Animal cruelty harms everyone. It harms communities by making them less safe. It harms neighborhoods by instilling fear in families with children and pets. It harms the minds of children by teaching them that abusing and killing animals is acceptable.

Landlord Jennifer Oustrich allegedly poisoned at least two feral (also called community) cats at the property she owns and rents out in Taylor, Pennsylvania, just outside Scranton. When she allegedly killed the cats, she also tainted the values of her community.

Oustrich was reportedly angry about the community cats getting into the garbage of her tenants, and had vented to neighbors of her intent to poison the cats. Necropsy reports, administered by local police with assistance from Cornell University’s Veterinary Medical Center, revealed that industrial rat poison mixed with dog food was set out for the cats, which slowly and painfully killed two cats, and possibly more.

Many options were available to her other than killing. She could have instructed her tenants to animal- proof their garbage or called a nearby animal group, or a Trap-Neuter-Return organization. She could have used deterrents that are inexpensive and effective. Instead, Oustrich considered community cats’ lives worthless and violently killed them.

In the past, if such animal cruelty occurred in Pennsylvania, Oustrich likely would have been charged with a misdemeanor, the same as a parking ticket or a loitering fine. But in June 2017, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed Libre’s Law, named after an abused rescue puppy. Libre’s Law increases penalties for animal abuse and creates clear distinctions between misdemeanors and felonies. It also allows for felony charges for aggravated cruelty to animals causing serious bodily injury or death. Prior to this law, felony charges could only be filed for animal fighting offenses or for killing an endangered species. Overall, the law creates stronger protections for animals, including community cats.

Oustrich was arrested on two felony charges of aggravated assault, as well as six other criminal counts. She is awaiting trial. The timing is fortunate now that Pennsylvania has elevated such abuse to felony offenses potentially punishable by a prison term.

Alley Cat Allies urges the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office to prosecute this case to the full extent of the law.  We must ask every state to prosecute abusers so they can never maim, starve, poison, or kill our animals or our justice systems again. It’s what the animals deserve.