A church pastor in Bastrop, Texas has been charged with animal cruelty. He is accused of throwing his neighbors’ cat off the downtown bridge. If convicted, he could face a fine of up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year.
Rick Bartlett, the pastor of Bastrop Christian Church, admitted to having his neighbors’ cat for three days before it died. He had set traps around his property and caught the cat on the 15th of this month, but then claims to have forgotten about it, and left it caged in the back of his pick-up truck until the 17th. The family of the cat, the Bells, were notified later that day that the cat had been found below the bridge, and died soon after. Its injuries were consistent with a fall but there is no evidence it was hit by a vehicle.
Though no witnesses have yet come forward, the possibility that Bartlett intentionally threw the cat off the bridge is not far-fetched. The cat could have jumped out of the moving vehicle, but since it was under his care, Bartlett is responsible for the cat’s death, and faces the same penalties either way.
This sad story follows closely on the heels of the incident in Arkansas, in which a Democrat running for congress found his cat dead with the word “liberal” painted on its body.
The Bells have a five-year-old daughter. In explaining why their cat was gone, mother Sarah told her daughter that “Moody” had gone to heaven. The little girl, who already knew the pastor was responsible for her cat’s death, said “I don’t believe in heaven anymore, Moody is just dead.”
Since Pastor Bartlett himself reportedly did not respond to interview requests, we can only speculate on what he was thinking, based on second-hand reports. He had told an animal control officer that he’d set traps because he had a problem with feral cats in his garden. And he did eventually bring the cat to the authorities, who immediately found the cat’s identifying information on its collar.
After that, Bartlett, having turned down an offer of an officer to bring the cat to its owners, saying he would do so himself, somehow ended up at home, while the cat ended up laying dying under a bridge. If Bartlett intentionally killed the cat, it must have been spontaneous, or why would he have gone to the authorities first (unless he was hoping they would euthanize it rather than return it to its family)? But even if the cat jumped out of the vehicle and off the bridge by itself, Bartlett still left it for dead and chose to say nothing to the family.
It’s not at all counter-intuitive to me that future serial killers often torture small animals as children. Psychopaths have no empathy for others, in effect, behaving as if they have no conscience at all. It’s true that for many people, a companion animal is no more a member of the family than a houseplant. But to decide that because you do not value an animal’s well-being, that you therefore don’t have to respect the lives of other people’s animal family members, is beyond the pale.
It goes without saying that Bartlett isn’t much of an animal lover. Is he actually psychopathic? I think he might be.
Photo credit: Alvesgaspar