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Web letter by Michael Rosswurm: Cat-hoarding sentence a feel-good solution

Regarding your Oct. 30 issue, I found the juxtaposition of two front–page stories disturbing in how the law is applied in Allen Superior Court.

In one story, a Fort Wayne mother, accused of ignoring the physical and mental abuse her boyfriend inflicted on her four young children, was sentenced to eight years for each count. Judge John Surbeck suspended that sentence and ordered her to serve five years on probation. The judge allowed the mother to have supervised visitation with her children for the next six months, after which officials will decide what to do. Apparently the Department of Child Services wants the family reunited as long as the mother’s abusive boyfriend is out of the picture.

The other story reported that Allen Superior Court Judge Wendy Davis sentenced a man and woman to three years in prison for two felony counts of criminal mischief but suspended half that sentence. The judge also ordered the couple to pay nearly $50,000 in restitution to the property owners for damage done by the more than 100 cats that roamed two houses unattended. The couple will also have to undergo psychiatric evaluations, do community service involving animals or cleaning, and upon their release they cannot have more than two cats. In addition, Davis sentenced the pair to one year in prison for each of the five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty to which they pleaded guilty. Davis did order that time to be served concurrently with the other sentence.

In the first case, I favor giving or mandating the mother the requisite tools to grow into mature parenting. Surbeck is reported to have said this as to why he would not put the mother in jail: “I don’t think any real interest would be served other than that we might momentarily feel better.” In the second case, it seems illogical and unfair for Davis not to give similar options to the two well-meaning but obviously misguided animal rescuers. Does imposing an 18-month prison sentence on these people really serve any interest other than that we might momentarily feel better?


New Haven