John Newland--Doh!

Just landed in Atlanta and I got this news item from Blue Lizard Blog. The worm has turned somewhat on the Texas cat shooting case. Remember how the bridge worker argued that the cats were his pets and that was the reason Jim Stevenson should not have shot them. Well, that reasoning has just turned around and bit the bridge worker in the butt according to this story from the Galveston County Daily News:

Bridge worker gets citation for too many cats

Published January 8, 2008

GALVESTON — For about five years, John Newland has fed a clan of cats near the San Luis Pass Bridge where he worked.

Newland said he never had problems, until November 2006 when island bird-lover Jim Stevenson shot one of the cats. A year later, charges against Stevenson were dropped after a deadlocked jury.

Now, Newland himself is headed to court as a defendant in a criminal case.

Last week, city animal control officer Leroy Cooper issued Newland a misdemeanor citation, accusing him of keeping too many animals.

The charge carries a possible fine of up to $500.

Newland is set for court next Monday before Preceinct 1 Justice of the Peace Jim Schweitzer.

Newland said the feedings have been going on for years.

“These cats have been here longer than we have,” he said. “They keep us company, and no one had ever told us it was against the law to feed an animal that was hungry.”

However, Galveston police Lt. Mike Riedel said the feedings were against the law, because 15 to 20 cats had been eating the food Newland put out for them. A Galveston ordinance bars a person from keeping more than four cats or dogs, and Riedel said that feeding the animals made Newland responsible for them.

“The cats are breeding like crazy, and there are health and safety concerns, because he’s not getting them fixed, he’s not even taking them to the vet. He’s just feeding them,” Riedel said. “I know he thinks he’s taking care of the cats, but he’s just making the problem worse.”

Attorney Tad Nelson represented Stevenson at his animal-cruelty trial, which ended in a jury deadlock in November.

Nelson praised law enforcement for pursuing a case against Newland.

“It’s a tough position to take, but I’m proud of the city for doing this because it’s the right thing to do,” Nelson said. “As lovable as Mr. Newland is, he is naive to think he’s benefitting those cats.”

Stevenson, president of the Galveston Ornithological Society, faced a charge of cruelty to animals for shooting the cat near the San Luis Pass bridge.

The crux of the case was whether the cat was feral or domesticated, as the animal-cruelty law under which he was prosecuted applied in cases in which an animal’s owner did not consent to the animal being harmed.

Newland said he suspected Stevenson of complaining to police about him feeding the cats. But Riedel said Stevenson had nothing to do with Newland being ticketed.

Riedel also said he would prefer to charge the people at the root of the cat problem.

“The people who dump those cats off, the original owners who abandon them out there, that’s who I’d like to get,” he said.