National Zoo Employee’s Attempted Cat Poisoning Case Comes To Trial

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The still image you see below shows Nico Dauphine doing something at the cat feeding stations outside of the apartment complex where she lives, in Northwest Washington DC. The defense says she was removing food from the bowls; the prosecution says she was adding poison to it.

For those who may not recall, Dauphine is a  Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow employed at the National Zoo’s Migratory Bird Center as a researcher, studying birds’ percieved enemies, cats. That means she is, by extension, employed by the US Government. She has a long history of taking a stand in opposition to cats, whether it’s railing against them in her studies and presentations, or taking action against them, as she is well known to have done in Athens GA during her time there.  She was in the habit of trapping cats – both feral and domestic – in Athens and taking them to the Humane Society, and calling it “community service”, though nobody asked her to do it, and the humane society was not pleased with her activities. She also has a history of  going to court over her activities.

Dauphine made headlines last May when she was charged with attempted animal cruelty for her alleged actions of putting rat poison in food left for feral cats at her building and in her neighborhood, as well as setting out anti-freeze for them. Death by anti-freeze is particularly horrible. She was arraigned at that time, and plead not guilty. The charge carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine.

As our story of  May 25 explains: In Columbia Heights, Washington D.C., Rachel Sterling noticed, “some kind of crunchy powder” on the food she feeds to a colony of feral cats in Malcolm X Park. Other people who feed the cats had seen it too. The Washington Humane Society tested the substance, which turned out to be rat poison. A month-long investigation was launched by the Humane Society that included monitoring video surveillance footage and card swipes in and out of an apartment building near the area the poison was discovered. Video surveillance showed a woman walking up to the cat feeding area, reaching into her purse and lowering her hand near the food and then walking away. Sterling was shocked to learn the woman in the video was another neighbor, Dr. Nico Dauphine.

The case came to trial this week, with three days of argument and testimony, from Monday through Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the prosecution presented witnesses and completed making its case, and the judge denied a motion for acquittal by the defense.

Dauphine took the stand in her own defense on Wednesday and denied the charges.  Witnesses with similar public positions in the area of wildlife and conservation, holding similar positions regarding cats, were lined up to testify for the defense, though not all were called.

Posecutors showed the surveillance tape in the video below, which shows Dauphine walking up to a planter where the food was kept, reaching into her purse, then reaching into the cat food and leaving.

Dauphine argued in court that she tried to get rid of the food because it attracted rats. “I went over to the planter, took out the food, put it in a plastic bag and threw it out,” she said.

Prosecutors brought up aspects of her positions and history, citing a number of quotes and articles where Dauphine described cats as an invasive species that needed to be eliminated. She said her words were often re-written and misinterpreted. Explaining away a letter in the New York times, she said “those are my words but they are heavily edited.”

Judge Truman Morrison will give his verdict on Monday.

Video of surveillance footage showing Dr. Dauphine at the cats’ feeding station.

Local ABC news report on the incident and trial.

5 thoughts on “National Zoo Employee’s Attempted Cat Poisoning Case Comes To Trial”

  1. I would like to hear the judge’s verdict. I alos hope that she loses her job at the National Zoo- she is not a caring person adn does wish to do harm.

  2. What a nasty person. I hope karma gives her what she has coming because 180 days in jail just isn’t punishment enough.

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