Cat cut in two at Montparnasse station (Paris): railway company SNCF sued

Neko was the victim of the indifference of SNCF agents and died crushed by a train.
Neko was the victim of the indifference of SNCF agents and died crushed by a train./DR

This cat news story has two aspects. Firstly, it concerns the violent death of a domestic cat travelling on a train with their owner. The cat escaped from their carrier while the train was at Montparnasse station and went on to the tracks. The railway company, SNCF, is accused of refusing to do what was necessary to recover the cat. The train left the station and the cat was cut in two on the rails. Further details of the incident are reported below which is a translation from the French on the website of the animal rights charity 30 Million Friends Foundation (‘the charity’) which is suing SNCF.

Update: SNCF have been fined for negligence. A Paris court fined SNCF €1,000 for “negligence”, ruling the killing of the pet had been caused “involuntarily”.

“I saw Neko run under the train and then we saw him cut in half. It was so violent,” the cat’s owner, Georgia, said. She was travelling with her 15-year-old daughter, Melaïna

The second aspect of the story is that it has received a lot of attention mainly because the charity is making a stand about this incident and is suing the railway company as mentioned. The argument, as I see it, is that SNCF are in breach of their own guidelines and were engaged in an act of speciesism in treating the cat as a sentient being of lesser value than humans. It is that particular aspect which interests me and the charity. When you treat animals as near equals to humans you achieve a completely different result. You look at things in a different light and from a different perspective.

The charity wants the matter to go to the criminal courts in France in line with their argument that the cat was a living, sentient being owed an equality of rights in this instance. Initially the litigation will be heard at the Paris Police Court. The charity argues that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter and they want it to be transferred to the criminal court which, incidentally, will make it far more high-profile which I believe is what they want anyway because this is an opportunity to hammer home animal rights. To campaign for improved animal rights.

At heart, it’s about that and it’s about the inadequate attitude, the charity would argue, of the SNCF employees who made the decision to allow the train to leave the platform knowing that the cat was on the rails. SNCF say that they had to allow the train to leave the platform as they could not see the cat and they had an obligation to passengers to get them to their destination.

SNCF said that it “regrets this sad incident” but added that “it is strictly forbidden to go down on the tracks, which would endanger the lives of the two travellers or of our agents… the risks of electrocution are real.”

They state on the charity’s website (translation from French by Google Translate adjusted by me) is as follows:

“The SNCF agents deliberately made the decision to send the train off when the owner of the cat Neko had informed them of the presence of the animal on the tracks and of the danger to the cat if they allowed the train to leave, pleads Me X. Bacquet. She asked for help so that she could retrieve her cat, which was doomed to certain death if the train started. The SNCF, through its controllers refused and nothing was tried by the agents to save him. Worse, it is in all conscience that the fatal decision to start the train was made. It is therefore not an accident or an involuntary accident, but a voluntary act. The SNCF was well aware that it was going to run a train over the cat and end its life.”

“Beyond the abominable cruelty of the facts, the animal was legally entitled to be on the train since their caregiver had paid for a ticket. The cats therefore a passenger who was knowingly run over by the SNCF!” – argues Reha Hutin, President of the charity. The facts indicate an act that is punishable by 6 months imprisonment and a fine of €7,500.

“What happened is all the more revolting in that in the guide made available to the staff of the Gare de Paris Montparnasse, paragraph 8.8-1 provides for an emergency procedure in stopping a train when ‘there is a risk of imminent danger, recalls Master Xavier Bacquet. Nothing could therefore justify not taking into account the danger that the departure of the train in its circumstances constituted for the life of a living and sensitive being.”

The incident as told by the charity – translation from French

The charity has filed a complaint against the SNCF after a cat died after being crushed by a TGV on January 2, 2023 at Montparnasse station in Paris. The train had been allowed to leave its platform, even though the railway company had been informed of Neko’s presence on the tracks. The trial will open Monday, June 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the Paris Police Court.

The Neko case in the hands of justice. The cat that had fled was crushed to death by an SNCF train. The mistress and her daughter had implored the agents to intervene to recover the animal after a firm refusal from the company. (2/1/2023)

The SNCF will appear Monday, June 19 at 1:30 p.m. before the Paris Police Court for “involuntary attack on the life or integrity of a domestic animal tamed or held in captivity” (art. R 653 al. 1 of the Penal Code), following a complaint filed by the 30 Million Friends Foundation on January 24, 2023.

At the hearing, Me Xavier Bacquet, lawyer for the 30 Million Friends Foundation, will plead the lack of jurisdiction of the Police Court so that the SNCF be referred to the Criminal Court for having “voluntarily killed a domestic animal, tamed or held in captivity, outside the framework of legal activities” (Art. 522-1 al. 1 of the Penal Code)

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9 badly broken ribs (and much more) when man trips because of his Sphynx cat

Chris Rowley, 59, suffered car crash injuries of 9 smashed ribs, a fractured spine and a cracked skull when he fell down the stairs after tripping on his young Sphynx cat, Eric Morecambe) which he seems to dress in a fake coat! The picture of the cat is priceless.

In fact, the full extent of his injuries is mind blowing. He says that he was “massively injured [and] we’re still finding out the extent of the injuries now. I had a fractured skull, a broken bone in the neck, two fractures in the spine, nine broken ribs, and each rib has multiple fractures, and then I had a bit of blood in the lungs.” a

I have never heard of anyone suffering such catastrophic injuries following a standard trip up on your cat companion. Although I can well understand how it happened as cats do get under your feet.

The lesson is to look down always to make sure that your cat is not at your feet where they are likely to be because they often want to be near their human caregiver.

In fact, it wasn’t quite a standard trip as we are told by the Mirror newspaper that Chris Rowley’s Sphynx jumped up to try and clamp onto his leg (as kittens often do). As he tried to move out of the way (to avoid the pain!) he slipped and fell down the stairs. It happened late evening.

It was all over in seconds, but he spent 14 hours at the base of the stairs as he was unable to move due to his extensive injuries. He said that it was claustrophobic being stuck there waiting for his partner to return as she works nights.

To add insult to injury his cat sat on his chest and settled down. He probably thought it was very thoughtful of his owner to lie on the floor for him. Cats like it when their owners get down to their level.

Mr Rowley was hospitalised for two weeks which left him out of pocket as he couldn’t work.

He felt powerless as he lay at the base of the stairs because his phone no longer worked and as mentioned he was unable to move.

His partner got home late at around 10 AM. She normally arrives home at 8:30 AM. When she opened the front door, she heard him screaming and saw the blood.

She said that she went into shock and when the paramedics arrived, she left them alone because she could no longer stand his screaming.

Rowley ended up in the major trauma unit at Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham. Initially, they took him to Leicester Royal Infirmary but when they found out the extent of his injuries, they transferred him to Nottingham for major trauma.

It’s going to be 6-12 months until he is back on his feet. Apparently, he gets seizures because of the injuries and is taking an epidural to keep him sedated. He worked as a professional musician touring the world performing on cruise ships. That career ended because of Covid, and he now works as a carer like his partner, Jackie Millerchip.

18 facts about the Sphynx cat

Picture of an obese Sphynx cat looks like a plush toy

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How to avoid stepping on your cat

Some people have trouble with this. True story: my brother once asked me how he could avoid stepping on his cat, Katrina. He was baffled and finally asked his little brother, me, for help.  Sadly, I never liked my big brother much and resisted any inclination to do him favors, but with an abundance of sympathy for his cat who didn’t like him much either 😎, I provided some advice.

For a cat it is a ‘looking-up world’ 👀.

For a cat it is a looking up world
For a cat it is a looking up world. Image: MikeB

I always start with a supposed cat problem by seeing things from the cat’s point of view, and usually end up finding that it’s a human problem. I told my brother that at their level their view of us is our feet. While they are good at watching our feet, we still need to telegraph where we’re going with them so they can avoid them. They can’t read our minds, although they are better at reading us than the other way around. I’ll continue…

My advice to my brother was keep his eyes on where Katrina was, first of all, to avoid stepping on her; simple enough advice but I knew he wasn’t doing it!  As you walk through your house remember it’s her house too, and again they see it at floor or foot level.

Aim your feet. When you step toward your cat, providing you look to see her there in the first place, give her an idea where you’re going, either to one side or the other. Pick a lane, in driving parlance. 

Humans give each other signals at eye level, but this is different for cats.  They can’t look way up at your eyes to see where you’re looking as well as keep an eye on your feet. When you pick a direction, stay with it.

That’s where my brother kept going off the rails; he kept trying to change direction, usually after he already stepped on the poor thing to step on her again or accidentally boot her across the room. Cats learn by watching, and if they watch you do something predictably, they’ll respond accordingly.

If you’re not predictable what else could you expect from them other than an unpredictable response? So, both Katrina and my brother kept doing this side-step dance. My brother’s cat never knew where he would step and hence if she came out at all from living life under the bed, she’d just run back under there until dinner time, whereupon she’d get stepped on.

So, to review.

  1. Observe. Look to see if and where your cat is before you take a step. Watch where you’re going.
  2. Choose a direction and let them see it before you proceed and stay the course.
  3. Take your time. Walk slower. What’s your hurry? You’re at home, relax.

Hope this helps someone.

P.S. from Michael. On rare occasions (about twice in almost 7 years) I have stepped on my cat’s paw. He has screamed and scrammed. The reason? I failed to look where he was. I was too preoccupied. Too rushed. I guess if you live with a cat or cats you have to watch out for them under your feet especially in the kitchen when they might think you are getting food for them. They are up close then and in the danger zone. You turn around and bang….scream…scram.

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