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Sonoma County prosecutor claims animal activist poses ‘biosecurity risk,’ persuades judge to order ankle bracelet monitor

Charges still pending against at least three members of Direct Action Everywhere for Nov. 14 action at Reichardt Duck Farm.



MARY CALLAHAN

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

December 14, 2023


Saying the arrival of avian flu in the region had turned a prominent animal welfare activist’s conduct into “a public safety issue,” a Sonoma County prosecutor persuaded a judge Thursday to have the woman fitted with a GPS device to monitor her movements while she remains out of jail.


Activist Zoe Rosenberg, 21, is now wearing an ankle bracelet.


She also was ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from local animal agriculture operations like those she has admittedly infiltrated on repeated occasions to “rescue” injured animals and document what she says are abuses.


She additionally is subject to search and seizure, is prohibited from entering animal farms outside the county and cannot possess domestic birds.


Rosenberg, in a social media post, said she is the target of “political prosecution.”

“They’re tracking my every move and treating me like a dangerous criminal, when actually I’ve been coming directly to the authorities for years with evidence of crimes against animals,” she said in a written statement to The Press Democrat. “They’re painting a wildly inaccurate picture of what’s happening here to shield the factory farms from scrutiny, and animals are the ones who will suffer most because of it.”


However Deputy District Attorney Matthew Hobson persuaded Superior Court Judge Karlene Navarro that local infections of avian flu at four local poultry farms, including one Rosenberg has admitted she’s infiltrated at least twice, are a substantial public health issue warranting efforts to prevent future incursions.


“This has now become a biosecurity risk,” Hobson said in court Thursday. ”Now we have a public safety issue.“


Rosenberg is charged with seven felony and five misdemeanor counts for suspected trespassing, conspiracy and other alleged offenses related to unauthorized visits last June to Petaluma Poultry, owned by Perdue Farms Inc., and to Reichardt Duck Farm, both in south Sonoma County.


She was arrested on a warrant Nov. 30 outside the county courthouse, where she and a large number of animal welfare advocates were gathered to protest the prosecution of their leader, Wayne Hsiung, founder of the Bay Area chapter of Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE.

A co-defendant in those cases was identified in court Thursday as Raven Deerwood, though it’s not clear that’s their real name.


Officials said an arrest warrant is pending for Deerwood’s arrest but has not yet been served.

Additional charges againstThe prosecution team told two judges Thursday that further investigation was required before a decision could be made whether to filed charges in that matter.


Superior Court Judge Laura Passaglia ordered Rocky Chau and Conrad de Jesus to return to court Feb. 29 to learn if their case would be charged or dismissed.


It appears prosecutors were referring to a visit captured by security cameras at Reichardt Duck Farm. The video shows what one of the owners recently described as “a parade of four people on our property” the night of Nov. 14, violating biosecurity measures widely used to reduce the risk of avian flu infection.


Hobson noted that testing for the virus, now in wide circulation around the country, confirmed the presence of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza at Reichardt eight days later, within the incubation period for avian flu.


Nearly 170,000 Reichardt ducks had to be euthanized as a result. In all, more than 72.5 million commercially raised birds around the country have been exposed to bird flu and euthanized, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


There is no other publicly available evidence that Rosenberg or any other members of Direct Action Everywhere introduced highly contagious bird flu to the Reichardt farm or any of the other three commercial sites where it is known to have spread.


But many in the agricultural community believe DxE may have brought virus there, knowingly or not, though its members wore protective suits, gloves, masks, booties and hats under their own protocols.


DxE members claim their “right to rescue” abused animals as a defense against prosecution.

But a jury last month has convicted Hsiung, 42, of felony conspiracy and two misdemeanor counts of trespassing for actionis in 2018 and ‘19. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and has since been released.


Rosenberg faces about five years in custody if convicted on all counts, according to Assistant Sonoma County District Attorney Brian Staebell.


She has not entered a plea and is to return to court Dec. 22.


You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan (she/her) at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On X/Twitter @MaryCallahanB. Rosenberg and two others arrested Nov. 30 for unspecified actions at Reichardt Duck Farm on Nov. 14, meanwhile, have still not been submitted to the court.



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