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Bird researcher Nico Dauphine receives weak sentence for attempted cat poisonings.

Smithsonian photo

Former National Zoo research fellow and bird specialist Nice Dauphine received her sentence yesterday, after being found guilty of putting rat poison into bowls of food left out for cats living near her Northwest Washington DC apartment building. The National Zoo, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, kept Dauphine on staff until the day she was found guilty, when she handed in her resignation.

The sentence given to the noted anti cat zealot who rose through the academic establishment and gained a well-placed position in a public institution devoted to the study and preservation of wildlife, is this: probation, a $100 payment to the DC violent crimes compensation fund, and 120 hours of community service.  Dauphine is ordered to stay away from cats for one year, or face jail time, and received a suspended sentence of  180 days in jail. While the attempted animal cruelty crime is designated a misdemeanor in Washington DC, there was a possible maximum penalty of a $1.000 fine and 180 days in jail. The judge said Dauphine did not deserve to serve jail time because she has no prior criminal record.

Judge Truman A. Morrison III, who delivered the guilty verdict and handed down the sentence, said “This is a serious offense, more serious than many misdemeanors. Her career is now in grave jeopardy and will never be what is what before she was prosecuted and convicted.”  His words regarding Dauphine’s career seem to be a nod toward the letters from sympathizers submitted by Dauphine and her attornies in an effort to mitigate punishment. The judge indicated that damage done to Dauphine’s career was he real punishment. It remains to be seen whether her career actually suffers in the long run.

Some feel that the sentence does not recognize the seriousness of Dauphine’s  crusading actions and devalues  the lives of Washington DC’s cats, leaving them with status not much greater than that of the vermin that Dauphine and others of her ilk who populate influential positions in academe, non-profits, and public natural resource, wildlife, and conservation agencies believe them to be.

An article about the sentence in the Washington Post asks readers if they believe the sentence to be fair, or if they think that birds need more protection [from cats], saying ” Do you think the court was right or do birds need more protection?“. They do not ask readers whether they think that cats need more protection from bird and wildlife advocates.

Washington Humane Society President Lisa LaFontaine  said she is pleased with the sentence and justice has been served, going so far as to say,”We are delighted that justice was served today.” The WSH conducted an investigation to determine that it was Dauphine trying to poison the cats, brought the case to the US Attorney’s office, and maintained an interest in the case throughout the several months it come to yesterday’s final resolution.

Dauphine has a history of writing, speaking and taking action against cats, and geetting into disturbances with others over her activities. She earned herself a great deal of ill will over her trapping of cats and taking them to the pound  during her time living in Athena GA, where she also broke the hearts of children whose pets were taken away due to her meanness in complaining to authorities about cats in her neighborhood.

The publication of record in the matter of Nico Dauphine and her history is Vox Felina. We encourage anyone with a serious interest in who she is and what she has said and done to read their pieces on her, her background, and the case.

For more of our coverage of the case, see our Index of stories on Nico Dauphine.

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    December 15, 2011 3:27 pmPosted 3 years ago


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    December 15, 2011 6:57 pmPosted 3 years ago
    cathy dixon

    They need tougher punishment for animal abusers. This really wasn’t hard enoughto me. U take away someone pet which is i know alot of cat people their child and their life. She needs to pay severly for this.The poor kitties suffered in the poisning. Its a horrible way to die.

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      December 17, 2011 9:06 pmPosted 3 years ago

      She’s been punished — or will be by paying the fine and doing the community service. Keep in mind that she has pretty much ended her career and lost her prestige based on previous work. Believe me, in science you don’t really get second chances.

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    December 17, 2011 9:10 pmPosted 3 years ago

    Any discussion about this case has to include the information that songbird populations in the U.S. are plummeting and cat populations are not. At least 20 species of once-common birds have lost well over 50% of their populations in the past 40 years. Some have lost ~90%.

    Habitat loss is the leading cause of the population decreases, yet cat predation is a significant cause of songbird deaths. There are ways to balance the survival of songbirds and feral cat colonies. One way is to relocate cat colonies to locations which are not bird habitats.

    What can we do? We can support efforts to include bird-friendly practices in building design, require cell phone tower lights to blink and support habitat preservation groups. We can also work to reduce songbird predation by cats without harming cats – start by keeping your own cat(s) indoors at all times and helping spay/neuter programs to reduce unwanted cat populations.

    We all need to work together to make sure our love of cats doesn’t mean songbirds become extinct. That is a real danger if nothing changes.


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