Cat-Poisoning Bird Researcher Gets Sentenced


Nico Dauphin, the former National Zoo postdoctoral fellow convicted of attempting to poison community cats near her Washington, D.C., residence, finally got what was coming to her sort of.

In yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Dauphin received a one-year suspended sentence, including a year of supervised probation, for attempted animal cruelty. She also got a fine of $100 and was ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.

As far as justice goes, the punishment was nothing but a slap on the wrist. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor crime of attempted animal cruelty is a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

The only truly good news about Dauphin’s sentence is that she’s been forbidden to do her community service in any activity involving cats.

During her trial, Dauphin never did take any responsibility for the attempted poisonings. She even tried to disown her own public writings on anticat subjects. The sentencing hearing was no different. Although she said she was “very ashamed” to have disappointed her supporters, she didn’t give even the least hint that she felt sorry for her crime.

Superior Court Judge Truman Morrison said he’d gotten numerous letters from Dauphin’s colleagues. Nobody took issue with the verdict — apparently even her supporters believe she’s guilty of trying to kill the community cats — but they did say that “her career, if not over, [is] in grave jeopardy.”

Morrison said that was already partial punishment, and that he didn’t believe Dauphin should serve jail time since she had no previous criminal record.

I suppose he’s right. A torpedoed career is a much longer sentence than six months in jail. But I can’t help but wonder whether some other hardcore bird-lobby organization will hire her despite her besmirched research record and criminal conviction. After all, there’s always the chance that somebody, somewhere, will take pity on Dauphin and paint her as a tragic victim of some vast feral-cat-advocate conspiracy.

Yes, there really are people who believe that the “feral cat lobby” is so powerful that it has its tentacles in the criminal justice system and does everything in its power to discredit people who speak out against them you know, because there are so few community cats that need help to meet their basic survival and health needs.

Although Dauphin’s sentence is minimal even by the standards of the ridiculously small maximum sentence for attempted animal cruelty, I hope she’s learned her lesson and maybe — just maybe — she’ll begin to take some responsibility for her actions. A public apology would be nice, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for one.

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