Pubdate: Mon, 05 Dec 2016
Source: Toronto 24hours (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Canoe Inc.
Author: Sam Pazzano
Page: 5


Cop faces hearing over removal of cat from stoned owner's home

An award-winning Durham Regional Police officer who rescued a
"cowering" kitten from a stoned pet owner's home will face a police
tribunal on Monday, charged with discreditable conduct.

Const. Beth Richardson is accused of "removing a kitten from a
residence without the owners'" knowledge or consent on Jan. 12, 2016.

"She was dispatched as a back-up officer to attend an Oshawa home to
check on the well-being of a female who had been using drugs (crystal
meth) for several days," the notice of hearing says, adding Richardson
"observed a kitten cowering under a table and (believed) it was not
being properly cared for."

She then allegedly removed the kitten - named Tia - but did not let
her supervisor or any other officers know, nor did she document the
fact she had taken the cat from the owners.

"Const. Richardson had the kitten taken to a veterinarian for a
medical checkup where it was medically cleared," the hearing notices

This Police Services Act offence could land Richardson a demotion if
the tribunal decides she was in the wrong.

The 17-year veteran has had no prior complaints and is very allergic
to cats. She has a recent commendation for saving a man's life by
staunching the bleeding from a slash to his throat until paramedics

The calico kitten was filthy, smelled like smoke, and looked very
skinny, according to Richardson's lawyer, Joseph Markson, adding that
when police arrived, the cat's owner was hysterical, screaming,
throwing things around, and pulling things off the wall.

"The kitten appeared to be underweight, neglected and had runny eyes.
Her food and water dishes were empty and looked as if they had been
dried up for days," Markson said.

"The owner was in a drug-induced frenzy and my client reasonably
believed that the kitten was suffering and in immediate danger of
being hurt. My client even arranged and paid for the kitten to be
examined by a veterinary clinician," he said, adding that it was
Richardson's intention to take Tia to the humane society when it
opened the next morning.

"My client is only guilty of caring for the plight of this poor animal
and doing a good deed."

The notice of hearing indicates the boyfriend of the kitten owner
called police in the hours following the visit from officers and
demanded the return of the kitten. He also said he wanted the officer
charged with theft, alleging it was "caught on tape."

The kitten was returned to the owner, who opted not to lay a charge,
the hearing notice says.


Animal Justice Canada is seeking intervenor status at Const. Beth
Richardson's police tribunal because the legal advocacy group believes
it's a precedent-setting case.

"We believe this hearing is the first time a tribunal has considered a
case in which an animal's interest in being free from harm is relevant
to (whether) ... an officer's actions constitute discreditable
conduct," says the group's written application to be heard at the
Durham Regional Police tribunal scheduled to begin Monday.

Richardson is accused of discreditable conduct under the Police
Services Act for taking a kitten named Tia from a home during a call
because she felt it was in danger but failing to document it as well
as not telling her supervisor, fellow officers or the cat's owner.

"We are extremely concerned that the prosecution of (Const.)
Richardson will have a chilling effect on police officers and citizens
who discover animals in distress such as Tia," Camille Labchuk, a
lawyer and the executive director of Animal Justice Canada, said in an

Finding Richardson guilty of discreditable conduct "could deter
officers from rescuing animals from distressing emergency situations,
for fear that they will be prosecuted," their application says. "From
the perspective of Tia, other custodians of animals and public members
generally, the conduct of (Const.) Richardson was exactly the opposite
(of discreditable conduct) - rather the coming to the aid of Tia
raises or enhances the reputation of the police force.

"The police service exists not only to prevent and investigate crime
but also to help the most vulnerable members of our society -
including animals," stated the application.

The allegation also treats the removal of Tia as "theft. In our view,
Tia should not be viewed as simple property akin to a piece of furniture."

Animal Justice Canada argues Tia's owners were obliged to care for her
and when she was placed at risk, her temporary custody by the police
officer shouldn't be viewed as theft.

The group received intervener status in a B.C. bestiality case heard
last year at the Supreme Court of Canada.
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