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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cat-Killing Case Ends in Mistrial

A judge in Galveston, TX, has declared a mistrial in the animal-cruelty case of a bird lover who shot a cat. Prosecutors said they will not retry the case against James M. Stevenson.

The Galveston County Daily News received unconfirmed reports that the jury was deadlocked at eight for guilty and four for not guilty.

Under Texas law at the time of the incident, the case hinged on whether the cat was feral or belonged to someone. The cat lived under a toll bridge, and a toll-bridge operator said he had adopted the cat and gave it food and toys. Texas law recently was changed to forbid the killing of cats, regardless of ownership.

Stevenson, head of the Galveston Ornithological Society, was concerned that feral cats were preying on endangered shorebirds. Stevenson said he hopes attention from the case will help officials adopt public policies that work for birds and cats.

It's interesting that this case occurred in a Southern state, where citizens tend to cringe at the thought of government regulation.

A recent story in the Birmingham area gets to the heart of the problem. The Shelby County Humane Society has a program where volunteers take unclaimed dogs and cats to New England for adoption. According to the story, animal shelters in Southern states tend to have way more dogs and cats than they can find homes for. States in New England have actually developed a shortage of dogs and cats, due to strict spay-and-neuter laws.

I applaud the folks at the Shelby County Humane Society for taking a common-sense approach to the problem. One wonders if the New England laws are a bit too strict if they have created a shortage. Let's hope animal lovers and public officials can come together to find a middle ground that will make situations like the one Galveston less likely to occur.

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