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Apocalypse Meow
Comments () | Published April 3, 2012

On the third day of the trial, Dauphiné took the witness stand. She testified that the security-camera footage showed her cleaning up cat food--not delivering poison. "I put my hand down there and picked up some food and put it in a plastic bag that I had, and then I went into the building and threw it in the garbage," she told the judge. Dauphiné claimed she had removed cat food on other occasions to avoid attracting rats.

Under cross-examination, Chambers asked Dauphiné about an article she had published in the journal the Wildlife Professional titled "Pick One: Outdoor Cats or Conservation."

chambers: "And in talking about that issue, cat predation, do you remember writing, 'Where is the outrage over such slaughter?' "

dauphiné: "That's--yeah, those were the editor's words, not mine."

chambers: "Those are not your words?"

dauphiné: "Definitely not."

chambers: "Okay, I'd like to read to you, in the same article, the final paragraph, and tell me if these are not your words. 'More of us in the wildlife profession need to stand up and add our voices to the cause. We need strong leadership coupled with proactive policies and well-enforced laws that recognize cats as invasive species, impose fines on owners who . . . refuse to control their pets, require mandatory sterilizations of pets, prohibit feral-cat colonies and feeding stations, especially on public land, and acknowledge the legitimate role of euthanasia when necessary. Such measures will go a long way towards protecting the native wildlife we cherish so much.' Are those your words?"

dauphiné: "It's interesting [what] you keep picking. I wrote--I would say I wrote the majority of that article, but you keep picking the things that the editor inserted at the last minute."

Peter Marra of the Migratory Bird Center says Dauphiné didn't know she would be testifying until minutes before she was called. He blames Martin for failing to prepare her. Martin did not comment.

After three days of testimony from ten witnesses, Judge Morrison found Dauphiné guilty of attempted animal cruelty. The judge said her actions in the security-camera footage were "far more consistent with placing something [on the cat food] than cleaning the area."

The judge said the explanation Dauphiné provided on the witness stand "just [didn't] have the ring of truth." He added that her "unwillingness to own up to her own professional writings as her own undermined her credibility."

Dauphiné's supporters were stunned; some believed she was framed. Pamela Jo Hatley, who collaborated on an anti-TNR paper with Dauphiné, says feral-cat activists may have conspired against Dauphiné.

Dauphiné immediately resigned from the Migratory Bird Center.

At a sentencing hearing on December 14, Judge Morrison declined to send Dauphiné to jail. "Her career, if not over, is in grave jeopardy and will certainly never be what it was before," Morrison said.

He ordered Dauphiné to perform 120 hours of community service, serve one year of probation, and pay $100. Dauphiné was to have no "intentional or purposeful contact with cats" while completing her community service.

Morrison gave Dauphiné a moment to speak. Her jaw muscles flickered as she clenched her teeth. Nodding to the men and women in the gallery, she said she was grateful to her many supporters. "I've also felt very deeply ashamed to have disappointed them," Dauphiné said in a quivering voice. "I know that I have an enormous task in front of me to rebuild their esteem."

On January 13, Dauphiné appealed the verdict.

While the Washington Humane Society called the judge's ruling a victory, some residents of Athens were disappointed that Dauphiné wasn't going to jail. Roger Keeney worries that she may return to her house in Athens, which she still owns. The Athens Area Humane Society, meanwhile, has become a "no kill" shelter that doesn't euthanize cats except for medical reasons.

By January, Dauphiné was carrying boxes out of the Park Square apartments, Frances Sterling says. Dauphiné has left the Washington area but has told friends not to disclose her whereabouts, out of concern for her safety.

For Jolson and Mama--the cats at the center of the controversy--life has gotten more complicated. Shortly after the verdict, Park Square's management company told Sterling she was no longer allowed to feed the cats on their grounds. A neighbor called the police at least twice to complain about Sterling's cat-feeding and even used a cell phone to make a video of Sterling putting food out. Another neighbor told her to "watch her back," Sterling says.

Sterling contacted a lawyer and now keeps records of all cat-related disputes.

The Washington Humane Society recently fielded a complaint that poison had again appeared on cat food near the Park Square apartments. When Officer D'Eramo investigated, he was unable to find any poison, and Sterling hasn't noticed any new poison. Citing Humane Society policy, D'Eramo declines to name the person who made the complaint.

Sterling now feeds Jolson and Mama near a bench on the lawn of a neighboring building. She feels confident they'll be safe there: "The only thing I'm worried about is them getting old."

This article appears in the April 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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  • I had heard of that woman in newscasts when she was first caught at her heinous crime. Every time I read or hear any of this ranting and raving about cats killing all the birds, I want to scream which serves no useful purpose. However, people are always looking for some other person or some animal responsible for whatever is "wrong." In this case, which I deal with many times every year, cats are blamed for problems created and continued by US. I HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US! Remember that? All the problems to wildlife are created and perpetuated by people and organizations, often wildlife and bird organizations in the case of blaming the cats. That's so easy! They simply will not allow themselves or others to step up to the plate and deal with the REAL problems. In the case of birds and other wildlife, we destroy their habitat, poison their food, hunt (often with lead ammunition), etc., and then blame the cats! When their index finger is pointing at the cats, they should remember their other fingers are pointing back at them, the real cause of all the problems. Even if they are doing nothing, they are NOT part of the solution which means they are part of the problem. But they should be trying to solve the REAL problem and all those bird and wildlife organizations collect lots of money and attention by attacking cats.

  • bird and dog lover

    f*n feral cats.. they are a menace and i dont know why cat lovers (idiots) are blind to the damage they do.
    cant compare to dogs, dogs stay indoors and are controllable when done right.
    cats are stupid and destroy native wildlife etc.

    not to mention i lost my 7 year budgie to a feral piece of shite cat.
    the cat is lucky i wasnt here when it happened, or i would have shot it.

  • Larry Roeder

    I want to thank you for your article. If the lady at the National Zoo did even half of what it seems, she is probably an echo-terrorist, certainly an immature person who should be prevented from contact with any animal, including birds. I've worked with animals all my life as an avocation, camels, horses, other animals, also was a Director in WSPA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and now am a certified Virginia wildlife rehabilitator, which is a voluntary thing. I also happen to be a retired Diplomat with a speciality in disaster management.

    Little doubt that cats can kill, do kill wild life, that they are a threat to the ecology. When I had cats, they were kept inside; but to kill cats in order to articulate a policy of protecting birds shows a terrible lack of judgment, and a cruelty that is very sad; it is her action derived from that immaturity and cruelty which leads me to call her a terrorist.

    We can have an intelligent disagreement/ conversation about whether or not neuter programs work; but even if we disagree, why treat the cats in an inhumane manner? Why make them victims? Cats are not monsters, which is how Dauphine apparently say them. Euthanasia is by the way is NOT humane in many cases and is over-used in shelters because of a lack of resources. Let's be clear. There is nothing humane about killing a perfectly healthy cat. It did not ask for it circumstances. There is also nothing humane about stealing a pet from its owner.

    What we need instead of violence by the kill-shelters or by extremists like Dauphine is an intelligent conversation about policy. Dauphine should be ashamed of herself and has lost the right to work with any animal, including birds. But surely the rest of us can deal with the policy dispute in a mature, non-violent way that respects both science and public values.

    Larry Roeder

  • How to reduce feral-cat numbers THE-TNR-WAY by "natural attrition", but without traps & sterilizing them first:

    (or "The Way That *ALL* Stray-Cats Die")

    1. Aim your car for cats when it's safe for all else to do so.

    2. Put out poison for cats (Acetaminophen/Paracetamol (1-capsule generic tylenol) pain-relievers (the most cat-species specific), antifreeze, vermin-poisons, poisonous plants or animals -- the ways that all TNR'ed cats succumb to "attrition" by poisons).

    3. Infect them with deadly diseases.

    4. Turn your dogs or other large predators loose on them.

    5. Starve them to death.

    6. Let them die of thirst.

    7. Put them in heated boxes until they die of heat exhaustion (emulate hot weather).

    8. Throw them in freezers until they are dead (emulate a harsh winter).

    9. Scratch the cat's eyes and gash their skin to emulate a cat-attack so they slowly die of infections. (Justifiably the same way they destroy all native animals. Though that involves more skinning-alive and disemboweling-alive so the cat can enjoy their play-toy writhe and twitch to death. The longer it takes an animal to die of wounds the more a cat enjoys it. The cat-lovers themselves also greatly enjoy this, or they wouldn't let their cats do it.)

    10. Trap and drown.

    11. Shoot them.

    Can you think of more ways that *ALL* TNR'ed cats die?

    NONE of them die of old-age you know!

    Any of these are the "natural" ways that TNR'ed cats die, according to TNR-Advocates' own definition of how their cats die through "attrition", so TNR-advocates should have NO problems when you destroy their cats this way!

    Right?

    It's how they're doing it! TO EVERY LAST ONE OF THEIR TNR CATS.

    If these methods are acceptable to all TNR-advocates then it's PERFECTLY okay for anyone else to do the same!

    If you kill their cats this way and they complain, they're just being whiny hypocrites. That's all.

    The ONLY difference in destroying them immediately in the manner that ALL TNR'ed cats die; instead of trapping and sterilizing them first; is that some money isn't going into an HSUS board-member's pocket, veterinarian's pocket, cat-food company CEO's pocket, or a drug-company CEO's pocket. That's the ONLY difference.

  • catBIRD

    I wish that cats and birds would eat Dauphines eyes, I bet she didn't have a boyfriend for a long long time:)

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Posted at 09:30 AM/ET, 04/03/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles