Nov 16, 2007
Animal lovers bare claws over cat killing
Bird-watcher who shot stray cat charged with animal cruelty in Texas
GALVESTON – ANIMAL lovers in Texas are in a flap over the case of a prominent bird-watcher on trial for killing a stray cat.
On one side of the courtroom are the bird lovers, who say Jim Stevenson was protecting endangered species which are prey to cats gone wild on the beaches of Galveston near the Texas coast island in the Gulf of Mexico.
On the other side are the feline fanatics who see Stevenson as the killer of a beloved pet.
The founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society runs a bed-and- reakfast service catering to bird watchers. He has admitted killing the cat and several others that had wandered onto his property with a .22 calibre rifle in November last year,
But he said he would not have done it if he had known the cat was the pet of toll-bridge worker John Newland.
His lawyers are hoping the argument will get him cleared of animal cruelty charges.
He faces up to two years in jail and a fine of US$10,000 (S$14,000).
The case has led to a virtual fight. Blogs set up by cat enthusiasts on the Internet have called Stevenson a ‘murderous fascist’ and a ‘diabolical monster’, while blogs of bird lovers have defended his action as his right to dispense with a ‘terrible menace’ and have set up funds to help pay for his defence.
Stevenson himself said cat fanciers ‘think birds are nothing but sticks’, adding: ‘I did what I had to do.’
The cat in question lived under a toll bridge and was fed and cared for by Mr Newland. He gave it bedding and toys and even named it ‘Mama Cat’, making it his cat and not feral, argues the prosecution.
Witnesses also said the cat died a slow and painful death ‘gurgling on its own blood’, even as the prosecution and the defence wrangled repeatedly about whether witnesses could accurately assess the cat’s state of mind.
The trial has attracted few spectators apart from the two warring sides. Local historian Victor Lang said: ‘How people feel about the trial depends on who you talk to.’
He himself did not have strong feelings. ‘You see, I am a dog person. If he had shot a dog, then I’d be more upset,’ he said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE