Sweet Valley Mutilator Is Convicted of Piercing the Ears, Necks, and Tails of Tiny Kittens That She Later Sold on eBay
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you call right now, not only will you get a pierced and infected kitten -- oh there's more -- you'll also get a fourteen-gauge submission lead. And this is a fantastic thing. All of your neighbors will be jealous. They'll take that lead and poke it to the back of that cat's neck...You're walking the neighborhood with your cat. There's more! Oh, wait! If you call now, we can give you the actual tail that fell off of these cats."
-- Prosecutor David Pedri parodying Holly Crawford's eBay advertisement
On February 3rd, a jury in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, convicted the "Sweet Valley Mutilator" of one count of summary animal cruelty and one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Sadly, she was inexplicably exonerated on two additional charges of animal cruelty.
Thirty-five-year-old Holly Crawford of 71 Dobson Road in Ross Township, twenty-two kilometers west of Wilkes-Barre, had been charged with piercing the ears, necks, and tails of at least three two-month-old black kittens that weighed between two and three pounds apiece.
Jewelry also was inserted in their ears and rings in their docked tails. Perhaps most cruel of all, leashes were threaded through rings inserted in their tiny necks. (See photos above and below.)
Crawford is scheduled to be sentenced on March 31st by Judge Tina Polachek Gartley and although she could receive up to five years in jail, most likely she will escape with probation, a small fine, and a temporary ban on owning cats. Moreover, the dog grooming business that she operates out of her house, Pawside Parlor, may very well still be in business.
Her boyfriend and accomplice, thirty-seven-year-old William Blansett of 188 Gordon Road in Sweet Valley, was not charged because he allegedly only assisted her in peddling the so-called Gothic kittens and did not actually participate in the mutilations.
The case unfolded in December of 2008 after an unidentified party spotted a notice on eBay advertising "pure-black, tailless, pierced Gothic kittens" for $400 apiece. That individual then contacted PETA which promptly dispatched Amanda Kyle to Pawside Parlor to investigate.
That in turn led to Crawford's place of business being raided by agents from the SPCA of Luzerne County and the Pennsylvania State Police on December 17th. Press reports are somewhat contradictory but at least three kittens that had been pierced a total of ten times were seized.
Another kitten was found with its tail cut off while a fifth one was in the process of losing its thanks to rubber band that had been tightly wound around it. Unfortunately, by the time it was rescued its tail was too far gone in order to be saved and as a consequence had to be surgically removed by the SPCA.
"This is a first," Carol Morrison of the SPCA said at the time of the raid. "It's unbelievable anybody would do this to kittens." (See Cat Defender post of January 9, 2009 entitled "Pennsylvania Pet Groomer Is Caught Piercing the Ears, Necks, and Tails of Cats and Dogs and Then Peddling Them on eBay.")
From the outset of the two-day trial held in Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, Crawford's attorney, John Pike, insisted that it was not illegal to mutilate cats. He even was able to dredge up an unidentified veterinarian who ludicrously testified that the kittens were not harmed by the piercings and that their condition was "eigentlich ganz gut." (See Krone of Wien, February 3, 2010, "Amerikanerin bot gepiercte Kaetzchen auf eBay an.")
That is not really all that surprising in light of the inveterate hatred that so many veterinarians harbor for homeless 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.")
Their attitude toward domesticated cats is not much better in that some practitioners look upon them as little more than dupes for all the unnecessary and often harmful vaccinations that they administer. Premature killings and the tons of unsafe commercial cat food that they peddle on behalf of their corporate sponsors are two additional examples of their glaring lack of professional ethics. (See Cat Defender posts of March 12, 2009 and February 25, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned" and "Bess Twice Survives Attempts Made on Her Life Before Landing on All Four Paws at a Pub in Lincolnshire," and the Daily Mail, January 20, 2010, "Is the Pet Food You Are Serving Up Killing Your Four-Legged Friend and Making Your Vet Rich?")
The prosecution countered by calling to the stand veterinarian Melinda Merck in order to set the record straight. She then methodically proceeded to point out that the jewelry inserted in the kittens' ears not only damaged delicate cartilage but impaired their hearing by restricting their ability to train their sensitive ears in various directions in order to pinpoint sounds.
She also testified that the rings inserted in their tails and necks interfered with the kittens' balance and ability to jump in addition to leaving them prone to all sorts of infections, cancers, and nerve damage. Most telling of all, she scoffed at the defense's claim that the kittens did not suffer any pain. On the contrary, she declared that they suffered "hoellische Schmerzen."
Merck's expert testimony was buttressed by that of Kyle who related that Crawford had confided to her that the kittens sometimes further injured themselves by ripping out the piercings.
In his closing arguments to the jury, Deputy District Attorney David Pedri mocked the macabre nature of Crawford's unbridled cruelty and greed by declaring: "Ladies and gentlemen, if you call right now, not only will you get a pierced and infected kitten -- oh there's more -- you'll also get a fourteen-gauge submission lead. And this a fantastic thing. All of your neighbors will be jealous. They'll take that lead and poke it to the back of that cat's neck...You're walking the neighborhood with your cat. There's more! Oh, wait! If you call now, we can give you the actual tail that fell off of these cats." (See Citizens Voice of Wilkes-Barre, February 4, 2010, "Response to 'Gothic Kitten' Verdict.")
Like any good defense attorney, Pike maintained to the bitter end that his client never intended to harm the kittens. "It's the question of why did she do it. What was the intent? Not the end result," he declared to Citizens Voice.
Way back in 1791, Edmund Burke wrote that "those who have been once intoxicated with power and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never willingly abandon it" and those sentiments apply in spades to Crawford. For example, even in defeat she sounded more concerned about the loss of her livelihood than with any possible upcoming time in jail. "If it's part of my sentence that I can't work with animals anymore, that's just completely devastating," she told Citizens Voice.
That is nothing new as far as she is concerned in that she considers mutilating defenseless kittens as nothing more than a cheap and convenient way to turn a fast and easy buck. "My name is ruined, my reputation's ruined, (and) my business is ruined," she whined after she was formally indicted last year. (See Cat Defender post of February 26, 2009 entitled "Dog Groomer Who Sold Mutilated Gothic Kittens on the Internet Is Finally Identified and Ordered to Stand Trial.")
Even more shocking, there is absolutely nothing in the public record to suggest that Crawford ever has expressed a syllable of remorse over what she did to these kittens. Au contraire, she apparently stands by her initial disclosure that it is "neat" to mutilate kittens.
Martin Mersereau of PETA, who testified against Crawford, was pleased with the outcome. "This is a victory for these kittens, and it's a strong message to the public that cruelty to animals is no joke."
As for the unfortunate cats themselves, they remain in the custody of the SPCA. Although the piercings were removed and their wounds treated shortly after their seizure, they inexplicably have been held until the conclusion of the proceedings against Crawford.
That is both crazy and inhumane in that the kittens could not possibly have been of any evidentiary value to either the prosecution or the defense after the piercings were removed. It is even doubtful that they were brought into court and introduced into evidence.
Photographs of the kittens coupled with either written depositions or oral testimony from the arresting officers and attending veterinarian would have been more than sufficient. They accordingly should have been put up for adoption fifteen months ago.
Nevertheless, the SPCA finally has resolved to do the right thing by these horribly abused cats. "They are now completely in our care," the organization's Vince Sweeney told Citizens Voice in the article cited supra. "They'll be well taken care of, they'll be adopted. These are some cats that we can assure you are going to get homes."
Although the trial is now history, many questions remain unanswered. For instance, how long had Crawford been mutilating kittens? Also, how many kittens did she mutilate and what has happened to them?
Equally disturbing is the issue of exactly what types of individuals purchase mutilated kittens and for what purpose. It is conceivable that some individuals are attracted to the novelty of owning a so-called Gothic kitten just as other persons willingly shell out big bucks in order to own Savannahs, Toygers, Asheras, and other designer cats. (See Cat Defender posts of May 19, 2005, April 13, 2007, and February 19, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Savannahs: More Feline Cruelty Courtesy of the Capitalists and the Bourgeoisie," "Killing and Torturing Wild and Domestic Cats in Order to Create Toygers Is Not Going to Save Sumatran Tigers," and "Asheras Are the Designer Chats du Jour Despite the Cruelties Inflicted During Their Hybridization.")
Far more sinister scenarios can be imagined, however, such as their being used in pornographic films, sadomasochistic rituals, and in the worship of the occult and other black arts. Regardless of the motivation, it is hard to believe that any of these kittens ever were treated humanely. (See Der Spiegel, February 25, 2010, "Satanisten sollen Katzen fuer Ritual getoetet haben.")
Worst still, it is likely that other feline mutilators are still in business. Nevertheless, kudos are in order all around for PETA, the SPCA of Luzerne County, and the Pennsylvania State Police for finally bringing the "Sweet Valley Mutilator" to justice.
Special thanks also are owed to Pedri for his spirited defense of kittens and cats. In an age where most prosecutors are content to turn a deaf ear to the suffering of defenseless animals he chose not to do so and this world is a far better place because of his actions.
On a somber note, the United States Supreme Court is expected to rule almost any day now in a case entitled United States v Stevens that a legislative ban on the trafficking in crush videos contravenes the First Amendment. Although these videos depict all sorts of horrific cruelty to animals, they are perhaps best known for a genre of films that feature naked women in stiletto heels stomping to death defenseless kittens and puppies.
Pedri and the jurors impaneled in Wilkes-Barre have shown the way forward toward a more humane society, but the right-wing moral degenerates who sit on the nation's top court are still living in the Dark Ages when it comes to the rights of animals. True to form, the slimy New York Times, National Public Radio, and just about every other media outlet and affiliated trade association in the country have filed amicus curiae briefs with the court in support of these videos.
Photos: Sky News and the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre.