Elderly couple who ‘compassionately’ attempted to kill kittens by drowning committed a crime


The prosecutor let off an elderly couple who decided out of compassion to kill by drowning a litter of kittens because they could not get an orgnization to take them off their hands. Was this the correct decision?

Is it true that when elderly people are cruel to cats out of misguided compassion they are more likely to be let off by the authorities because of their age? It seems that prosecutors take into account the age of people when deciding to take action against them. If the person or persons are older they believe that their mental capacity is diminished and therefore they are unable to think as clearly. This allows them to make what a prosecutor would regard as an honest mistake.

This is my observation on what has emerged from the Higgins Lake kitten drowning case. There is a big discussion on Facebook over it and people take opposite viewpoints. What’s yours?

Note: I am not being judgmental and I understand the predicament they were in. I am trying to look at is dispassionately. Click for earlier article.

In that case a couple who are aged 90 and 78 tried to drown a litter of kittens they found in their garage because they had sought help but failed to receive it. They decided to kill the kittens ‘humanely’ by drowning. They admit that they made a poor decision. The prosecutor Mary A Beebe decided not to prosecute them because they had acted in good faith and done their best without malice. She may have decided that it was not in the public interest to prosecute. But she did not state this clearly.

Mary Beebe
OFFICE OF THE PROSECUTOR The Roscommon County Prosecutor’s Office is led by Prosecutor Mary Beebe (center). Also pictured are Assistant Prosecutor Erika Moses and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jacob Collini.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

“The couple understands that they did not make the right decision on how to handle this situation and now know that there are other resources they could have at least attempted. However, they were not aware at the time of those resources and they contacted the local resources they were aware of and tried to do the right thing…..These individuals were not attempting to torture these animals, they were not taking satisfaction in making them suffer, and were not trying to be cruel. These are the things we look at when we issue criminal charges in animal cruelty cases.”

The prosecutor Mary A Beebe

In my opinion Beebe has been thoughtful. But this part of her statement indicates poor thinking:

“These people did not own these kittens and had no obligation to take them in and care for them.”

Mary A Beebe

Wrong. Every person has a moral obligation to care for people or animals in need as and when it arises. That’s what makes for a decent society.

It is about 60/40 in favour of her decision on Facebook judging by the comments. However, under the law the couple could have been charged with attempted animal cruelty. They were stopped by a passerby and reported. This elderly couple were in the act of drowning kittens. That’s a crime; no doubt about it. So I think that Beebe made the wrong decision. They should have been prosecuted and convicted but the sentence should have been light. This would have sent the right message in respect of cat cruelty and at the same time recognised that the elderly couple had done their best but made a mistake.

The motive of trying to act humanely by killing the kittens by drowning does not absolve them from the crime. Their intention was to kill and drowning causes distress and panic. That’s cat cruelty no matter how you dice and slice it. Their age is irrelevant.

They were let off by the prosecutor. That sends a bad signal and I think they were dealt with leniently because of their age.

Here are two opposing comments on Facebook:

“I don’t care if they were 105 years old and contacted 50 organizations for help, this is horrific and they should be held accountable! What kind of a precedence are you setting?! Now our laws have age limits?? So much for that new felony law for animal cruelty, because apparently it’s either age biased or not effective in Roscommon!! Sure, the feral cat problem is an issue that needs to be addressed, but it is NOT relevant to this cruelty!”

Amanda Zaier

An opposite opinion:

“Thank you for explaining this very controversial situation. You definitely are not required to explain anything to the public, but went out of your way to do so. No one should be judging the situation until they have been put in the shoes of the individuals. I agree that the couple had a motive of compassion rather than being sadistic. Not everyone is going to agree with all decisions made and you can never please everyone. We have a neighbor who live traps the feral cats and pays out of her own pocket to spay/neuter and update vaccines or our neighborhood would be over run with them, also.”

Denise Hendges

P.S. Beebe did a thorough job and recommended that there were better facilities in the area to deal with this situation. If they were in place the couple would not have decided to drown the kittens because the help they had sought would have been to hand. They were turned down by several organisations. Eventually the kittens were fostered and they are safe.

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