What's A Feral Worth?
The Trial and Sentencing
Trial of the defendant took place on April 25, 2001. The trial was to determine if the defendant had in fact intentionally ran over the feral cat and guilty of animal abuse as defined by Iowa law. An attorney, who requested that the charges and specifications be read into the record, represented the defendant.
After the reading of the charges, the defendant's attorney made a motion to dismiss the charges. The presiding judge denied the motion. The County Attorney then opened the prosecution's case by calling me to the stand. I testified for the prosecution for approximately thirty minutes, relating what I saw and did on the day of the crime, including the fight I had with the defendant and the trip to the veterinarian's office for the euthanasia. I also was able to inform the court of the work that my wife and I do with feral and stray cats, and to talk briefly about the feral colony that has been established by a group of concerned cat lovers in my community. I was then tendered to the defense for cross-examination.
The defense attorney attempted to cause me to lose my temper in order to demonstrate to the court that my fight with the defendant was provoked by me. I was asked some very leading and inflammatory questions, but managed to maintain my composure and come off as a credible witness for the prosecution.
Next to testify was one of the police officers that responded to the scene. He gave information of the situation that existed when he arrived, and the names of two other witnesses who saw the defendant cross the centerline of the street to hit the cat. He was on the stand for less than thirty minutes with cross-examination.
The final witness for the prosecution was the Director of the local chapter of the Humane Society. She testified about the psychology of animal abusers. Her testimony took about twenty minutes, and she was not cross-examined by the defense. At this point the defense rested and the judge called for a fifteen-minute recess.
The defense called two witnesses: a character witness and the defendant himself. The prosecutor discredited the character witness by showing that the witness had a criminal record. The defendant testified for about twenty minutes in direct examination and then was cross-examined by the prosecution. The defendant, while being questioned by the County Attorney about the sanctity of life, stated in court that any human life was more sacred than any animal's, and that it was a well-known fact that "wild cats carry diseases." In addition, he admitted under cross-examination that he did in fact cross the centerline and drove over the cat.
The prosecution called one rebuttal witness, the Director of the local chapter of the Humane Society. She testified that statistically stray and feral cats are no more likely to be diseased than domestic cats, and that according to information from The American Humane Society and Alley Cats Allies, the number of diseased feral and stray cats is so low as to be statistically negligible.
With the trial over, the judge took a few minutes to explain the law to the defendant and entered his decision of guilty. He set a sentencing date for the week following the trial in order that the defendant could complete a Pre-Sentence Investigation Questionnaire.
Sentencing took place on March 4, 2001. The judge, after taking into consideration the Victim Impact Statement and the testimony of the Director of the local chapter of the Humane Society, sentenced the defendant to two years of probation, and was ordered to undergo psychological examination and treatment at his own expense as part of his probation. In addition, he is paying restitution for court costs, restitution to the veterinarian who performed the euthanasia and fines in the amount of $1,000. Further, he has been ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. At least part - 50 hours - of that community service must be performed at the local Humane Society cleaning out cat cages and dog runs.