Canadian Cat Killer's Sentence Sparks Controversy

Anthony Wennekers, 25, and Jessie Power, 21, were sentenced this month after pleading guilty to animal cruelty charges after police found a videotape of the two torturing and killing a cat.

Judge Edward Ormston of the Ontario Court of Justice earned catcalls in the courtroom when he announced that he had sentenced Wennekers to time served and Power to 90 days in jail, to be served on weekends. Power will then face 18 months of house arrest and three years of probation. Both men could have faced up to 2 and a half years in jail.

Prosecutor Robin Flumerfelt told the Toronto Star that a decision would be made by the end of May on whether or not the prosecution would appeal the sentence.

Ormston’s explained that Wennekers had already severed 10 1/2 months in jail while awaiting trial, and traditionally courts double the amount of such time when considering sentencing. So, under that formula, Wennekers had already served the equivalent of nearly two years in jail.

But what apparently set off the crowd of onlookers in attendance was not so much the sentence but Ormston’s inexplicable statement that, “There are worse ways that this cat could have died.”

On the one hand certainly it is possible to take almost any death and conceive of ways in which that death could have been worse. On the other hand, Wennekers and Power hung the cat by its neck from a telephone cord, slit its throat, stabbed, kicked and then skinned the animal. Yes, this writer can conceive of an even worse death, but that’s already a pretty damning roster of acts already.

The sentence would have made more sense had Wennekers and Power divulged the name of a third man who is depicted in their videotape of the cat torture but who has so far remained unidentified. Their guilty plea can, as Ormston noted, be used to infer remorse and regret, but surely their failure to name their accomplice mitigates against this explanation.

Source:

Cat torturers’ sentences anger activists. Nancy Carr, Montreal Gazette, April 19, 2002.

Cat killers’ sentence draws anger. Nick Pron, Toronto Star, April 19, 2002.

College Students Tortured, Killed Cat to Highlight Cruelty of Meat Eating

Last June, I wrote about two men arrested in Canada who had videotaped gruesome scenes of themselves and a third, as yet unidentified man, torturing and killing a cat (see Did Animal Activist Torture Cat?). At the time there was speculation among people who knew Anthony Ryan Wennekers, 24, and Jessie Champlain Powers, 21, that they had made their videotape to highlight the plight of animals.

In fact, that was the argument their lawyer made in arguing for light sentences for Wennekers and Powers. Lawyer Andrea Tuck-Jackson told a Toronto court last week that Power was an art student at The Ontario College of Art and Design who wanted “to challenge the decision of people who choose to eat meat.”

Wennekers and Powers plead guilty to charges of mischief and cruelty to animals rather than go to trial.

Tuck-Jackson argued that since her client was a vegan and a pacifist (who just happens to torture and kill cats on occasion), he should receive a 60 to 90 day jail sentence along with the equivalent of 12 to 18 months under house arrest. The maximum sentence that each man could receive would be 2 and a half years in jail.

After reading what Tuck-Jackons and Wennekers did to the cat, however, it is difficult to believe that they do not deserve the maximum. Here’s how The Ottawa Citizen described the 17-minute videotape that was played in court (warning this is extremely graphic and disgusting),

The 17-minute tape shows Mr. Power, Mr. Wennekers and an unidentified man putting the cat in a makeshift noose. The two have declined to help police identify the third man.

As the cat is flails [sic] in the noose, the men stab and slash at repeatedly at it. About halfway through the video, one man can be heard saying, “It’s still alive.”

The cat is stabbed several more times and two men kick the animal as it dangles from the cat’s neck and stomach area are sliced before it dies and the video ends.

The cat’s cries of pain can be heard throughout the attack. Several people in the public gallery blocked their ears, bowed their heads and could be heard crying during the presentation.

As prosecutor Robin Flumerfelt put told the court, “The videotape makes it clear that what these men lack is an appreciation of the wrongfulness of their crime.” Flumerfelt argued that the men should receive the maximum possible sentence.

Sources:

Student tortured cat to support animal rights, lawyer tells court: Video of the killing brings public to tears. Shannon Kari, The Ottawa Citizen, March 29, 2002.

Cat torture horrifies court: ‘Art’ video of men skinning stray prompts tears, disgust from spectators. Nancy Carr. Montreal Gazette, March 29, 2002.

Guard Who Crushed Kittens Receives One Year Jail Sentence

A former Sing Sing prison guard was sentenced this week to a year in jail for killing five kittens in a garbage compactor.

Saying that the crime was “so offensive and so calculated and so gratuitously cruel, it diminishes the humanity of everybody,” Westchester Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Lange sentenced Ronald Hunlock, 48, to a year in prison.

Hunlock actually received six separate one-year sentences — one for each of the kittens as well as one for the mother cat — but the judge allowed Hunlock to serve the sentences concurrently.

Under 3-year-old New York statute, the maximum prison time Hunlock could have received was two years.

On March 22, 2002, Hunlock was officially fired from his job (he had been on suspension without pay since being arrested) and forfeited over half a million in pension and retirement benefits as a result.

Sources:

Sing Sing guard gets year in jail for crushing cats. Owen Motiz, New York Daily News, March 23, 2002.

Sing Sing guard gets year in jail for killing 5 kittens. Jim Fitzgerald, Associated Press, March 22, 2002.

Cloning Cats

Researchers at Texas A & M were in the news this week when word leaked that they managed to successfully clone a cat. A number of research efforts are underway to clone cats and dogs, but this was the first such success.

Much of the media coverage focused on the possibility of cloning pets. The Canadian Press quoted Texas A & M researcher Duane Kraemer as claiming that some people have already stored cells from their departed pets in the hope that cloning might one day bring back copies of said pets.

A more important possibility is the role that cloned cats may play in medical research. This possibility brought condemnation from the Humane Society of the United StatesWayne Pacelle who described the announcement as “unfortunate news” and told the Canadian Press that researchers should move away from using animals in medical research.

But research in cats has provided important information about a variety of issues related to human physiology, especially about vision. The way cats process vision is very similar to the processes in human beings. In fact, David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel won the 1981 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their research in cats and monkeys that completely revolutionized understanding of how vision is processed.

Pacelle and animal rights activists are free to maintain that advances in human knowledge thanks to animal research are “unfortunate,” but they will have to excuse the rest of us for finding this to be incredibly exciting news.

Source:

Texas researchers announce successful cloning of a cat; dogs are next. Malcolm Ritter, Canadian Press, February 15, 2002.

More than nine lives for this cat. Antonio Regalado, The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2002.

Prison Guard Convicted for Crushing Kittens in Trash Compactor

Ronald Hunlock, 47, was found guilty this week of aggravated cruelty to animals for crushing to death five kittens in a trash compactor at Sing Sing prison where he was a guard.

Hunlock discovered the kittens during a search of an inmate’s cell. Hunlock ordered the prisoner to put the kittens in the trash compactor as a punishment, but when the prisoner refused to do so, Hunlock placed the kittens in the machine and started it himself.

Hunlock’s defense argued that the facts were largely irrelevant since New York’s Felony Animal Cruelty Laws was excessively vague and overly broad. The judge in the case, Peter M. Leavitt, disagreed, finding the law consistent with New York’s constitution.

Hunlock faces sentencing on March 19, 2002, and faces up to two years in prison.

Sources:

Conviction applauded by animal activists. Zachary R. Dowdy, Newsday, December 19, 2001.

Guard convicted of crushing kittens. Associated Press, December 18, 2001.

ALF Raid Liberates Feral Cats

After an outbreak of rabies in the area, authorities in Gaston County, North Carolina began rounding up feral cats. The cats were housed in an animal shelter where the Animal Liberation Front activists apparently feared they would be euthanized. So on September 14, several ALF members broke in to the animal shelter and stole the cats.

The raid was denounced by a local group trying to help the cats, Friends of Feral Felines. FFF leader Ann Gross told The Charlotte Observer that the raid was “outrageous” and she feared that the cats might no longer be receiving proper medical attention. From personal experience trying to find humane ways to deal with feral cats, they tend to have a large number of health problems and diseases, and the ALF activists didn’t do the cats or people concerned about rabies and other diseases any favors with their raid.

Source:

Animal advocates take issue with cat liberators. Peter Smolowitz, The Charlotte Observer, September 15, 2000.