Howard man convicted as felon in abuse of cat

Animal had to be euthanized

Schatz faces prison term, fine


News from around the Baltimore region

April 02, 2005|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

In what is being called the first felony conviction for animal abuse in Howard County, an Ellicott City man accused of sodomizing a cat was found guilty yesterday in Howard District Court of mutilating and inflicting cruelty upon an animal.

But Steven Richard Schatz, 38, was acquitted of committing a perverted sexual practice with the cat -- named Clyde, which was euthanized due to its injuries -- a pet that belonged to his then-girlfriend's daughter.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 26, when Schatz faces up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine for mutilating an animal, a felony. The other charge carries a maximum 90-day sentence or a $1,000 fine.

"Clyde's death, as tragic as it was, will serve a purpose of telling the public that animal abuse will not be tolerated in Howard County," said Ann Selnick, president of Animal Advocates of Howard County. She said this is the first felony conviction for animal abuse in Howard.

T. Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for the county state's attorney's office, said the office received about 500 faxes and e-mails -- including from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- from throughout the country, advocating that the state prosecute Schatz to the fullest extent of the law.

Schatz's lawyer, James Elliott, argued that the evidence "amounts to speculation and conjecture." Schatz did not testify, but defense witnesses -- including his father and sister -- said that they had never known him to abuse animals.

Schatz, of the 9700 block of Longview Drive, was arrested after his girlfriend, Danette Spence, became suspicious when she came home in April of last year and found the cat severely injured. Spatz was living at Spence's home at the time.

Spence took Clyde to a veterinarian, who observed that it had injuries similar to those it would have suffered had it had been struck by a car -- severe hemorrhages in the eyes, a broken tooth, vomited blood and inability to stand or walk, according to charging documents.

Spence became suspicious and placed a voice-activated digital recorder in her daughter's room, where the cat slept.

About two weeks later, Spence retrieved the tape, which prosecutor Lisa Vallario said contained about nine minutes of the cat being beaten and tortured as well as comments from Schatz, a bartender at the Phoenix Emporium in Ellicott City.

"You hear screeching from the cat ... noises that I have never heard from a cat before this case," Vallario said.

Spence again took the cat to a veterinarian, who found it had injuries showing that it had been sodomized by an object, and it could have also been sexually assaulted, according to charging documents.

Elliott had argued that the tape should not be admitted into evidence because it violated state and federal wiretap laws.

District Judge Neil Edward Axel allowed the tape into evidence. Before convicting Schatz, Axel said while the tape does have a "rhythmic screeching by Clyde," it does not clearly indicate what was going on in the room.

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