BRITISH COLUMBIA

Accused B.C. cat killer found guilty of animal cruelty, Crown seeks jail time

03/19/2014 08:00 EDT | Updated 05/19/2014 05:59 EDT
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - A British Columbia man accused of strangling his cat to death last year has been convicted of three counts of animal cruelty.

A provincial court judge says in his ruling that what Kamloops resident Steven Seidel thought was the "easiest way" to get rid of a problem pet did not take into account the pain and suffering it would cause the animal.

Judge Chris Cleaveley has found Seidel guilty of the Criminal Code offence of causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal.

He also found Seidel guilty of two counts under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, but those were stayed in favour of the more serious offence.

Seidel faces up to 18 months in jail and/or a $10,000-fine, and could receive up to a lifetime ban on owning animals.

“(Seidel) strangled and killed the cat when he was angry,” Cleaveley said in his ruling. “It was the easiest way to get rid of the cat.”

Cleaveley rejected an estimate by Seidel that his unneutered male cat, named Oreo, lost consciousness in less than a minute.

Cleaveley also noted the struggling cat left scratch marks on Seidel’s arms.

“It would have been obvious when Oreo was clawing at him, his actions were causing the animal pain and suffering.” Cleaveley said.

“A reasonable person would realize strangling a cat, clawing for its life, would subject it to unnecessary pain and suffering.”

A veterinary expert testified earlier in the trial that it would take between one and one-and-a-half minutes for an asphyxiated cat to lose consciousness, and four to five minutes for its heart to stop beating.

The Crown is asking for jail time and Seidel to be banned from owning pets.

Crown prosecutor Alex Janse noted Seidel suffered scratch marks on his arms from the struggling Oreo.

“He’s admitted he was frustrated and intoxicated,” she said during final arguments. “It was the, quote, ‘last straw,’ and he killed the cat out of anger.”

Defence lawyer Ken Tessovitch had argued Seidel — who admitted to the act and to drinking nine or 10 beers the morning Oreo died — did not intend to cause unnecessary pain or suffering to the animal when he strangled it to death.

The law allows owners of animals to kill them, regardless of health. But there are also laws around suffering and stress that an animal may endure.

Seidel admitted to strangling the cat during a March morning last year.

Both Seidel and his girlfriend Moriah Smith — pregnant at the time — said they were concerned Oreo could not be house trained, and their unborn baby was in danger because the cat was urinating and defecating in their apartment.

A pathogen in cat feces can cause birth defects in humans.

Seidel and Smith considered giving the cat to the SPCA, the trial heard, but they were living on income assistance and could not afford the fees to have it euthanized or put up for adoption.

Authorities became aware of Oreo's death when Seidel confessed to Smith on the phone, and Smith then told a friend.

Cleaveley has ordered a pre-sentence report that will include a special component to recognize Seidel’s First Nations background.

Smith’s first two children are in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, something Cleaveley said warrants the pre-sentence report. (Kamloops This Week)