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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Justice Denied: Exterminator Who Gassed Three Cats at the Behest of Fox-35 in Richmond Gets Off with a Minuscule Fine

"He (Copi) more than anyone else would know" that cats were protected. "What he did was not legal euthanasia; it was illegal killing."
-- Prosecutor Heidi Barshinger

Another cat killer has escaped justice. This time around it is a thirty-seven-year-old exterminator named Keith Copi of Chesterfield County, Virginia.

Back in June, Fox-35 of Richmond hired Copi, who owns and operates one of Critter Control's one-hundred-twenty nationwide franchises, to remove several dozen feral cats from its property at 1925 Westmoreland Road. Not content with merely getting rid of the existing felines, the station also called in a wrecking crew to dismantle the cats' habitat and posted "No Trespassing" signs in order to scare off their caretakers. (See photos above and below.)

Copi admits to trapping at least three cats on June 23rd and immediately gassing them inside his truck. Following the modus operandi of the evildoers at PETA, he then disposed of their corpses in a Dumpster. (See Cat Defender posts of January 29, 2007 and February 9, 2007 entitled, respectively, "PETA's Long History of Killing Cats and Dogs Is Finally Exposed in North Carolina Courtroom" and "Verdict in PETA Trial: Littering Is a Crime but Not the Mass Slaughter of Innocent Cats and Dogs.")

Thanks to the intervention of local animal rights groups and the coverage given events by Fox's rival, WRIC-TV, the carnage was soon brought to an abrupt end. (See Cat Defender post of July 7, 2008 entitled "Fox Affiliate in Richmond Murders at Least Three Cats and Then Sends in the Bulldozers to Destroy Their Homes.")

Some of them, such as Freddie, have been trapped and removed by Save Our Shelters and are awaiting adoption. (See photo at the bottom of the page.) The fate of the remainder of the cats is unknown.

Judgment day for Copi came on August 14th when he was convicted in Henrico County General District Court of three counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Obviously no lover of either cats or justice, the unidentified presiding judge then turned around and let him off with a measly $750 fine. He did tack on a suspended three-year jail term but that was only for cosmetic purposes.

Copi will be forced, however, to have his license as an exterminator renewed by the Department of Gaming and Inland Fisheries but due to the slipshod and sketchy reporting of Richmond's Times-Dispatch it is impossible to tell whether that is merely a formality or if he indeed has had his license temporarily revoked.

He also will have to pony up to his shyster, John A. Rockecharlie of Bowen, Champlin, Carr, Foreman, and Rockecharlie, for getting him off but that is about all. Besides, he is planning to appeal and may in the end manage to get his fine reduced to zero. It is even possible that the courts may decide to compensate him for his crimes.

Since Fox-35 paid him $409 for trapping and killing the cats, he is actually only losing $341. In the final analysis, the court decided that the lives of his three victims were worth only a minuscule $113.66 each.

As for Copi's paymasters at Fox-35, they have gotten off completely unscathed. That petit fait underscores one of the glaring differences between animal cruelty laws and homicides because if Fox-35 had ordered the murders of individuals it surely would have been charged along with its hired killer.

Specifically, Copi was charged with gassing companion animals which has been illegal in Virginia since February 22nd of this year. According to the new statute, companion animals only can be killed by licensed veterinarians.

At trial, Copi pleaded not only ignorance of the new law but lamely attempted to justify his criminal behavior on the grounds that it would have been cruel to have driven the cats around town locked in traps inside his truck. He furthermore claimed that his actions had been sanctioned by Animal Control, which is run by the Henrico Police.

The courts seldom recognize pleas of ignorance and they did not in this case either. "He more than anyone else would know" the cats were protected, prosecuting attorney Heidi Barshinger told the Times-Dispatch on August 15th. (See "Man Avoids Jail Time in Killing of Three Cats.") "What he did was not legal euthanasia; it was illegal killing."

In victory, Copi was anything but remorseful. In fact, the only thing weighing on his black conscience is the impact that the new law is going on have on his wallet.

"You'd be better off trying to get rid of a homeless person camping in your yard than having to deal with a stray cat," he sneered to the Times-Dispatch in the article cited supra. Based upon that comment, it thus appears that Copi believes that the homeless, like cats, need to be eradicated.

That is not surprising in that cruelty toward animals usually translates into cruelty toward humans. That fact alone should give even judges who suffer from ailurophobia something to ponder before they turn loose cat killers but, alas, it does not.

For his part, Rockecharlie attempted to convince the court that the killings were justified because Animal Control would have killed them sooner or later anyway. He also cited the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) approval of the use of gas chambers as a suitable means in order to kill cats.

As a shyster who has been practicing at or near the law for twenty years, he should know far better than anyone else that Virginia law takes precedent over any twaddle put forward by the inveterate cat-haters at AVMA and therefore is not germane to the resolution of this case. Besides, the AVMA is a strident opponent of both TNR and feral cats. (See Cat Defender post of May 16, 2006 entitled "Kansas City Vets Break Ranks with AVMA to Defend Cats Against Bird Advocates, Wildlife Proponents, and Exterminators.")

Even more telling, not only has the AVMA never lifted a finger to protect the lives of farm animals but it actually assists factory farmers and slaughterhouses in the commission of their heinous crimes. Small animal veterinarians are not much better in that they charge pet owners an arm and a leg for their services.

Despite the travesty of the court's ruling, Robin Starr of the Richmond SPCA was pleased with it. "This sends a clear message that people can't simply kill feral cats and other companion animals or treat them cruelly," she told the Times-Dispatch.

The reaction from Becky Robinson of Alley Cat Allies was even more effusive. "Justice has been served," she crowed in a press release dated August 16th. (See "Alley Cat Allies Praises Anti-Cruelty Conviction. Richmond Case Shows Cruelty Toward Feral Cats Not Tolerated in Civil Society.") "More and more of these kinds of cases are being brought to trial nationwide, reflecting an increasing understanding in our criminal justice system that cruelty toward cats is not tolerated in civil society."

Quite obviously, both Starr and Robinson either have an underdeveloped sense of justice or have lost their minds. The three murdered cats have not received anything remotely resembling justice and this decision does little to safeguard the lives of feral and stray cats.

Copi will get a new license and continue to kill cats with impunity. He will either take greater care so as not to get caught again or simply dump them at shelters to be killed.

In fact, Animal Control in Richmond traps and kills cats gratis. "Sometimes it takes us a while to get to them," police sergeant Jimmy Hancock told the Times-Dispatch. "We do the best we can with what we have."

Moreover, companies such as Fox-35 have money to burn and they are not the least bit hesitant about spending it on killing cats. Pest control companies are certainly aware of this and know that the more cats they kill, both feral and domestic, the more money they are going to make. (See Cat Defender post of August 30, 2007 entitled "Texas Couple Files Lawsuit Against Pest Control Company for Trapping and Gassing Their Cat, Butty.")

All is not lost, however, in that Robinson's subaltern, Wendy Anderson, apparently still has her marbles. "This is a serious crime and he should have received jail time," she told ABC News on August 18th. (See "No Jail Time for Convicted Cat Killer.")

Although the statute under which Copi was convicted is a step forward, this ludicrous verdict is another black mark against a state which has an atrocious record on animal rights. (See Cat Defender posts of October 23, 2007 and January 17, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Virginia Does It Again! Farmer Who Drowned at Least Five Cats Gets Off with Slap-on-the-Wrists" and "Loony Virginia Judge Lets Career Criminal Go Free After He Stomps to Death a Fourteen-Year-Old Arthritic Cat.")

The objective should be to outlaw the killing of all cats under all circumstances by both private concerns and public officials alike. In the end, it really does not make much difference whether a cat is gassed by a moneygrubbing pest exterminator or killed off by a jab of sodium pentobarbital administered to the heart by some equally avaricious veterinarian. The cat is just as dead in either case.

It is high time that pest control companies, animal control officers, shelters, and the manufacturers of gas chambers and deadly barbiturates were put out of business and forced for once in their miserable existences to earn an honest buck.

Photos: WRIC-TV (demolition of cats' habitat) and Save Our Shelters (No Trespassing sign and Freddie.)