Centralia, Washington, USA: You may remember the tragic tale of Freddy, a tabby cat, who was entangled in barbed wire on a fence. Someone called the police and Officer Philip Reynolds turned up. He decided to kill the cat with a hammer. There were several blows. He decided that he couldn’t use his firearm. There was a witness. Reynolds made no attempt to consult with Freddy’s owner and neither did he make an attempt to call a veterinarian or seek the assistance of other people to try and save Freddie’s life. All of these actions would have resulted in much better outcome. Finally, Freddy’s body was dumped as trash.
At the time we did not know that Philip Reynolds had a disciplinary record at his place of work and that he had been sacked. His superior stated that Reynolds failed to follow supervisor directives to backup other offices and had a previous history of ill-discipline. His employment was terminated on March 22, 2012. Regrettably, he was re-employed about two years later following an arbitrator’s decision. It seems that Reynolds went back to court and got reinstated. The police force had to pay out a large sum of money in compensation as well.
In addition to a record of poor discipline, it appears that officer Reynolds has a record of using his Taser for longer than required to gain control over a suspect, following which he wrote reports which covered his tracks by minimising the amount of time the applied electric charge (source: The Chronicle, Greater Lewis County, Washington).
So now we know that officer Reynolds is, on my description, a “rogue cop”. He may have changed his ways. We hope so. However, his background sheds light on his attitude on the day that he killed Freddy so brutally. In my first article, I did say that this sort of incident is all about attitude and as we can see from this officer’s record his attitude was poor to say the least.
So what are the rights of a police officer when he decides to kill a companion animal under these circumstances? Under the law of Washington state, a law enforcement officer has the right to destroy an animal which has been seriously injured and which continue to suffer unless destroyed. That is pretty clear: an officer can kill a cat trapped in barbed wire if necessary.
However, there are limits to a police officer’s right to do this. He has to exercise “reasonable prudence”. In addition he has to consult with a licensed veterinarian and the owner of the animal where possible.
On the evidence we have, officer Reynolds did not make any attempt to talk to Freddy’s owner or contact a veterinarian. I think we can say, therefore, that he did not exercise reasonable prudence, which is the reason why Freddy’s owner, Karen Thorson is considering taking action against officer Reynolds and I presume the police force. I’m not sure what sort of action she can take. It would be a criminal prosecution and if this happened in in the UK it might be under the heading of “misconduct in public office”. It may also simply be a straightforward case of animal cruelty in which case he could be prosecuted under the animal welfare laws of Washington state. He could also be disciplined again. What chance of any of these occurring? Very slight. This is about a cat and cats barely have rights.
My thanks to Elisa at the Examiner.com for the story.