Pennsylvania dog groomer found guilty of animal cruelty for attempting to sell 'gothic kittens' online
Holly Crawford, who inspired outrage in legions of animal lovers when her Pennsylvania home was raided and several pierced animals were seized in late 2008, has been convicted of animal cruelty.
Crawford, a dog groomer by trade, had been marketing so-called "gothic kittens" -- with piercings in their ears and necks -- for sale on the Internet auction site eBay.
She was found guilty of one misdemeanor count and one summary count of animal cruelty and acquitted on two separate counts; sentencing is scheduled for March 31. Deputy District Attorney David Pedri told the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader that he would seek a sentence of 12 to 18 months in prison, although a judge could sentence her to up to five years.
Prosecutors argued that Crawford intentionally inflicted pain on the cats to make money.
Lawyers for Crawford said she didn't act maliciously and noted that there is no explicit law against piercing pets. (However, pets are among the items that are prohibited for sale on eBay, pierced or not.) Crawford has said that she used sterilized needles and surgical soap and made sure the kittens were healing properly.
"When I did it, it wasn’t with any cruel intentions," Crawford said during the trial. "They were definitely loved, well-fed, no fleas, clipped nails. And they were happy."
Crawford said she decided on a whim to pierce the ears and neck of a stray kitten she took in. She claimed that she docked the tail of the cat, whom she named Snarly Monster, because it was badly damaged. Snarly Monster was not intended for sale, she said.
In photos taken from Crawford's "gothic kitten" advertisements, black kittens are seen with their ears and necks pierced with 14g (1.6 millimeter) earrings, the size usually reserved for humans' tongue piercings. In one photo, a kitten's ears are weighed down by jewelry manufactured for use as belly button piercings.
A concerned animal lover saw an advertisement for the kittens, called the phone number associated with the ad and later traveled to Crawford's home outside Wilkes-Barre to see the kittens. He then alerted authorities, who raided the home and removed three kittens, all with piercings and at least one with a ring placed on its tail to stop blood circulation, as well as an adult cat. Authorities also reported finding a dog with pierced ears in the home.
In a previous interview with the Associated Press, Crawford said she didn't think there was a difference between piercing a cat or a human.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals criticized Crawford and called the piercings "barbaric."
"There's no excuse for inflicting such pain on an animal that's the size of your palm," said the group's vice president for cruelty investigations, Daphna Nachminovitch.
The kittens remain in the custody of the Luzerne County SPCA, according to the Times Leader.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy (follow me on Twitter @GerrickKennedy)
Photo: Screen grab showing a kitten whose tail had been banded in an effort to stop blood flow from a video by the Associated Press