For release on February 14, 2002
Karyn Sinunu, Assistant District Attorney
Assistant District Attorney
THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY WILL NOT FILE CRIMINAL ANIMAL CRUELTY CHARGES
AGAINST THE SUSPECT WHO SPRAYED A CAT WITH CAT REPELLENT
AT WOOLWORTH’S NURSERY IN PALO ALTO LAST MONTH
On January 24, 2002 a cat named Bert died at the Woolworth’s Nursery in Palo Alto. The cat had been adopted and cared for by the employees of the nursery. On the 24th, an employee (hereinafter suspect) of the nursery discovered that the cat, who had been locked in the break/lunch room overnight, had defecated. Bert usually spent nights in a larger room, which was equipped with a litter box and water. The suspect sprayed and splashed Grant’s Dog and Cat Repellent Spray on Bert in an effort to shoo the cat from the lunch/break room. When another employee found Bert, the cat was wet with the repellent. The cat, apparently in an attempt to clean itself, licked and thereby ingested the repellant. The veterinarian who examined Bert stated that the ingredients in the cat and dog repellent are poisonous. The suspect was visibly upset and saddened when told of the cat’s death. He said he “did not like the cat being in the break room where people eat but didn’t mean to kill it” and he did not think “spraying the cat would kill it.”
GRANT’S DOG & CAT SPRAY
The front side of the Grant’s Dog and Cat Spray bottle states, “Keep animals away from garbage, gardens & lawns.” The label does not indicate that the repellent is poisonous. In miniscule letters on the back it says, “Precautionary Statements, Caution: Avoid contact with skin or eyes. May cause burning sensation to skin, eyes or nose due to capsicum oleoresin. Do not spray directly on humans or animals.” (See attached copies of label front and back.)
The facts do not present enough evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect intentionally killed the cat. Therefore the facts were analyzed under a criminal negligence theory. There are three criminal elements necessary to prove that a person is guilty of cruelty to an animal under the standard of gross criminal negligence: (1) That a person has custody or is responsible for providing care to an animal; (2) That the person committed a grossly negligent act or omission; and (3) that act or omission caused danger to an animal’s life. Gross negligence refers to negligent acts which are aggravated, reckless or flagrant and which are such a departure from what would be the conduct of an ordinarily prudent, careful person under the same circumstances as to be contrary to a proper regard for danger to animal life. The facts must be such that the consequences of the negligent act could have been foreseen and it must appear that the danger to animal life was not the result of inattention, mistaken judgment or misadventure but the natural and probable result of an aggravated, reckless or flagrantly negligent act.
Because of the labeling of the spray bottle, the evidence does not demonstrate the suspect could have foreseen that excessive use of Grant’s Dog and Cat Repellent Spray would cause danger to Bert’s life.