Judges rule piercing cats qualifies as cruelty

June 20, 2011

Piercing cats to give them a “goth” appearance qualifies as cruelty. That’s the essence of a ruling from a Pennsylvania Superior Court panel who affirmed the conviction of a groomer in Sweet Valley, Penn. Details from the New York Times.

The groomer, Holly Crawford of Sweet Valley, Pa., offered the kittens for $100; Judge Kate Ford Elliott wrote in a 19-page opinion that “metal protruded from the kittens’ small bodies, pierced through their ears and necks, and at least one of these kittens also had an elastic band tied around its tail, an attempt at docking, which is a procedure to stem the blood flow so that the tail eventually falls off.”

An investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals posed as a customer and met with Ms. Crawford in 2008 and reported her to the authorities. The kittens were seized, and a jury found Ms. Crawford guilty of animal cruelty; in April of last year she was sentenced to six months of home detention and electronic monitoring, followed by probation.

Ms. Crawford, who was described in the opinion as having “several facial piercings” and being “enthusiastic about piercing,” had admitted to piercing the kittens herself without anesthetic, though she did treat them with antiseptic after the procedure.

That’s the important part of the story, but my favorite section (and yours, I’m betting) comes at the very end…

Judge Elliott wrote, “Appellant’s claims center on her premise that a person of normal intelligence would not know whether piercing a kitten’s ears or banding its tail is maiming, mutilating, torturing or disfiguring an animal.”

The judge added, “We disagree.”

Paralyzed tornado dog is walking again: Debbie and Daniel Leatherman live in Joplin, Missouri. They thought they had lost their 10 year-old cocker spaniel, Sugar, after the catastrophic tornado tore their house apart last month. Luckily, Sugar wasn’t lost. He was discovered by a stranger and brought to Joplin Humane Society, and his injuries took him to the University of Missouri Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was grim: a traumatic rupture of Sugar’s spinal cord. He was paralyzed. The operative word of the last sentence is ‘was. ‘ Thanks to the veterinary staff in Columbia, Sugar is now walking again. Thanks, Phyllis.

Historic cancer breakthrough? A couple weeks back, Dr. Tony Johnson wrote a sobering post about the canine version of a heart attack, called hemoabdomens. As Dr. Tony explained, the root cause is often a ruptured mass on the spleen due to an aggressive malignancy called a hemangiosarcoma. A hemangiosarcoma is often considered a nearly universal death sentence…or is it? Research out of Oregon State University signals hope for a previously hopeless cancer.

No more goldfish in Baghdad by the Bay: San Francisco is pushing to enact some of the toughest regulations outlawing the sale of animals of any municipality in the nation. But they’re not stopping at outlawing trade in puppies and kittens. As SFGate reports, the city’s Animal Control and Welfare Commission wants guppies and goldfish to receive the same protections. Thanks to Susan Fox for the link.

Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey: If you have a therapy animal, is he protected from seizure by authorities? Yes? Always? What if he’s a monkey? In certain places, not so much. And the authorities’ show of force can be a little over the top, too. Hat tip to Mary Cvetan.

The secret life of feral cats: Do you ever wonder what the lives of cats are like when they’re on their own? Where do they go? How far do they roam? Is there a difference between ferals and cats who have owners? Jeff Horn wondered, too. Jeff was a grad student at the University of Illinois. He put radio-tracking collars on forty-two cats, some owned and some unowned, and let them do what they do. The results are summarized in Science Daily:

One of the feral cats in the study, a mixed breed male, had a home range of 547 hectares (1,351 acres), the largest range of those tracked (red outline). A pet cat in the study, by contrast, stayed very close to home.
“That particular male cat was not getting food from humans, to my knowledge, but somehow it survived out there amidst coyotes and foxes,” Horn said. “It crossed every street in the area where it was trapped. (It navigated) stoplights, parking lots. We found it denning under a softball field during a game.”
The owned cats had significantly smaller territories and tended to stay close to home. The mean home range for pet cats in the study was less than two hectares (4.9 acres).
“Still, some of the cat owners were very surprised to learn that their cats were going that far,” Horn said. “That’s a lot of backyards.”
The pet cats managed this despite being asleep or in low activity 97 percent of the time. On average, they spent only 3 percent of their time engaged in highly active pursuits, such as running or stalking prey, the researchers reported. The un-owned cats were highly active 14 percent of the time.

Thanks, Ingrid.

Simon’s Cat: That’s right, it’s time once again for our favorite feline line drawing! Today, we’re in the kitchen.

I always like to hear from readers, especially if you have tips, and links for interesting stories.  Give me a shout in the comments, or better yet, send me an e-mail.

Photo credit: Piercing, a11news.com. Sugar, munews.


  1. Hurray for the judge! That poor kitten looks miserable, too. Hope they all (the kittens) were adopted and relieved of their piercings. What an idiot that woman was to even think about doing that to an animal . . .

    Comment by db — June 20, 2011 @ 5:59 am

  2. That article on the ‘therapy monkey’ is really badly written. I’d like to know if the monkey is an actually in-home service animal or just the latest in a long string of monkeys owned by people who happen to be disabled with no actual task training or work that they perform other than the emotional support that any pet provides.

    Comment by Cait — June 20, 2011 @ 6:04 am

  3. So let me see:

    There was a “mixed breed” cat that wasn’t getting any food from people.

    What was he eating?

    I seriously doubt he was “mixed breed.” Most cats alive today have never been a breed and have never had a breed cat anywhere in their pedigrees.

    Comment by Retrieverman — June 20, 2011 @ 6:06 am

  4. Previous studies have indicated that cats living on their own eat mostly small rodents, which are a far more efficient food source on a cost/benefit basis (calories expended vs. calories acquired) than, say, birds. Think barn cats brought it to control rats.

    I love the fact that the researcher did “time budgets” for the cats and came up with a result that is essentially the same as for lions who, on average, do “nothing” 22 out of 24 hours (see George Schaller’s Serengeti lion study, the first of its kind). Ditto the radio collars to track size of territory.

    Having done some scientific field research myself, including recording time budget data, albeit on wild Mongolian mountain sheep, I suspect that the term “mixed breed” was used discursively to differentiate between them and purebreds. It is a relevant distinction, although most of the cats people have are generally known as “domestic short hairs”.

    In fact, there are plenty of cats out there who appear to have some kind of “purebred” background. One of our current cats is probably part ragdoll (judging by the combination of his temperment and longish body) and when I was volunteering at our county shelter, we often saw cats that clearly had Siamese or Persian and even Scottish Fold in them.

    Comment by Susan Fox — June 20, 2011 @ 7:36 am

  5. I refer to generic cats as moggies. If particularly disreputable, ditch moggies.

    Same as calling a generic dog a pariah, though without the (incorrectly) implied judgement accumulated by the latter word.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 20, 2011 @ 7:46 am

  6. “If you have a therapy animal,” writes the author here, David Greene.

    I presume “service animal” is what is really meant. I realize that the language was picked up from the referenced article, but it is wrong. No wonder some people think that therapy (i.e. visitation) dog certification entitles them to take their dog with them anywhere.

    Comment by Deanna — June 21, 2011 @ 7:34 am

  7. Correct, Deanna.

    The fact that the ersatz owners of the monkey use that terminology indicates to me that it is highly likely they are dishing BS about their exotic pet.

    PGC is, in fact, serious as a friggin’ heart attack about unpermitted exotic wildlife kept as pets.

    And not to be paternalistic, but a leukemia patient who likely has no functioning immune system should NOT be intimately exposed to a non-human primate who has likely (because illegal, and they know it) received no veterinary care in its life.

    I would not be at all surprised to find that a physician or family member concerned about the wife’s health was the one who dropped a dime on them with the PGC.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 21, 2011 @ 8:35 am

  8. I might also point out that WTAE appears to have made zero effort to contact the Game Commission for their account of the story.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 21, 2011 @ 8:37 am

  9. Great ruling regarding the stupidity known as piercing Pets.

    You want a nose ring. Get one. Leave your pet out of it.

    They’re not impressed with body alteration.

    Further, you have no right to do that to them.

    The best site re: feral cats:

    Comment by Matt — June 22, 2011 @ 3:09 am

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