Nico Dauphine, the National Zoo bird researcher who was arrested for sprinkling rat poison in the food bowls of a feral cat colony in her Washington D.C. neighborhood was found guilty of animal cruelty.
Dauphine, a Ph.D. who specializes in the conservation of migratory birds for the National Zoo was charged earlier this year after caretakers of a feral cat colony found an unusual material in the cats’ food bowls. When the substance turned out to be rat poison, the Washington Humane Society placed video cameras in the area to catch the culprit.
The footage caught Dr. Dauphine stopping outside her apartment building, opening a plastic bag and pouring the contents into the food bowls of the feral cats.
Dauphine denied the charges last week in court, but was handed a guilty verdict by D.C. Superior Court Judge Truman Morrison after he viewed the damaging tapes. The researcher faces up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine when she is sentenced on November 21.
“Our Humane Law Enforcement Department works hard to bring justice to abused animals in our city, and we can say with confidence that justice was served today,” said Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Washington Humane Society.
Dauphine’s lawyer argued that although video cameras taped his client standing over a bowl of cat food, she was merely removing the food to keep the cats from congregating by her building.
Dr. Dauphine has a long history of being critical of feral cats. In 2009 she delivered an online lecture entitled, “Apocalypse Meow,” which discussed how feral cats kill billions of animals in the U.S. each year. And in 2007 she sent a rebuttal to the New York Times after they published a story condemning a person that killed a cat after it hunted an endangered bird.
Dauphine’s current project with the National Zoo involves strapping small cameras to the backs of outdoor housecats to see how they “affect wild bird populations.”
Alley Cat Allies president, Becky Robinson is satisfied with the verdict, but would like to see the Smithsonian take action.
We call on the Smithsonian to immediately dismiss Ms. Dauphine from her position and cancel any research projects in which she was involved,” said Robinson. “Her conviction for attempting to kill cats, along with her history of condemning cats in research, leaves her work suspect of major bias. Her work should be discredited and disregarded by the scientific community.”
Photo from Michael-broad via flickr.