Hangin’ judge Roy Bean “justice” prevails in Texas for feral cats
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2002:
WACO, Texas–Circa 1883, Val Verde County justice of the
peace Roy Bean, “The Law West of the Pecos,” ruled at one of the
most infamous trials in U.S. history that “There ain’t no law in the
state of Texas against killing a Chinaman.”
That verdict was recalled on March 19 in Waco when a McLennan
County jury decided that there is no law in the state of Texas
against killing a feral cat, no matter how it is done.
The three-man, three-woman jury deliberated for just 55
minutes before finding former Baylor University pitcher Derek Brehm,
21, innocent of misdemeanor cruelty for admittedly shooting a cat
named Queso with a pellet gun on the patio of a Taco Cabana
restaurant in March 2001, battering the cat with a golf club, and
then decapitating him, skinning his head.
Defense attorney Ross Hunt convinced the jury that the Texas
anti-cruelty statute does not apply to feral cats because it defines
“animal” as a domesticated or captured creature, to avoid
application to hunters and trappers.
Hunt argued that Taco Cabana night manager Teresa Jones had
not domesticated or captured Queso, although she did feed and name
Hunt also asserted that Queso was not tortured because, Hunt
claimed, Queso must have been dead after he was shot, even though
Jones said Queso was still alive when Brehm and former Baylor
outfielder Clint Bowers, 22, drove him away to hit him with the
golf club–to make sure he was dead, again by their own admission.
After Brehm was acquitted, prosecutor Crawford Long dropped
cruelty charges against Bowers, since the evidence against him was
Either a “guilty” or “not guilty” finding could have been a
problematic precedent. Practitioners of neuter/return feral cat
control became concerned as the case developed that a conviction
might have established a precedent that anyone who takes
responsibility for the well-being of a cat is an owner. This in turn
might have exposed people who release feral cats after sterilization
to abandonment charges.
From March through May 1994, Humane Society of the U.S.
general counsel Roger A. Kindler and field representatives Kate Rindy
and Jim Tedford (now executive director of the Lollypop Farm Humane
Society in Rochester, New York) did attempt to initiate a
prosecution of the Outer Banks Spay/Neuter Fund of Kitty Hawk, North
Carolina, for allegedly abandoning feral cats.
In a closely parallel Texas case, however, Wharton County
Judge Lawrence Naiser in April 1996 found East Bernard High School
baseball players Britt Sensat, Danny L. Crane, and Ryan Walters,
plus a juvenile, all guilty of cruelty for tying a feral cat named
Tiger inside a feed bag, beating her with their bats, driving over
the carcass, and tossing the remains into a creek.
The case that Tiger was an owned animal was weaker, since
she had several different feeders, none of whom fed her every day.
Brehm and Bowers were both suspended from the Baylor baseball
team for eight games. Brehm was dropped from the baseball team after
a September 2001 arrest for drunk driving. He lost his scholarship
to attend Baylor as result of that offense, did 50 hours of
community service at the Waco animal shelter for the drunk driving
charge, and then transferred to the University of Texas at
Arlington. Bowers is still attending Baylor, but is no longer
Dallas attorney and Animal Legal Defense Fund president
Robert “Skip” Trimble told reporters that the Queso case exemplifies
the need to update and improve the Texas cruelty statute.