Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cruel and Unusual Cruelty

My Sunday print column is up. It's about Whiskers the Cat and the lawsuit brought by his owner against the SPCA.

As believe I make clear I don't much care for this lawsuit, but then I don't much care for most lawsuits.

That said, I have nothing against such suits being brought against people who intentionally and maliciously harm animals specifically to cause pain and suffering to their owners. (Like the ex-husband who kills his ex-wife's beloved cat to get even with her for leaving him.)

Few jurisdictions legally recognize the "pain and suffering" of pet owners when and if their pets have been intentionally harmed or killed.

Legally speaking, pets are considered personal property, no different than a waffle iron. If somebody steals or destroys your waffle iron you can recover the value of it but you can't sue for the pain and suffering of losing it. (Or you can but you won't win.)

Clearly though the emotional connection most people have toward their pets deserves some amount of legal respect.

I would be very supportive of a law that allowed pet owners to recover not only punitive damages for the malicious and deliberate killing of their pets but also awarded them dollar amounts for pain and suffering.

The key word here is "malicious." Mere negligence (running a red-light and hitting a dog) should not, in my view, be actionable.

What the SPCA workers did in the Whiskers case doesn't fall into the category of maliciousness.

The SPCA humanely puts hundreds of stray cats down a year in the course of doing business. What happened here was just plain stupid and negligent. While the cover-up was technically criminal, it was done to protect the guilty not to intentionally wound the cat owners.

While I don't believe in animal rights, I do believe in human rights and responsibilities. Human beings, to be worthy of the title, should never gratuitously or maliciously hurt lesser creatures. When they do they should be punished for it. And more severely than they are today under current criminal law.

For more on the case law concerning this sort of thing click here.

UPDATE: I just got this e-mail on today's column:

Your article was right on! We adopted a dog on December 24th and when we took him to our vet. He found a lump that had to be removed. The SPCA paid for the procedure without question. We now have a beautiful, healthy six-year-old Labarottie
I am sorry about Whiskers and maybe a couple hundred in compensation is ok. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Maureen and Kevin Ferry (Max too!!)

UPDATE II: And this e-mail from Mike Wallen, the neighbor who called the cops on Whiskers. He's not nearly as crazy as I made him sound.

I'd like to set the record straight about how Whiskers ended up at the SPCA. It was a Friday night and it 20 degrees outside. My next door neighbor called to tell me something was in our bushes and making loud noises. I went outside and listened and it was a cat making these loud moaning noises. I thought it was in labor. I could'nt get it out because it seemed to be wedged in the bushes.

You should understand that the only way to get your local police officer to come to your house is call 911 and tell them it's a non emergency. You can't call your local police any more. The Ridley Park officer came out to the house about 20 minutes later. At that point the cat had come out of the bushes and was on my other next door neighbors doorstep. The cat was still making those noises but it must have been because it was cold and scared. The officer called animal control. He asked if I had a box to put the cat in while we waited for animal control. I put the cat in a box with an old pair of jeans to keep it warm and put it on my back deck. The officer left at that point. The cat seemed harmless enough and my neighbor was even petting it while we waited. We did'nt know the owners of the cat. They were living in a house two doors down on the street behind us about 150 yards away. When animal control showed up about 30 minutes later she transferred the cat into a cage. I asked her where the cat was going in case someone came around looking for it the next day. She said the SPCA. I asked her how long they hold the cats before they euthanized them and she said 72 hours. The next day was a saturday and we had snow all day. On Sunday we were out front shoveling the driveway and I noticed a couple kids going from door to door putting something in the doors. I yelled over are you looking for a cat? They said yes and we looked at the picture they had on their flier and said that the cat was at the SPCA. They kept going down the street putting fliers in the doors and we asked them why and they said just in case it's not the same cat.

That's about it from my perspective. It was the police that called Animal Control not us. Weeks later the lady that lost the cat came to our house and gave my wife a thank you card for trying to help her cat.


Anonymous r said...

Your print column spent too much time on Spencer family animal abuse history and not enough on chastising Whiskers’ owners for their frivolous, gold digging lawsuit.
We need to outlaw such absurd suits. And it’s really a shame because now they’ve lost much of the sympathy they had garnered. Here’s hoping they're awarded $1 and the SPCA counter sues them.

February 17, 2008 at 2:09 PM 
Blogger Franny Ward said...

So the SPCA paid a vet for a lump? We adopted a Dog from them and shelled out over twelve hundred for bladder stones. Cripes Gil, maybe I should contact them.

February 17, 2008 at 2:25 PM 
Anonymous law prof said...

Mr. Spencer,

A proper purpose of a lawsuit is to appropriately effectuate change for the better.

When African-Americans had no choice but to file civil lawsuits against restaurant owners in the Deep South because they were barred entry due to the color of their skin, do you really think it was all about the money to them?

How dare you prejudge the motivations of the plaintiffs in the Whiskers lawsuit by proclaiming that it's all about the money to them.

Your arrogance has no bounds, Mr. Spencer.

February 17, 2008 at 6:09 PM 
Anonymous r said...

Umm, Lib Law Prof, I think the point is that the change has already been effectuated. And as such this lawsuit is clearly about the money.

But being a Lib lawyer, it’s not about making right to you. You’re likely salivating at the money to be made by some scummy fellow lawyer.

It's saddening to think that someone like you is actually teaching kids. You are the problem.

February 17, 2008 at 6:37 PM 
Anonymous law prof said...

My dear Mr. R,

Does "R" stand for "redneck"?

The plaintiffs say they are not satisfied with the change in the SPCA's policies and procedures.

Who are you or your friend Mr. Spencer to state as though it is a fact that all they care about is the money?

February 17, 2008 at 6:51 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gil - Does the Delco SPCA now have a "No-Kill" policy like many other SPCAs have had for a very long time?

February 17, 2008 at 7:05 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...


Maybe you should.

Law Prof -

"A proper purpose of a lawsuit is to appropriately effectuate change for the better."

Who whispered that in your ear, the Lawsuit Fairy? Yeah, that's what lawyers are all about. Go sell it somewhere else. Spencerblog ain't buying.


How dare you prejudge the motivations of these lawsuit bringers, your arrogant cat/lawyer hating knows no bounds. And don't tell me how to write my columns. Your job is to read them and applaud.


No, the Delco SPCA is NOT a no-kill shelter.

February 17, 2008 at 9:21 PM 
Anonymous r said...

I take it back. It is not sad that Lib Law Prof teaches kids. It is disgusting. He is the problem.

When we start making the losers pay, these frivolous fishing trips will come to a screeching halt.

February 17, 2008 at 11:41 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

Now, you're talking, R. "Loser pays" rocks.

I'm trying to figure out how to institute that here at Spencerblog.

February 18, 2008 at 8:24 AM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

And while I'm thinking about it...

Hey Law Prof,

You might want to rethink drawing comparisons between the civil rights of black people to those of cats.

Some people might take offense.

February 18, 2008 at 9:07 AM 
Anonymous r said...

Lol… Libs love to drag disconnected racial comparisons into everything. They think it somehow gives their feeble dishonest arguments that added oomph. It doesn’t. Kinda like Dave calling someone a Nazi everyday.

And again, is that the sort of person we want teaching kids and molding their attitudes? I say not.

February 18, 2008 at 10:41 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The SPCA is not a no-kill shelter. In fact, they kill lots of animals. Whether they do it humanely, as the ominiscient Swill Spencer claims, is another question.

Whiskers' family has every right to sue over the loss of their pet. And guess what, they just might win, particularly if the factfinder has more sense than Swill and the poster currently known as "r."

You hate lawyers, Swill. Admit it. Is it possible that you are jealous because you have never been able to pass a bar?

February 18, 2008 at 4:53 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

Ominiscient? Whatever.

I don't hate lawyers. Some of my best friends are lawyers. One claims to be a "recovering lawyer," he is now a rich businessman.

You want know who hates lawyers? Other lawyers. Talk to a few, they'll tell you. And businessmen, especially businessmen who have law degrees.

February 18, 2008 at 6:12 PM 
Anonymous r said...

Here’s a simple test to tell us whether or not such lawsuits are really just about the money to be made: Should the plaintiffs donate any and all award to, say, a non-profit animal shelter, only then will I agree that lining their own pockets with cash was not their motive. Oh, and their slimy lawyer has to forgo his slice of that cash pie too. (This last part is sure to make Lib Law Prof squirm!)

What say you, LLP?

February 18, 2008 at 6:35 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous February 18, 2008 4:53 pm,

I just loved your "Swill" Spencer
never having been able to pass a "bar" comments! I'm still laughing!

Gil, your reputation precedes you!

February 18, 2008 at 6:57 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawyers hate other lawyers? And you can appropriately speak for how lawyers feel about their colleagues because...why is that again? Because you claim to have some friends (highly doubtful in and of itself) who are lawyers? That is very cogent and persuasive there, Swill. Yeah, I wouldn't aspire to that profession if I were you.

By the way, you know who hates local newsrag opinion columnists?'s too easy...

February 19, 2008 at 10:06 AM 
Anonymous r said...

Slimy lawyers sure get angry (and petty) when they feel their unscrupulous income being threatened.

February 19, 2008 at 10:24 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Giaconias are reading this, don't let the sermonizing twits on the opinion and editorial boards of this rag bully you into making a decision whether or not to pursue your lawsuit. Their use of your names in two pieces is an obvious attempt to embarrass or shame you into doing what they want. I wonder what their interests may be - hummm. Might be worth looking into.

As for "r" he is just a flaming idiot who can't complete a sentence without using the term "lib."

February 19, 2008 at 7:33 PM 
Anonymous r said...

I can too complete a sentence without saying Lib.

These people should indeed feel ashamed for their playing into the slimy Lib lawyer extortion game.


February 19, 2008 at 9:00 PM 
Anonymous Swill Spencer said...

Good point, Anon.

Could the Daily Slime be afraid of a defamation lawsuit from the Delco SPCA due to its earlier yellow-journalistic coverage, and now have decided to curry favor with the Delco SPCA by painting the Giaconias' lawsuit as frivolous?

Hmmm, I wonder ....

February 19, 2008 at 11:13 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

HA. Keith Crego dead-enders crack me up.

February 20, 2008 at 8:47 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of all the people Gil should be trying to befriend, it's a good defamation lawyer!

February 20, 2008 at 12:43 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...


February 20, 2008 at 4:45 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gil, you are as puerile as your audience. Please start showing some restraint and maturity. You look the fool.

February 20, 2008 at 4:55 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

Apparently, you are part of that audience. If you aren't enjoying the show, you are free to leave anytime.

Just slink on out of the theater.

Or feel free to leave a parting shot. Anonymously, of course.

February 20, 2008 at 6:51 PM 

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