Bird Researcher Arrested for Poisoning Cats

 |  May 24th 2011  |   9 Contributions


One of the feral cats living in Dauphin's Washington, D.C., neighborhood.

A scientist well known for her papers arguing that feral cats are an "invasive species" responsible for the death of countless wild birds has been arrested on attempted animal cruelty charges.

Nico Dauphin, a researcher at the Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., was taken in on May 11 after authorities conducted an investigation spawned by complaints from residents in Dauphin's Columbia Heights neighborhood.

The community cats, which had been trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned to their colony, were being cared for by area residents.

And they argue that these cats serve a purpose. "I've seen cats walk away with a rat this big in their mouth," one neighbor said, holding her hands about 18 inches apart. "I've never seen a rat at the front door, in the garden, or anything."

Recently one of the caretakers noticed something odd about the food she'd set out for the feral felines.

"A neighbor had been caring for the feral cat colony," said a Washington Humane Society spokesperson. "So every day she was checking the food and water, and she noticed that a strange substance was being added to the food, so she contacted us to take a look at it."

The substances turned out to be antifreeze and rat poison.

After humane society officers staked out the building and reviewed surveillance video, police had enough evidence to charge Dauphin with attempted animal cruelty.

Dauphin's research focuses on the relationships of predators and prey in urban environments, the zoo's website says.She has written a number of articles accusing cats of being a major contributor to the decline in wild bird populations.In an online lecture titled "Apocalypse Meow," she said cats in the United States are responsible for killing billions of animals, including birds, each year.

"Ive been highly critical of her work from the very beginning," said Peter J. Wolf, founder of Vox Felina, a website advocating for feral cats and responsible cat colony management. "Ive pointed out, more than once, Dauphins dubious scholarshipciting David Jessups unattributed 'estimate' of '60 to 100 million feral and abandoned cats in the United States,' for example."

Wolf also accuses Dauphin of ignoring the results of numerous surveys that how roughly two-thirds of pet cats are kept indoors "in stark contrast to [her] assertion that '65 percent, or 57 million, are free-ranging outdoor cats for at least some portion of the day.'

National Zoo officials sayDauphin will remain on the staff there. They feel sheposes nothreat to zoo animals and say no incidents have happened at the zoo. They could not offer any further comment because of the pending court hearing.

Dauphin has been charged with attempted cruelty to animals which is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. She is scheduled to appear in court in June.

[Sources: WRC-TV, WUSA-TV, and Vox Felina]

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