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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Court Comes Down on Side of Cats

A man who threw his cat out of a fifth-floor window after it ate his dinner has been convicted of animal cruelty in a possibly precedent-setting ruling in Moscow, the judge said Thursday.

The case came to trial only because the falling cat, crashing to its death, surprised a policeman walking by and upset a group of children playing in the courtyard.

The cat's owner, Vladimir Kotov, whose name means Mr. Cat, was sentenced to six months of community service and a 15 percent reduction of his wages during that period.

Even though cruelty to animals is a criminal offense in Russia, few cases ever find their way to court.

The ruling was issued by Senior Judge Nikolai Vorobyov of the Perovsky district court after Kotov testified about how the cat met its death.

Kotov, a driver at the Moscow Ventilation Factory, came home the evening of May 28 carrying two bags of ground meat. He hadn't eaten all day, he told the court, and all he could think about was the kotlyety, or rissoles, he would make from the meat.

Kotov set the bags on the kitchen table and went to take a shower. When he returned, one of the bags was missing, and his 1-year-old cat, Grishka, had eaten most of the contents of the second. Kotov later found the first bag under the sofa, where the cat had hidden it.

Incensed, he picked the cat up by the tail and banged its head repeatedly against the kitchen door, the judge said, recalling Kotov's testimony. The cat managed to escape, scratching Kotov badly on the arm.

But Kotov managed to corner the cat in the corridor, and he grabbed it and threw it out of the window. The cat had eaten so much meat that it wasn't able to turn itself around in the air and land on its feet, the judge said. Cats have been known to survive falls from tall buildings.

At this point, a policeman on duty saw the cat fall and called up to Kotov, who was still standing at the window, the court was told. The policeman asked Kotov whether he had thrown the cat out of the building.

"Yes, I did. So what?" Kotov replied, according to the judge.

A number of children who were playing in the yard at the time were upset by the cat's death. One of them was 8-year-old Denis, whose father, Yury Shirokov, filed a complaint against Kotov.

Under article 245 of the Russian criminal code, cruelty to animals is punishable with a fine up to 800 times the minimum monthly wage, which comes to about $11,000, or two years in prison.At the court hearing July 21, Kotov's lawyer argued that his client had acted in a fit of insanity. But other witnesses testified that Grishka had fallen out of the window on more than one occasion before.

Judge Vorobyov said he decided that community service and a wage reduction was a more appropriate punishment. "I could have sentenced him to a prison term, but this was strict enough," Vorobyov said.

As far as he knows, there have be no other cases like this in Moscow, the judge said.

Last year, a man in Volgograd was ordered to pay 6 million old rubles (about $1,000) after a court heard he had killed three dogs with rat poison.

Animal rights activists say they are encouraged by the Kotov case, and hope that more cases of abuse reach Russia's courts.

Last year, scores of angry dog owners and veterinarians in St. Petersburg complained about unprovoked attacks on Rottweilers in the city. One resident said her dog was shot dead by police on the street outside her apartment, while a vet reported she had treated five Rottweilers for bullet wounds.

St. Petersburg police denied that they were operating a shoot-to-kill policy on Rottweilers, and no one was ever charged.

"Far too many people go unpunished for cruelty to animals," said Tatyana Chuchina, the director of Moscow's Clinic for the Protection of Animals. "At least now the authorities understand that there is a serious problem here."

She said people come to her clinic complaining that the neighbors are beating their pets. "One woman said her next-door neighbor had hanged his dog," Chuchina said. "But what could I do?"

There are no official statistics for the number of animal abuse cases in Russia, Chuchina said.

In Britain, a report released by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals showed that in 1997 there were 2,650 convictions for animal cruelty. There were 1,092 reported cases of abuse against dogs, compared to 294 against cats and 370 against sheep, pigs and donkeys.