Kamloops resident Steven Seidel has been convicted on three counts of animal cruelty in a disturbing case involving him strangling his pet cat, Oreo.
BC SPCA investigators recommended the charges against Seidel after determining that he strangled the cat with his bare hands last June.
The body of the deceased cat was found in a garbage dumpster behind the building where Seidel lived (pictured above).
“It is so disturbing to think that an innocent animal would have suffered and died under such horrifying and unnecessary circumstances,” said Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the BC SPCA.
“While nothing can undo the suffering that Oreo endured, we are satisfied that justice will be served for this poor animal.”
In a Kamloops courtroom Wednesday the judge said that sentencing will be handed down in the case in two months.
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.
Judge Chris Cleaveley 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) 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.
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.
Tuesday, the girlfriend of the accused testified in his defence saying the animal had been peeing and defecating all over their apartment.
Moriah Smith told BC provincial court she and partner Steven Seidel were struggling financially and expecting a newborn when their cat Oreo started acting out.
She said the pet was urinating everywhere, including on baby supplies they were accumulating in the house.
“We couldn’t have that,” Smith said. “It wasn’t healthy for me and it wasn’t healthy for the baby.”
Smith testified that she was at a doctor’s appointment in March 2013 when Seidel called and told her he’d killed the cat and put it in a dumpster.
An online petition calling for Crown to recommend the maximum allowable sentence was signed more than 32,000 times as of Tuesday.
Crown has said it will call for jail time, as well as a lengthy ban on owning animals.
The defence said it won’t argue Seidel didn’t kill the cat but will ask for leniency under the circumstances.
--With files from CTV Vancouver and The Canadian Press.