Oregon Commissioner Rejects Requests To Stop Her From Hanging Cow Heads Along Road

Colleen 003.half-contentThere 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.

§ 601.090¹
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.”

31 thoughts on “Oregon Commissioner Rejects Requests To Stop Her From Hanging Cow Heads Along Road”

  1. im agreeing with the thought pattern.. she wants attention probably to harass some new neighbors from the city.. and judging by the way she is going about harassing them she is setting up a crazy defense……

  2. nick spinelli
    Justin Bieber needs to move in next door.

    I’d rather live next door to the cow head lady.

  3. I lived in the country most of my life. We dried ’em waaaaay far away from anywhere people might remotely be. She’s an idiot!

  4. Justice Holmes wrote: “She’s obviously violating the law but I sure it’s ok, after all she is a government official.”
    In my view that’s even more reason to cite her. But you are right unfortunately with the way things are. I could not stand the good-ole-boy mentality in many areas, the political class was the protected class.

    I had one time where I received a loud noise call one night. The noise was so loud the music was discernable a mile away and at that distance you could tell which song was playing. Several callers made a complaint.

    I drove over there and it was a large high school football victory part one of the county commissioners was hosting at their hose for the local winning team. I contacted the homeowner/county commissioner and informed her there were several noise complaints and instructed her to turn down the music.

    She proceeded to ask me my name and said she would call the sheriff personnaly and let him know I was involved. (this is a game most political types play). So I gave her my business card and told her to call the sheriff if she liked but regardless if I got called back, she would receive a criminal citation under the county noise ordinance. She then complied and I didn’t get any further complaints. But it would have been no skin of my nose to scratch her out citation. Everyone else in the county got the same warning before the citation on the second call, she is no different in my mind.

  5. I grew up in a rural area with a lot of cattle. The ranchers I know would have been delighted to hear of a large market demand for dried bovine (they are not all cows, you know) heads. Is this a delicacy exported to China or something? If so, we might want to encourage it to save the whale sharks.

    Seriously, though, who buys dried cow’s heads? Why? Are the brains still in the skull cavity? The flies must be all over those things. By the time the maggots are done, I would think that only the skulls would remain. Other than Western movie prop departments, I have a hard time imagining who would want them.

  6. I think she may live along McNutty Creek which makes placing sewage (“Sewage means the water-carried human or animal waste* from residences, buildings, industrial establishments or other places, …) like that within 100 yards of a state waterway an offense in Oregon due to pollution and runoff concerns.

    “§ 164.775¹
    Deposit of trash within 100 yards of waters or in waters
    • license suspensions
    • civil penalties
    • credit for work in lieu of fine
    (1) It is unlawful for any person to discard any glass, cans or other trash, rubbish, debris or litter on land within 100 yards of any of the waters of the state, as defined in ORS 468B.005 (Definitions for water pollution control laws), other than in receptacles provided for the purpose of holding such trash, rubbish, debris or litter.”

    *”Wastes means sewage, industrial wastes, and all other liquid, gaseous, solid, radioactive or other substances which will or may cause pollution or tend to cause pollution of any waters of the state.”

  7. If you looked at the picture it looks like its on private land….. People buildng in the outlands should really be aware of the use of the land…. Oregon has one of the tightest right to farm acts in the country…. You can’t build down wind from a manure pit and then complain it smells awful…. It’s just part of the landscape….. http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/docs/pdf/good_neighbor.pdf

  8. § 601.090 indicates” “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 …”

    Wouldn’t there have to first be a holding that her “free cow head museum” is a business for “disposing of the bodies, carcasses or parts of animals”?

    If so and if established, then what rafflaw said about the language would apply, but if not, AY’s position would seem to apply.

    Oregon’s private nuisance common law concerns the rights harmed, not the specific alleged offending activity itself:

    ‘Plaintiff is confused by his failure to recognize that intentional injury. ‘nuisance’ refers to the interest invaded and not to the type of conduct which subjects the actor to liability. Liability for the infliction of a nuisance may arise from an intentional, negligent, or reckless act, or from the operation of an abnormally dangerous activity. An invasion of a right of the kind classed as a nuisance may occur, but, unless the invasion resulted from action to which the law attaches responsibility, there is no liability.’

    (Jacobson v. Crown Zellerbach Corp., 273 Or. 15, 539 P.2d 641 (1975), Or.S.Ct. en banc).

    It would seem, then, that any plaintiffs must allege that they have a right in the Oregon corner of the Universe, to not view or smell decomposing cow heads along the roadside on someone’s private property.

  9. Oregon has plenty of animals that would happily snack on this. Where she lives, there are buzzards and crows, and a host of terrestrial critters going from racoons all the way to bears. It would be interesting if the carnivores attracted to this feast were to pose a danger to other people or their livestock, creating an unusual attractive nuisance tort.

  10. As far as coming to a nuisance goes, the question in my mind is how long has she been doing this? If this practice of hanging out severed cow heads is a recent development, then there would be no nuisance to come to, and therefore would be an unforeseeable infringement upon the comfortable enjoyment of life out there in the (expletive) country.

    My guess is that she’s trying to offend some particular newcomers to the area, and that she must be ready to retire as a commissioner. Oh, and that she might also be suffering from a chemical imbalance. Either that or she’s crazy.

  11. She’s obviously violating the law but I sure it’s ok, after all she is a government official.

  12. This commissioner is a fool not to mention her primadonna attitude.

    First I agree this is a violation of law as Larry has written and she should be ticketed, especially given that she put it right next to the road. She could have done this on some other part of the property, but she had to be “in your face” with it.

    If she does really sell these heads to others I surely would not buy one from her. The heads she be dried out in a closed area with screens around them. Being exposed outside is going to attract every coyote a mile away and flies are going to be everywhere. Then the maggots will start hatching. Not something I would want to buy.

  13. I think it is scary to people because we all try to keep anything disease-making wrapped up or removed from potential contamination. I think this HAS to be sorted out and she is being completely un-neighborly in leaving the heads around like this – are there no foxes or dogs around that would haul these all over the road given half a chance – I think she is just being an exhibitionist actually – wants attention that’s all !

  14. As Raff says, section 4 seems to clearly prohibit this practice.

    In any case, are there no buzzards in Oregon? I live in rural MD. Those heads would be covered in turkey buzzards in less than 24 hours.

  15. How close to the road are they? If they are too close to the road then they may be on the public right-of-way. They could pose a hazard to cars and pedestrians.

    If they are on the public right of way/easement her ability to use that area would be limited, correct?

    Is there a liability to her if they are on the ground, where someone could trip or damage their tires, possibly causing a blow-out? If they are on the ground they may blend in and be hard to spot especially after they’ve been rotting for a while.

    Also how accurate is that picture? The picture shows them in the road, surely that is illegal. Also in the picture they are sitting on barrier markers (or whatever they’re called). Do they belong to her?

    Also can they not be labeled littering? If littering is against the law surely you can’t get out of a ticket by claiming “that’s the way we do it in the country”

  16. AY,
    doesn’t the statute listed in the article mandate provisions when drying out carcasses? According to the statute, she has to house these drying activities and do them in a way that is not a nuisance to any resident of the state…even if they just moved into the farm country.

  17. There’s also coming to the nuisance and the right to farm act….. I may not like that but there is a business of drying out skulls for sale….. I’m thinking she’s perfectly within here legal rights to do the same….

  18. I lived in the country for years, and worked on livestock farms, and never heard or saw such a thing. I don’t think it should be necessary illegal, but it surely is very obnoxious. Prosecuting her would just make her a martyr for individual rights of country folk against big city liberals, or whatever. I’d just ignore her, shun her, and let her be the crazy lady down the road that everyone avoids.

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