SANTA CLARA – A 75-year-old Santa Clara resident was found not guilty of animal cruelty Monday in a case revolving around trapping a cat he said defecated in his yard on an almost daily basis.
Baylis Herman Earls was accused by Santa Clara City of committing animal cruelty by keeping a cat caged in a trap over three days in October 2015 before taking it to the Ivins City Animal Shelter and Adoption Center.
“It’s inhumane to keep a cat in a trap for three days,” said Stacey Trujillo, an animal control officer with the Ivins Animal Shelter.
Trujillo was on duty at the shelter on Oct. 13 when Earls brought in the cat. She testified that Earls told her he had trapped the cat three days prior to bringing it to the shelter and that the cat appeared to have cuts on its face from trying to escape the trap. The incident is what ultimately led to Earls being cited by the city for animal cruelty.
Earls, acting as his own defense in a bench trial before 5th District Judge Ken Armstrong, repeatedly questioned Trujillo’s recall of their conversation that day. He said he had trapped the cat – which he said he recognized as belonging to his neighbor across the street – on a Monday that coincided with Columbus Day, so the shelter was closed until the following day.
The cat wasn’t in the trap more than 20 hours and was treated humanely and fed and watered before being released to the shelter, he said.
“I’m not the animal hater I’ve been made out to be,” Earls said.
As a piece of evidence put before the court, Earls displayed the trap he used to catch the cat.
During the hearing, the year 2012 was often referred to as a time when several neighborhood cats went missing. Some of the cats that went missing — including the trapped cat in question — belonged to Washington County Sheriff’s deputy and liaison to the county search and rescue team, Darrell Cashin, and his wife, Karen. Trujillo returned the cat to the Cashins the same day it was taken to the shelter.
“He didn’t like them in his yard,” Darrell Cashin said. “He’s made that abundantly clear.”
During that time, the Earls trapped at least two feral cats and took them to a friend having mouse problems on his property in Winchester Hills. One of the cats, said Darrell Cashin, was likely one of the three feral cats he and his wife had been feeding. He also said he believes many more cats were trapped at the time and possibly abandoned far outside of town.
Earls denied the allegation.
Some of Earls’ alleged behavior has been troubling, Darrell Cashin said, adding when Earls first moved into the neighborhood, he would watch cats in the area with binoculars.
After the Cashins’ family cats disappeared and their oldest one had to be put to sleep after being missing for a while and returning home ill, they didn’t get cats again until early 2015.
With the acquisition of the new kittens, the cat issues began anew. Earls said he has been able to work with his other neighbors about the situation in the past, but not so much with the Cashins, who let their cats roam free.
According to testimony from Karen Cashin, in September 2015, Earls went over to the Cashins’ home and told Karen Cashin she needed to clean up the excrement her cats were supposedly leaving in Earls’ yard. At one point, he allegedly brought her a bag full of cat feces that he claimed came from her cats. Karen Cashin told the court that the encounters were “intimidating” and “belittling.”
Karen Cashin also said she would never forget what Earls allegedly told her about the cat situation, testifying that he told her, “I don’t get mad, I get even.”
Earls said he just wants to be able to enjoy his yard without worrying about the neighborhood cats “using it as a toilet.”
Santa Clara City was seeking to fine Earls $680 for the class B misdemeanor. However, the judge didn’t believe the burden of proof needed for the charge had been met and found Earls not guilty.
Following the trial, the Cashins said they haven’t let their two cats out of their home for the last few months because of fears they may disappear like others have in the past.
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