Missouri law protects a man from prosecution for drowning his family's cat, Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said Tuesday.
He said anyone upset by his decision should lobby Missouri legislators to change state law.
The cat clawed and bit two family members. Thomas Newhouse admitted to Lake Waukomis police that he placed the cat in a carrier and drowned it in the lake on July 14, Zahnd said.
Because of the considerable outcry that the case generated, the prosecutor agreed to review the case, which initially had been handled by municipal officials.
Zahnd noted that Newhouse could have taken the animal to a vet to be medically euthanized. He said he found Newhouse's actions "disheartening."
"Missouri's animal abuse law, which prohibits killing animals in certain ways or intentionally causing injury or suffering to animals, does not apply to the 'killing of an animal by the owner' or the owner's agent," the prosecutor said.
Zahnd's office has received numerous calls and emails. More than 1,200 people signed an online petition seeking Newhouse's prosecution for a felony, and a vigil was held for the cat and other abused animals.
"In this case, the real question is what was this owner's intent? And the evidence showed that his intent was to euthanize this animal," Zahnd said. "We all wish he would have done that in a different way. But the law provides a complete defense to the owner of an animal intending to kill that animal."
He said he knows his decision will disappoint many.
"Their disappointment should be shared with Missouri lawmakers, who have provided a complete legal defense in this case," he said. "Prosecutors must enforce the law as they are written. We do not have the power to change the law to fit a particular case."
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