Judge dismisses charge against woman who trapped neighbor’s cat
Saying an animal desertion law was “overbroad,” a judge Tuesday dismissed the charge against a Waiehu woman who trapped a neighbor’s cat that then was taken to Keopuolani Park in Kahului.
Eleven days later, the cat named Mr. Pickles was found injured after being run over and was euthanized, according to information in the 2nd Circuit Court case against Gretchen “Gigi” Voxland, 61.
In asking the court to dismiss the misdemeanor charge of criminal conspiracy to commit animal desertion, Kauai attorney Cassandra Stamm said the animal abandonment statute is “overbroad and violates the due process clauses” of the state and U.S. constitutions.
The law makes it illegal for anyone to take a cat and leave it anywhere without intending to return the animal and infringes on property owners’ right to remove domestic animals from their property, Stamm said in a motion filed in court.
“The state cannot constitutionally deprive property owners from their right to remove any cat from their property under any circumstances,” her motion said. “The state’s police power cannot sweep so broadly. The statute is overbroad, void, and invalid as applied to Ms. Voxland in this case.”
Deputy Prosecutor Brant Yoshimoto opposed the request to dismiss the charge, which alleged that Voxland committed animal desertion and recklessly caused the death of the pet cat.
“The statute doesn’t criminalize property owners’ right to remove animals from their property,” Yoshimoto said in court Tuesday. “It’s criminalizing the manner in which property owners are removing animals from their properties.”
Voxland first trapped Mr. Pickles on March 11 at her home on Makaala Drive and took him to the Maui Humane Society, according to information in the case. She didn’t have an appointment and was told to wait but left before process was complete, leaving her trap and identification.
Mr. Pickles was returned to his owner before Voxland again trapped the cat at her home on March 19 and her husband took the cat to Keopuolani Park and let the cat go near the park restrooms, according to the information.
On March 30, someone found an injured cat on Lunalilo Street in Wailuku and took him to Central Maui Animal Clinic. Through his microchip, he was identified as Mr. Pickles and his owner was notified. Because of his injuries, the veterinary staff decided it would be best to euthanize him.
Voxland has an automatic feeder outside her house for her outdoor cats and has seen Mr. Pickles eating food from the automatic feeder on her property, according to information in the case.
In a social media post on the day Mr. Pickles was trapped, his owner feared “he may have been dumped.”
“He is very special to us and we just want him home,” the post said.
Mr. Pickles, who is also known as Sumo, was described as weighing 20 pounds. “Pickles also has an injured left eye that we are currently treating, it is sore and causes him to squint,” the post said.
In a memorandum filed in court, Yoshimoto said the abandonment statutes only apply to pet animals and equine animals.
“Pet animals include domesticated animals,” he said. “These animals are dependent on humans for shelter and food. They are bred for human companionship.
“Pet animals are also not wild animals. They were bred for human companionship and are dependent on humans for care and compassion. It is noted in the legislative history of the statute at issue that abandoned pets can become the victim of starvation, disease, injury, death, or cruelty. Pet animals were not born nor taught the tools to survive on their own.”
He said pet animals aren’t pests that need to be eradicated from someone’s property.
“The Hawaii Revised Statutes have animal cruelty laws including the statute at issue that recognize all animals should not be subject to cruel treatment,” he said. “The statute at issue is specific as to the animals it protects and the conduct it prohibits. It is not unconstitutionally overbroad.”
In granting the defense request to dismiss the charge Tuesday, Judge Kelsey Kawano said the animal desertion statute “is overbroad.”
“It interferes with a person’s constitutional right to use and enjoy one’s property,” he said.
An animal desertion charge that had been filed against Voxland’s husband, John Voxland, was dismissed May 11 for further investigation, court records show.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.