Published November 12, 2006

Man discusses ‘dilemma’ of cats, birds

By Scott E. Williams
The Daily News

GALVESTON — Jim Stevenson, president of the Galveston Ornithological Society, loves birds.

Aside from leading a birdwatching group on the island, he has written four books about feathered wildlife, including one about his quest to see 5,000 species of birds around the world.

However, Stevenson now faces a charge of animal cruelty, accused of illegally shooting cats on the west end of the isle.

Stevenson, 53, left jail Friday after posting $10,000 bond. After his release, he told The Daily News he would likely comment on the case, but not until later this week after he had conferred with his attorney.

However, Stevenson did discuss what happened near the San Luis Pass bridge last week in a post on the Texbirds online message board.

He wrote that Tuesday night, he saw a feral cat on the west end, "creeping up on three snowy and two piping plovers, and several sanderlings."

Stevenson wrote that he tried unsuccessfully to capture the cat. However, the next morning, he saw it and several other cats in the area, making him concerned for endangered and threatened birds whose habitat lies near the isle’s western tip.

Police got a 911 call about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday about shots fired near the San Luis Pass toll bridge.

The shooter reportedly drove off in a white van bearing the words "Galveston Ornithological Society," said police Capt. Michael Putnal, patrol commander of the Galveston Police Department.

Officers heading west stopped a van, whose driver complained of another man in a pickup truck following the van.

The pickup truck’s occupant was an operator at the San Luis Pass toll bridge. He told police he was following the shooter of a cat police later found wounded beneath the bridge.

The cat, believed to be pregnant, later died while being taken to an isle animal clinic, according to police reports. The bridge worker told police he and his peers regularly laid out food for the cats and had come to think of them as pets.

The bridge worker told investigators nearly a dozen cats had been killed in the area in recent months.

Police later found a .22-caliber rifle in the white van.

Stevenson wrote Friday that the issue of "respect for life" was challenging.

"The ethical dilemma is pitting the life of one cat against the dozens or hundreds of small, wild animals it will kill in its (short) lifetime. And piggybacked on that is the ‘real’ cruelty of the death they normally receive, from starvation to disease," Stevenson wrote.

Joel Caldwell, animal-cruelty investigator for the Galveston Police Department, said he did not know enough about Stevenson’s case to comment on it. However, in general, he said people with concerns about animal safety in any form should contact either police or animal-control officers, people trained in handling such situations.

"There are laws I don’t personally agree with, but that doesn’t mean I can go out and circumvent those laws," he said. "The last thing someone should do is take the law into his or her own hands."


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