The Trial of the Galveston Cat Killer

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If history is any indicator, there will be no justice for Mama Cat.

Opening arguments started yesterday in the trial of 54-year-old bird-watching enthusiast James Stevenson, who last fall climbed below the toll bridge that links Galveston to the mainland and used a .22-caliber rifle to destroy the stray feline that he believed was preying on endangered piping plovers.

The incident led the Texas Legislature to finally strengthen its animal-cruelty laws, which for years defined an animal as a “domestic living creature,” letting abusers successfully argue in court that stray cats and dogs are not animals. But the new law arrives too late for Mama Cat, whose killer faces a $10,000 fine and two years in the clink if convicted.

Before Mama Cat made national headlines, there was Queso the cat, the scrawny stray known for hanging around the Taco Cabana in Waco. In 2001, a pair of Baylor students shot Queso with a pellet gun, decapitated and skinned him. The young men were acquitted since no one had ownership papers for Queso.

The Lege had an opportunity then to close the gaping loopholes in the state’s animal-protection laws, but did nothing. Its long-overdue revisions may help future strays, but not Mama Cat. –Todd Spivak

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