Lattins’ goat-abuse case goes to the jury

Debbie Lattin stands to explain some photographs to the courtroom during the final day (Thursday) of the Lattins’ goat-abuse case.
Debbie Lattin stands to explain some photographs to the courtroom during the final day (Thursday) of the Lattins’ goat-abuse case. rboone@theolympian.com

The four-day trial of Carolyn and Debbie Lattin, both of whom are accused of second-degree animal abuse, came to a close Thursday, with witnesses making their final appearances, followed by closing arguments from both attorneys.

The case is now in the hands of the jury. A verdict was not reached late Thursday, but could happen Friday.

The Lattins, who operate the popular Lattins Country Cider Mill and Farm on Rich Road, which is both a working farm and a community attraction, were charged with second-degree animal abuse after a series of complaints about their goats. Eighteen goats were removed from the farm in mid-June because they showed signs of hoof scald, sometimes referred to as hoof rot. The Lattins pleaded not guilty to the charges, a gross misdemeanor.

State law shows that if they are convicted of a gross misdemeanor, they face up to 364 days in the county jail, a fine of no more than $5,000, or both.

Their attorney, Justin Kover, questioned farm manager Debbie Lattin Thursday morning about a pattern of care for the animals. They had heat, ventilation, bedding, food and medicines to treat a variety of maladies, including hoof rot, Lattin told the courtroom.

Kover incorporated some of that testimony into his closing arguments, saying that farm employees took care of the goats and the Lattins tried every medicine they had.

“You heard about all the medicines she (Debbie) had on hand, and how much time, love and work goes into her labor at the farm,” he said. “You heard her say: ‘This is what I use for hoof rot.’”

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Lippert countered that despite the Lattin’s long history as farmers and their resources, they still couldn’t take care of their goats.

“When they showed signs of hoof scald and limping, they didn’t do anything about it,” Lippert told the jury. “That’s a problem, that’s a lack of standard of care. And they didn’t meet that standard of care. They didn’t do it right, they didn’t care, they didn’t do anything to care.”

May storm

A May storm in Thurston County, known as a “microburst,” damaged the farm, and that led to an argument between the attorneys about whether the Lattins suffered economic distress and whether that distress prevented them from taking care of the goats.

Lippert asked Debbie about the several hundred customers who regularly visit the farm and what the farm charges for fritters, apple cider and other items.

Given the number of customers the farm has, Lippert presented two scenarios: At $1 per day per customer, spread over a year, the farm would generate $100,000 in revenue, and at $10 a day per customer, it’s in excess of $1 million, he said.

Debbie acknowledged that could be the case, but she said he wasn’t taking into account their expenses.

Kover asked her about the farm’s profit or loss for 2017. Debbie said the farm is set to lose $230,000 this year, due to a combination of higher wages, labor expenses and trial costs. They also didn’t raise their prices, she said.

Kover asked whether Debbie had any children of her own.

She said no, but added the goats were like her children in a lot of ways.

Lippert recalled to the witness stand Thurston County Sheriff’s Deputy Carrie Nastansky, whose investigation led to the goat seizure in mid-June, and asked whether she believes the storm had affected the farm’s operations.

“It seemed to be running as usual,” she said.

Nastansky also said she would’ve taken it into consideration if the Lattins had mentioned the storm damage.

Limping goats sign

Lippert questioned Debbie about a “limping goats” sign that was posted at the farm. He showed a photo of that sign to the jury.

Debbie said they posted that sign to “explain to the public why the goats were limping, so we did not have to answer all their questions about goat behavior.” She said she did not consult a veterinarian about the information included on the sign.

Kover finally asked Debbie two questions: Would you hurt your goats, and do you love them?

She said “no” and “yes.”