Animal Law

Cat Killer in a Peck of Trouble Over Piper Plovers

The trial of a Texas bird-watching enthusiast for killing a cat turns on whether the victim, named Mama Cat, was feral.

James M. Stevenson, the founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society, is being prosecuted under a law that bars the killing of cats “belonging to another,” the New York Times reports.

Mama Cat lived under a toll bridge and was fed and cared for by a toll collector.

The case has divided bird and cat lovers, who trade barbs on the Internet. Those attending the trial sat on opposite sides of the courtroom and nodded approval when their side made a point.

Prosecutor Paige Santell told jurors in opening statements that Stevenson “shot that animal in cold blood.” But Stevenson’s lawyer, Tad Nelson, said his client killed the cat because it was preying on endangered piping plovers.

Stevenson defended himself when he spoke to a Times reporter in a courthouse elevator. “This is about wild species disappearing from your planet,” he said. “I did what I had to do.”

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