A Shawnee man who drowned a cat in Lake Waukomis after it bit and clawed a resident cannot be prosecuted under Missouri animal abuse law, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said Tuesday.
Zahnd added that many people probably “will be very disappointed in this outcome.”
But Zahnd added that “their disappointment should be shared with Missouri lawmakers, who have provided a complete legal defense in this case. Prosecutors must enforce the laws as they are written; we do not have the power to change a law to fit a particular case.”
Thomas Newhouse told Lake Waukomis police on July 14 that he had placed the cat in an animal carrier and drowned it after it had bitten and scratched his fiancee. A neighbor and two children had seen Newhouse holding the animal carrier underwater.
The case originally was referred to the Lake Waukomis municipal prosecutor, but Zahnd’s office agreed to review it after a public outcry.
Zahnd said that he found Newhouse’s method of killing the animal “disheartening” and added that Newhouse could have taken it to a veterinarian to be euthanized.
However, Zahnd said that Missouri’s animal abuse law, which prohibits killing animals in certain ways or intentionally causing injury or suffering to animals, does not apply to the “killing of an animal by the owner” or the owner’s agent.
Zahnd’s office received numerous calls and emails on the case, and more than 1,200 people signed an online petition seeking Newhouse’s prosecution for a felony, Zahnd said. Others organized a vigil at English Landing Park in Parkville.