’ husband who is a friend of Kessler’s.
Reis’ post was about an article in the Missoulian on a new collaboration program with ranchers who deal with grizzly bears. Referring to recent attacks by wolves on cattle and dogs in northern Colorado, Kessler accused ranchers of using their cows to “bait” wolves in order to receive compensation for the loss of their animals.
Kessler resigned from the vet board on Jan. 24. Records suggest she stepped down to shield Polis from blowback after she made what ranchers viewed as incendiary remarks about the livestock industry.
While she apologized to the governor, she doubled down on her comments about ranchers, first reported by The Fence Post, an agricultural publication.
– This article first appeared March 16 in The Colorado Springs Gazette. Goodland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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