This is the type of story that has so many layers to it that it can spawn into a number of other stories about cats, people, the evil that men do, and how being cruel to an animal does have serious consequences. The facts of the story are that a New Mexico man, Aaron Spaulding, allegedly was involved in a verbal confrontation with his (hopefully former) girlfriend and it didn’t take long for it to escalate into physical abuse by Mr. Spaulding against her. Adding to the level of stupidity, Spaulding forcibly took the girlfriend’s cell phone and proceeded to hold her against her will. Neighbor’s heard the commotion and then called police who went to the home and heard both sides of the story, arresting Spaulding on a number of charges including battery and false imprisonment.
As it turns out, during the police investigation the girlfriend apparently accused Spaulding of abusing both a cat and a dog during their time together. The abuse included squeezing the cat until it cried and strangling the helpless animal. An accusation of feeding the cat methamphetamines was also made. The first two charges had a misdemeanor classification as that’s all the law allowed. But the forcible feeding the cat meth could be upgraded to a felony if it could be conclusively proven that the cat indeed had meth in its system. This required a test, and the cat was taken away to be tested. The result was positive, and the animal cruelty charge was upgraded to a felony.
It seems clear that the man is either under the influence of the very drug he forced the cat to eat, or he is one of those people who can never be entrusted with the care of any animal. Or both. All of his illegal acts have no real purpose to them, at least to a normal, rational person. They are solely for the purpose of self-gratification, and without concern for the lives of the people and the animals that were present in the home. While there are people who may try to defend his actions in the context of the evils of meth, the evidence seems to point to a consistent choice of ignoring the safety of everyone who is around him. If you know something is bad for you, then you avoid going anywhere near it. This is a reality that also seems to have escaped his girlfriend.
Back to the condition of the cat, it turns out not only did the cat test positive for meth, but that there was a certain amount of neurological damage as a result to the force feeding. A picture of the cat posted on a number of news websites shows the cat not looking very happy, kind of catatonic, as a result of the poisoning. There was evidence of any broken body parts as a result of the veterinarian’s examination, good news for those of us who are cat lovers.
The cat community and everyone who loves their pet is glad that there are laws on the books to protect not only people, but animals from the cruelty of less than mentally stable people. Whether that mental instability is the result of drugs or just having bad wiring, the result is too often selecting the weakest and most innocent among us and being cruel to them. There are people who advocate not only for the rescuing of these victims from their dangerous living situations, but also to create new laws that require harsher penalties for animal cruelty.
Thanks to the Michigan State University website that serves as a focal point on the legal and historical aspects of animal care we can know the actual New Mexico law concerning animal cruelty and what the possible future holds for Spaulding. In its summary, the website states that “Extreme cruelty to animals, a fourth-degree felony, consists of a person intentionally or maliciously torturing, mutilating, injuring or poisoning an animal or maliciously killing an animal.” There is no doubt that the cat didn’t ingest the meth by itself based on the testimony of the girlfriend. The law states that to be held guilty for such a felony requires malicious intent, something that is equally without doubt. It seems impossible to mount a legal defense with this charge, particularly after the evidence shows that the cat had meth in its system.
There are some details which make the law particularly useful in cases of extreme animal cruelty such as this one. For example, the public is not going to have to pick up the tab for the testing and shelter of the cat, as it requires a defendant to bear the burden of paying such costs. Also, any additional care the cat may require will also be added to the defendant’s financial obligation. In this particular case, who will be paying any future costs connected to the neurological damage will be decided by the court. However, a conviction is required in order to enforce this or any type of restitution under the law.
As for the type of punishment Spaulding may face in the future if convicted, according to the website Criminal Defense Lawyer, “A defendant convicted of a fourth degree felony in New Mexico faces up to eighteen months in prison and a fine up to $5,000.” That is a hefty sum of money and a long time in prison for each act of extreme animal cruelty. Depending on the what the judge decides, multiple counts of animal cruelty can extend the fines and the time ordered to prison.
To end on a high note, the cat has been removed from the home and found a new, responsible owner in short order. Recovering from his neurological injuries will take some time, but as we all know cats have nine lives. We can all hope that the unhappy feline shown in the story will soon return to a happy kitty face that will show both progress and recovery.