This is an example where the judge made the wrong decision in allowing the accused woman – who had starved her cats to death – to avoid trial and instead undergo a pre-trail intervention program. The judge refused to look at photographs of the apartment where 12 cats died and 13 lived, some by eating the carcasses of the dead or their own offspring as testified by a veterinarian at the grand jury hearing.
The accused, Jill Petruska, through her attorney had requested her admission into a pre-trial program and an order preventing her from caring for animals for 2 years plus 200 hours community service. Once she had done this the objective was that she’d be home and dry with no criminal record (as I understand it).
She had been charged with 26 counts of animal cruelty. It appears that the judge’s decision was appealed by the prosecution and at a further hearing in the New Jersey appeals court the judge(s) sent the case back to the lower court for a fresh hearing with a different judge. They remarked at the failure of the judge to look at the photographic evidence thereby failing to grasp the gravity of the crime.
The appeals court stated in their summing up:
“These conditions surely did not evolve over a short period of time and belied defendant’s claim to have periodically stopped by the apartment to feed the cats or to have arranged for someone else to take care of the cats…”
Petruska had argued that she had been away caring for a sick relative and had popped back to her apartment to care for the cats when she could.
Having read lots of reports of hearings on cat cruelty it is my firm belief that American judges tend to sentence defendants of cat cruelty too lightly although the law limits their choices. This is one example and it is has been overturned. It will be interesting to see what happens next. I hope the papers report on it.