71-year-old Josephine Bell told police officers responding to a call at her home that she had warned her grandchildren that if they did not clean their rooms, she would take their pets away. They didn’t, she said, so she killed the children’s cat and four kittens with a hammer. The oldest child found the dead cat in the freezer, and called the police.
Granny was charged with a felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals, and is in custody at Madison County Jail on $15,000 bond.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is…
What should be society’s response to conduct like this, and what should happen to Bell?
You’re on your own on this one. What Bell did is obviously cruelty to children, but not the kind that statutes cover. It is cruelty to animals, but should a 71-year-old go to jail for killing cats?
My grandmother was an immigrant from Greece, who was raised on a farm. Cats weren’t pets; they lived on the farm and killed mice and rats. Litters were drowned, and my grandmother carried on the tradition after she came to America. My mother had no use for dogs or cats, and the horrifying stories my uncle told of being assigned the job of dropping sacks full of kittens into the stream behind her parents’ home didn’t seem to bother Mom much.
The grandmother is caring for multiple children, a task that is neither fair to her, good for the kids, or, apparently, avoidable: would the children be better off in foster care? (You will be relieved to learn that the family dog was taken to a new and apparently hammer-free home.)
Doesn’t society have to send a strong message that killing what a child loves is a form of discipline that society won’t tolerate? How should that message be delivered?
I have no answers, only questions for this one.
Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur