MODESTO -- Several women publicly demanded this week that two cat trappers, including a Stanislaus County deputy sheriff, be arrested and prosecuted for animal cruelty and abandonment.
"Animal cruelty is a crime. These gentlemen need to face up to what they've done," Patti Griffith of Waterford told county supervisors during an open-mike portion of Tuesday's board meeting.
The group wore neon yellow lapel stickers reading "Cat dumping is a crime" and approached leaders on National Feral Cat Day, presenting petitions that appear to bear hundreds of signatures. They asked that the men face the law.
In an April column by The Bee's Jeff Jardine, Phil Sumner of Modesto acknowledged trapping cats and releasing them in La Loma Park instead of taking them to the pound, where most cats are euthanized. In July, Heather Sisk of Modesto accused an unnamed neighbor who apparently works for the Sheriff's Department of trapping a family cat that provided important therapy for her autistic son.
Both spoke Tuesday, saying the cats were members of their families.
A letter presented to leaders says the deputy "tried to intimidate and bully the Sisk family into dropping this issue," and a confrontation was captured by video surveillance.
Allyson Sikova, 8, of Modesto broke down while trying to address supervisors. Sisk also cried, saying a trapper "intentionally and maliciously caused emotional harm to my children and me."
Monica Nino, the county's chief executive officer, promised a written response.
Jardine's column drew 243 comments from online readers and touched off a flurry of letters to the editor. Some defended trapping to control unseemly spraying and defecating and wildlife damage, while cat defenders say it's heartless and adds to destructive feral cat colonies.
After Tuesday's meeting, Sheriff Adam Christianson said decisions on whether to prosecute reside with the district attorney's office.
"Cruelty against animals is just as important to us as any other criminal investigation," Christianson said, "but you still have to meet the burden of proof. While folks are understandably upset and have every right to feel the way they do, we are not ignoring animal cruelty and abuse cases."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.