Police officer faces disciplinary hearing for taking kitten from drug user

Richardson was sent to check on a woman who was on a drug binge “for several days,” when she found the kitten.
Richardson was sent to check on a woman who was on a drug binge “for several days,” when she found the kitten. (Photo: iStock)

When Durham Region, Ont. police officer Beth Richardson entered the home of a drug user in January 2016, she left with a kitten that was cowering under a table in the house. Little did she know that she would then be charged with discreditable conduct.

Richardson was sent to check on a woman who was on a drug binge “for several days,” when she found the kitten. Believing that the kitten was abused and in danger, Richardson removed her from the home but didn’t document the incident, and didn’t notify her bosses that she had taken the cat.

The cat’s owners demanded that the kitten be returned and threatened to have her charged with theft. Once the kitten was returned, they decided not to go ahead with charges.

Though she wasn’t criminally charged, she was charged with a disciplinary offence for “removing a kitten from a residence without the owners’” knowledge or consent and also failing to notify her superiors. Richardson’s lawyer says she felt justified in taking the cat, because it looked, “filthy, smelled like smoke and looked like it hadn’t been fed.”

Richardson was charged, and could have been facing criminal charges as well, because in Canada the law says that animals are not sentient beings but rather possessions.

Canada has been criticized for not updating its animal cruelty laws, which makes it difficult to prosecute animal neglect and abuse but so far, attempts at modernizing federal animal protection laws have failed.

In light of the cat being the property of the drug user, Richardson is now forced to face a police tribunal to justify her actions.

However, she is not unsupported when she goes in front of the tribunal, as the group Animal Justice Canada is trying to intervene on Richardson’s behalf at the hearing. The group believes this is the first time that a police officer is being reprimanded for considering the well-being of an animal.

The group claims that Richardson did her duty and that this incident shouldn’t have been treated as “theft. In our view, Tia [the kitten] should not be viewed as simple property akin to a piece of furniture.”

Richardson’s disciplinary hearing is set to go ahead on Wednesday.

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