This is another disappointment for cat and animal lovers everywhere who are naturally very keen to see justice done whenever there is cat cruelty. Westberry took cat cruelty to a new level and yet she has been treated leniently by the judge as no jail time is the sentence handed down by a visiting 10th Circuit Court judge in Anderson, South Carolina on October 15. This PoC article from June 2014 describes how more than three dozen dead cats were found dead in her Belton home and more than two dozen were rescued, many of which died. Another 25 cats were found dead under the home a month later when the rent came due. You can read about the whole, infamous Westberry saga by clicking on this link.
Members of the community, including those from Anderson Feline Survivor’s, were present in court Thursday. One animal advocate was only allowed to speak after the plea bargain was handed down giving Westberry a four-year suspended sentence and four years probation along with $2,000 in restitution. This will be reduced to two years, providing Westberry continues mental health treatment.
Westberry arrived in court with her boyfriend, her mother and two other supporters. Apparently the plea deal had been worked out some time ago. The judge allegedly refused to listen to anything pertaining to the missing 800 cats entrusted to Westberry. He only wanted to hear about monetary damages, which was nothing compared to the loss of life at her hands. This reflects the concept that cats are possessions reduced to monetary value in courts, something which is clearly outdated.
The Anderson Feline Survivor’s Facebook page posted:
“Justice was NOT served today. This is a very sad day for animal rescues. JW got a four year suspended sentence and four years probation that will be reduced to two years if she continues with her mental health treatment and abides by the terms of her probation. She also has to pay restitution of approximately $2000. I don’t know how this figure was decided or who it is to be paid. I got there before her so I was able to make sure she saw my signs. Her boyfriend drove her there and her mother and two other people were there to support her. She didn’t look at me but her mother kept glaring at me. I just looked back at her.”
South Carolina has some of the worst animal cruelty laws in the nation, especially for cats. As a reporter, I follow animal abuse cases, and can tell you those who abuse dogs have a much harder time getting away with it (although they often do). An Upstate dog rescue, in the same county as Westberry, was charged with more than 100 counts of animal cruelty after LIVE dogs were found and removed.
This sentence is a slap in the face to animal advocates, especially those who work to protect cats. Westberry has basically been handed a ticket to get on with her life.
In two years this will all be behind her, while those who still don’t know whether the cats they handed over because it was believed Westberry was adopting them out through the Anderson County Humane Society, survived.
As I understand it, the judge says she can’t own any animals but I don’t know whether that is just during the probation or indefinitely.
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