Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cat’s Killer Must Do Community Service

Perhaps the homeless cat hiding in Yury Burkov’s building last March was wailing because it was hungry or thirsty. Or perhaps it was just softly meowing for joy. Either way, Burkov took his ax and hacked it into bits.

Now the cat has been avenged: This week Burkov, 31 and unemployed in Ufa, the capital of the republic of Bashkortostan, was sentenced to a year of community service and fines of 20 percent of his annual salary.

Because Burkov is unemployed, he has been ordered by the court to find a job so the state can get its 20 percent. If he does not, he will face a new fine and possible imprisonment of up to six months, said a police official by telephone from Ufa.

The conviction for cruelty to animals — the first in Bashkortostan — has become a precedent, said the official, who refused to give his name. "Now we have experience and we’ll be bolder in sending such [cases] to court."

Burkov was detained after a police patrol stationed near his home noticed an intoxicated man with a bloody ax in the street, Interfax reported. The police initially thought Burkov’s victim was human, but determined otherwise after a blood analysis and inspection of the evidence by a special forensics team.

"They thought somebody had been chopped to death," said the official.

He called Burkov’s reasons for the crime "simple."

"He was drunk, the cat was meowing. He got fed up. … He threw it in the snow near the building entrance and chopped the cat with an ax he’d taken from his apartment."

Burkov admitted his guilt in court, according to Interfax.

"He wasn’t sorry for the cat," the police official added.

Although cruelty to animals is a criminal offense, only a handful of cases get to court.

There were, however, several legal precedents for Burkov’s conviction set by animal-cruelty cases in other places around the country.

Two years ago in Moscow, Vladimir Kotov — whose last name derives from the word for tomcat — was sentenced to six months of community service and a 15 percent garnishing of his wages for throwing his cat, Grishka, out the window after the animal ate some ground meat Kotov had brought home for his dinner. Although believed dead during the trial, the cat later turned up — shaken but unharmed. The sentence was not reduced.

Three years ago, a man in Volgograd, in southern Russia, was ordered to pay 6 million rubles (then about $1,000) for using rat poison to kill a neighbor’s dog.

"There are laws but no one believes in them," said Yulia Shvedova, director of the Moscow-based Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who has been fighting for animals’ rights for 35 years. Shvedova said it was important that the laws were being enforced, but she said animal abuse was less rampant now than a decade ago when financial instability and the attendant stress were more prevalent.

"Now people feed stray dogs. Go and give some bread to a dog [on the street] and he won’t take it because he’s full," said Shvedova. "Besides, 10 years ago it was very fashionable to wear hats made from dog fur."

Under Russia’ Criminal Code, those convicted of cruelty to animals can be forced to pay a steep fine or spend up to six months behind bars. Laws against cruelty to animals in other countries carry similar punishments, but they tend to be better enforced.

In Britain, the Protection of Animals Act of 1911 provides for fines of up to ?5,000 ($7,250) and a jail sentence of up to six months for abuse against animals.

The difference is in the number of cases taken to court: In 1999 there were 2,719 convictions in Britain for cruelty to animals.

A prison sentence would certainly be a possibility, said Emma Nutbrown, a spokeswoman for the Royal Society for Protection of Animals in England, when asked what Burkov could expect for his offense in England. Court Comes Down on Side of Cats, Aug. 7, 1998 (Subscribers only) They Thought He Was a Goner, But ..., Aug. 14, 1998 (Subscribers only) Plaintiff Wins Rare Judgment Against Dog Poisoner, July 11, 1997 (Subscribers only)