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Birder Admits Killing Cat, but Was It Animal Cruelty?
Chad Greene/Galveston Daily News
A day after the 2006 shooting of a cat that lived under the San Luis Pass toll bridge in Galveston, Tex., another cat could be seen.

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By KATE MURPHY
Published: November 14, 2007
GALVESTON, Tex., Nov. 13 — Jurors heard opening arguments on Tuesday in the trial of a bird-watching enthusiast who fatally shot a cat that he said was stalking endangered shorebirds.

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Galveston Police Department
James M. Stevenson says he was protecting piping plovers.
The defendant, James M. Stevenson, is the founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society and leads bird-watching tours on this Gulf Coast island 60 miles southeast of Houston. If convicted on animal cruelty charges in the shooting last November, he faces up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Mr. Stevenson, 54, does not deny using a .22-caliber rifle fitted with a scope to kill the cat, which lived under the San Luis Pass toll bridge, linking Galveston to the mainland. He also admits killing many other cats on his own property, where he operates a bed and breakfast for some of the estimated 500,000 birders who come to the island every year.

In her opening statement, Paige L. Santell, a Galveston County assistant district attorney, told the jury of eight women and four men that Mr. Stevenson “shot that animal in cold blood” and that the cat died a slow and painful death “gurgling on its own blood.”

She said that the cat had a name, Mama Cat, and that though the cat lived under a toll bridge, she was fed and cared for by a toll collector, John Newland. He is expected to testify.

Whether the cat was feral is the crucial point in this case. Mr. Stevenson was indicted under a state law that prohibited killing a cat “belonging to another.” Prompted by this case, the law was changed on Sept. 1 to include all cats, regardless of ownership.

Ms. Santell argued that because Mr. Newland had named, fed and given the cat bedding and toys, the cat belonged to him and was not feral.

Mr. Stevenson’s lawyer, Tad Nelson, admitted in his opening statement that his client went to the San Luis Pass toll bridge with “an intent to kill.” but that he had planned to kill a wild animal that was preying on endangered piping plovers. “This man has dedicated his whole life to birds,” Mr. Nelson said, pointing at Mr. Stevenson.

The case has prompted emotional commentary on the Internet. Cat enthusiast blogs have called Mr. Stevenson a “murderous fascist” and a “diabolical monster.” Birding blogs have defended his right to dispense with a “terrible menace” and have set up funds to help pay for his defense.

In an interview in a courthouse elevator during a break in the trial, Mr. Stevenson said heatedly that cat fanciers who have condemned him and sent him hateful correspondence “think birds are nothing but sticks.” “This is about wild species disappearing from your planet,” he said, adding, “I did what I had to do.”

Testimony followed from police officers and the veterinarian who performed the autopsy on Mama Cat, a white and gray tabby mix. The jurors were shown several photographs of the bloodied cat, reminiscent of an episode of “CSI: Miami.”

Pictures of the crime scene showed trays of cat food, blankets and cat toys hanging from strings under the bridge. The .22-caliber rifle Mr. Stevenson used to kill the cat along with his magazine full of Remington hollow-point bullets were also on display.

The prosecution and defense wrangled repeatedly about whether witnesses could accurately assess the cat’s state of mind.

“He’s not qualified to know what the cat was feeling,” said Mr. Nelson, when a police officer, John P. Bertolino Sr., testified that the cat was in terrible pain when he arrived at the crime scene. The cat died en route to a Humane Society facility.

The trial, which is expected to take a week, had few spectators save a handful of bird lovers and cat lovers who sat on opposite sides of the courtroom. One side nodded emphatically at Ms. Santell’s arguments, and the other nodded whenever Mr. Nelson objected.

“How people feel about the trial depends on who you talk to,” said Victor Lang, a local historian, adding that bird-watchers and cat fanciers obviously had the strongest views.

Though others may argue passionately about whether Mr. Stevenson should be punished, Mr. Lang said he did not have strong feelings about the case.

“But you see, I’m a dog person,” he said. “If he had shot a dog, then I’d be more upset.”
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I have shot a few cats in my time for the reason they kill birds and two I watched sneak up on a grouse (different occasions) that I shot instead of the grouse I felt it was more inportant to shoot the cat. As I have stated before I will not shoot cats that are near dwellings but if they are out in the middle of nowhere I consider them feral or problem cats. The way I look at it I have a dog when he is out he is on a lease and at my control at all times. The only time he gets to run loose for a short while is when I am at my nephews and even then I watch him until he gets his running done and other business then he goes back inside at all times he is under my control. Cat folks should do the same letting cats roam not only allows them to hunt but to also breed and make more cats which we are over populated with already. Ask any animal shelter they are overrun with cats.
 

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Bird watching has become a normal part of my outdoor experience, both while hunting and fishing, and here at home, I have a great back yard that we cultivate for bird watching with several feeders and native plants and shrubs, and a nice bird bath, everything they need, food, water and shelter, not much else goes on there, cept lawn mowing when needed, but we have lots of wild birds, lots!

Most live here year round, many are migrants that we only see seasonally. I've added lots of birds to my life list right here in my own yard over the last 24yrs. We also have birds of prey, several hawks that prey on them when they have the chance, that's ok, it's the normal order of life. We also have feral and neighbor's cats that prey on the birds that we attract. I've used an electronic gizmo called a Catstop to help deter the neighbors cats which all wear collars, they're pretty predictable and use the same routes to get to my yard.

But the ferals that show up don't seem to be deterred so easily. Live traps work about as good as anything, if a squirrel or other non-target critter gets in there, I can let it go, no skunks yet, but raccoons are real pests. I'd love to shoot the feral cats, but I'd hate to end up in jail even more. :-\

Tim
 

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For a 223, a 40gr. BT is my favorite yard feral Cat medicine. I bet the 204 would really shine though.
 

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I keep a pellet rifle ready at all times. Works great for Cats. Three Ss apply here. I love to see the Grouse, and other birds on my five acres. One loose cat will totally wipe out that population in a couple of months. Learned that lesson the hard way, it took four years to get them back.
 

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No crime, and certainly no loss. Dead cat== nice kitty. POWDERMAN. ;D ;D
 

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There is a very juvenile and obscene room over in AR where really sick people can go and vent their fantasies about cats. Let's not start one over here. I have cats and I maintain bird feeders. I like all of God's creatures. The cats are well fed but once in a while they will knap a lazy or unwary bird. In exchange, the birds get a free ride. The cats keep the place pretty much rodent free. And they will range pretty far up in my woods looking for mice and voles. They bring in many many more mice and voles and snakes than birds for my approval before they eat them.
If someone were to see one of my cats a ways from my house and make the judgement that they were feral and kill them, it would not be a police matter.
I think Stevenson is a sicko.
 

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Back in the early 80's I was a young man maybe 19 or 20. I had a neighbor who had a cat that loved to prance all around the hood and roof of my new truck. I asked the neighbor to keep his cat in his yard because he was all ways on my truck. I come out to go to work one morning and there he was again sitting on the hood of my truck. I did warn the neighbor prior. Well I did end up shooting that cat that morning. Right off the hood of my truck. I had scratches on my truck to prove it. I made a mistake of telling my nephew a couple days later. The police did show up and I did explain how it all came about but they really wanted to take me to jail at the time. I got out of it but I do not think this guy did anything to bad. They are crazy to think you should go to jail for a couple years for killing a cat. I own cats and love them but 2 years of a mans life for a cat. Come on now. Dale
 

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Here in Alabama these days he would be found guilty of a FELONY and would NEVER again be allowed to own a gun. Yeah here in the Heart of Dixie the animal rights folks have managed to get harming a dog or cat in ANY way turned into a FELONY.
 

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Dog owners are expected to keep their dogs leashed or contained to stay out of mischief yet cat owners think nothing of letting their cats run wild and you can take that running wild statement several ways. beemanbeme I suppose it depends on how much land you have and IF your cats stay on your property if they do fine its your land and cats but if they go roaming off your land then you are not controling your cats.

GB funny how some states are a few years ago the WI DNR wanted to have open season on feral cats the animal peta type freaks raised such a stink the DNR backed down. Too bad as feral cats are getting to be a major problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I agree with the three S's and the worst thing the guy did was make a lousy shot so the cat did not suffer though those that hate cats may differ. Cats have their place but out in the wilds hunting is not one of them. Do not give me it is their nature crap as Cats are for the most part PETS not kept for hunting. If ya got barn cats for killing pest fine as long as they stay one your property. IF they do not and are miles from some ones house they do not belong there.
 

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I keep reading the article and homing in on his words--"I did what I had too do."
He may have wanted too do it.
He did do it.
He may feel justified in doing it.
He may even feel that he is the sole protector of these birds.
BUT---he didn't have to do it.
This thing happened in my backyard--not literally but figuratively--and it has caused much stir.
I live with cats roaming my backyard and I am not much of a cat lover. My old neighbor would shoot them with a pellet gun, as though he were protecting his yard and his rights. Nonsense--he was just being mean and hateful.
My dog has killed a bird that was unaware of his presence---too bad for the bird.
Birds do what birds do and cats and dogs do what cats and dogs do.
The cat was being kept by the toll booth workers on the bridge. It was a pet.
Blessings
 

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I have watched plenty of cats die of lead poisoning. There always seems to be more. Cruelty? Not in my mind, every year the locals seem to catch a school kid that comes up with a sick way of killing cats and is dumb enough to get caught, the kids never seem to get a very stiff sentence.
 

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beemanbeme said:
There is a very juvenile and obscene room over in AR where really sick people can go and vent their fantasies about cats. Let's not start one over here. I have cats and I maintain bird feeders. I like all of God's creatures. The cats are well fed but once in a while they will knap a lazy or unwary bird. In exchange, the birds get a free ride. The cats keep the place pretty much rodent free. And they will range pretty far up in my woods looking for mice and voles. They bring in many many more mice and voles and snakes than birds for my approval before they eat them.
If someone were to see one of my cats a ways from my house and make the judgement that they were feral and kill them, it would not be a police matter.
I think Stevenson is a sicko.
That is great that you are a cat lover, but let me give you a fact about cats. Well feed or not, a cat is a killer. It does not kill for survival, but more for pleasure. I have seen many cats kill birds and after they are done playing with them they walk off.

I don't like stray cats and in my opinion if someone lets there cat out of there house, it is a stray. I have dogs and my dogs NEVER leave my yard, they are not let out to roam the neighborhood and they don't go around killing harmless birds or wildlife. If you don't like what people say about cats maybe you should not read there posts.

My take is the three S's
 

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This case is going to be a hard one to decide. Who is the better of the 2, the cat lovers, or the bird watchers. I believe the key word in the article is ''protected'' birds. I don't think cats are on the endangered or protected list. Plenty of them around.(got one in my living room that runs the place) And I am somewhat of a bird watcher myself, usually when a load of No. 2's hits them, I watch them fall into my decoys. And the realistic side of me is thinking, how many thousands of tax dollars are going to be spent trying to figure this one out!! gypsyman
 

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The so called Alley Cat is alive and well here and in many other parts of the country.
Strange how a municipality will have a lease law for dogs, but will allow the cats to run free. They dig in flower beds, spray on porches, scratch vehicles, and kill song Bird's.
A source (or the motherload) for the cat's can often be identified but is usually ignored by authorities despite complaints. When the owner (usually the elder) dies, the same people are horrified and the newspaper reports that a large number of cats had to be removed from the residence which is generally uninhabitable due to the feces and urine.

I hear some hellacious cat fights along with the loud yowling of mating. It usually wakes you up around 2am and is darn near right outside your window.
SSS becomes nessary now & again.
 

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Not so very long ago here in Bama the shooting of stray dogs and cats was actually encouraged. Not so these days however. Now you might be better off to shoot a human in regard the time you'll serve. This kinda stuff has gotten totally stupid.

I'm not a dog lover and hate cats with a passion. Were I free to do so I'd take out every one of either that came onto my land BUT I'm no longer free to do so and the consequences of doing so are just too severe these days to take the chance.

Liberals and animal rights idiots among other fringe groups really have taken over this country to a really large extent. We're going to **** in a handbasket really fast.
 

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Liberals and animal rights idiots among other fringe groups really have taken over this country to a really large extent. We're going to **** in a handbasket really fast.
Hello Hollyweird we can thank them for being a soapbox for these idiots. If I lived in Alabama I would do my damnedest to get that law repealed that is just assinine.
 
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