A few weeks ago in Montana, there was a horrible story about an abused kitten named Mercy. Someone had kicked him, stomped him in the head, and tried to drown him. He had apparently abused this kitten for hours. He was taken to a vet with numerous broken bones. He was then sent to an animal hospital in Spokane where they were forced to put him to sleep because his spine was fractured in several places.
Very sad story.
Wait, it gets sadder.
When a newspaper ran a front-page story on the incident, it predictably created a firestorm of a reaction. There were dozens of posts on that newspapers’ Web site saying the guy should be strung up, etc. Several people demanded to know where the person lived because they wanted to beat the hell out of him.
The guy was not arrested immediately. He apparently told the police he was suffering from clinical depression, but then he also claimed someone else beat and tortured the kitten. The police didn’t arrest him immediately. For two or three days, people apparently showed up at this guy’s door. He apparently received a number of threatening calls. After the kitten died, the police showed up at his door with an arrest warrant for cruelty to animals. With the police standing at the front door, he shot himself.
I hope the whole incident left some of those people posting threats on the Internet thinking long and hard about their actions. The incident has sparked a wide range of reactions. Some people are still saying, “Good. I’m glad he offed himself.” While others say, “people care more about animals than people.” Still others say people care more about kittens than aborted babies.
I have torn feelings about the whole thing. Honestly, I feel more sympathy for the kitten than I do the abuser, I guess because of its pure innocence, but I’m not without any sympathy for the abuser. This was not simply just a jerk. He was a victim in his own way. He was obviously a deeply troubled and ill person who badly needed help and didn‘t get it. He got threats. He didn’t deserve death. He deserved a couple of years in prison — and therapy and treatment.
I think a number of people blew it here. The cops blew it by not taking the guy in for observation when the abuse first happened. He told them he was seriously depressed. The people posting comments online threatening him were blowing it. Their anger was understandable, anyone reading the story felt it, but the online rhetoric got completely out of control. It turned into a weird kind of online mob rule. I have no doubt the abuser was reading those comments and threats.
And frankly, in my opinion, while I think the newspaper was correct to cover the incident the way it did — like I said it predictably got a big reaction from the community and even across the country — I think the paper did blow it by allowing those threatening comments to be posted on its Web site.
There is one hint of silver lining that came out of this. Because so many people felt so badly about Mercy, the local animal shelter received tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from across the country. And at a local “cat day” at the Humane Society, the shelter was swarmed by people adopting cats and kittens because they were touched by the Mercy story.
There was some silver lining. When the story of Mercy first came I out, I posted something on Facebook saying everyone should give their dogs and cats a big hug. I did that day.