There is an interesting controversy in Portland Oregon where residents have complained about cattle heads that appeared along a road. Various people complained to the government that the heads smelled and were disgusting sight. At least one official already knew. The heads belonged to Port of St. Helens Commissioner Colleen DeShazer (left) who refused to remove them. Here are the pictures.
DeShazer says that she is dying out the heads for sale. She insisted that she is within her rights because “[t]hose are my cows. We legally butchered them . . . If you don’t like it, don’t live in the [expletive] country next to a farm.”
Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson has told citizens that DeShazer because they are placed within her property and “[t]here’s no state law or county ordinance to prohibit that.”
There is the question of a public nuisance. It creates an interesting question of local conditions and practices. DeShazer views this is a standard country practice that city slickers simply do not understand. It is a conflict that is becoming common as people move into rural areas. However nuisance can be an evolving concept and we no longer enforce the “coming to the nuisance” defense that barred people who complain of conditions found in an area where they have moved. It is certainly true that, while gambling, plants and other issues are expressly identified as public nuisances under Oregon law, this appears the only provision relating to public nuisances and carcasses.
Requirements as to conduct of business and construction of premises
Every person engaged in the business of disposing of the bodies, carcasses or parts of animals shall conduct such business and shall construct, arrange and keep the premises on which such business is conducted in accordance with the following requirements:
(1) All buildings on such premises shall be constructed as to allow them to be kept in a sanitary condition and shall be provided with properly drained concrete or cement floors. Such buildings shall be fly-tight and so constructed as to exclude rats, other rodents and vermin.
(2) Such place shall be so situated, arranged and constructed as not to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property by any of the residents of this state.
(3) In case such dead bodies, carcasses or parts of animals are to be disposed of by rendering, the cooking vats or tanks shall be airtight except for proper escapes or vents for steam used in rendering or cooking. Such escaping steam shall be released through traps, or other means, in such manner as not to cause unnecessary annoyance or create a nuisance in its disposal.
(4) All storing, skinning and dismembering of dead bodies, carcasses or parts of animals shall be done within a building on the premises in such a manner that no public annoyance or nuisance shall be caused by the unsightly appearance or stench of such bodies, carcasses or parts of animals.
(5) In no case shall the process of skinning, butchering or dismembering of animals or parts of animals be commenced except at the place where the process of rendering, burning or burying is to be completed.
(6) In case dead bodies, carcasses or parts of animals are disposed of by burning, the place where such burning is done shall be so located, constructed and arranged as not to essentially interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property by residents of this state. All parts of such bodies, carcasses or parts of animals not entirely consumed by such burning shall be disposed of by burying, as provided by this section, or in any such manner as may be directed by the State Department of Agriculture.
(7) In case dead bodies, carcasses or parts of animals are disposed of by burying, they shall be buried to such a depth that no part of any such body, carcass or part of an animal shall be nearer than four feet to the natural surface of the ground and every part of such body, carcass or part of an animal shall be covered with quicklime and by at least four feet of earth.
Putting aside this provision, there is also the possibility of private nuisance actions by citizens. (Most public nuisance actions brought by citizens require a showing of an injury greater than the injury suffered by the public at large for standing). The problem is that this is facing a public road so it is not clear if any argument can be made for the denial of use or enjoyment of private property by joggers or passing residents. Yet, in many areas of the country, leaving the severed heads of animals along your property would be treated as a health or nuisance question by the local government.
Of course, there is simply the issue of being a good and responsible neighbor, which most people would include simple courtesies like not hanging dead animal heads along roads. But then again I may not be sufficiently “country.”