Shooting a cat with a BB gun could land you in prison with a felony charge on your record, as one Michigan man recently discovered.
Stein Samuel Nowicki, 33, had had enough of a nuisance-causing, flea-ridden stray cat that snuck into both his garbage and his house – so he grabbed his BB gun and attempted to take care of the problem.
He struck the stray cat down with one shot and, after disposing of it in his trash, considered the problem solved. What happened next surprised both Nowicki and hundreds of thousands of Americans around the country in the now viral story.
The Michigan man had a felony charge of torturing and killing an animal levied against him and was subjected to a jury trial.
During the Nowicki testified that he had contacted both the local Humane Society and the Kent County Animal Shelter for help dealing with the constant problem, MLive.com reported. He was reportedly told that he could trap the stray cat and bring it to the shelter. If Stein had gone that route, he would have been charged for the use of the trap, successful capture or not, and been required to pay a fee for “surrendering” the stray to the county agency.
Nowicki told local media that he was “flabbergasted” when BB gun shooting incident spawned criminal charges.
“I couldn’t believe the police were kicking in my door and taking me away in handcuffs over this,” Nowicki said.
The son of the Michigan man’s live-in girlfriend has cat allergies, and being near inflames the child’s asthma. The health of the boy reportedly prompted Nowicki to fire off a warning shot to scare away the cat – but that didn’t work. Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan, a cat owner himself, stated during the proceedings that he was surprised to learn that shooting a cat with a BB gun could lead to a felony charge, MLive.com reported.
The judge also said that the cat did not immediately die from the BB gun wound, but was recovered from the trash by a neighbor and ultimately euthanized by country workers. According to necropsy documents, the BB damaged the internal organs of the cat and splintered the animal’s spine.
“This poor creature suffered a lot because of what you did. For anyone who likes pets or animals, this is pretty hard to fathom,” Judge Sullivan told Nowicki during the trial.
Although the judge said he did not believe Nowicki shot at the cat solely to scare it away, the court official also noted that he didn’t think the man had intended to make the animal suffer, either.
Nowicki was found guilty of a felony charge, sentenced to probation and given credit for two days served in jail. The BB gun owner is not happy with the verdict and is currently planning to appeal the decision. He could have received four years in jail.
Curt Benson is an attorney and professor at the Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids, which is home to the Animal Law Society. Benson told MLive.com that until the middle of the 1990s, most animal cruelty laws were deemed misdemeanors until legislative changes pushed for elevating such cases to felony status.
Ginny Mikita, an attorney who specializes in pet and animal laws said, “Our society values animals in such contradictory ways. Why is one animal dinner and another sleeping in a bed with us?”
How do you feel about the stray cat BB gun felony case in Michigan?