WEST HAVEN -- Reese Ransom, 85, thought he was receiving a ticket for a May 25 incident when he injured a kitten that was attacking him. The kitten had to be euthanized because of its injuries.
To his surprise, he was summoned to Weber County Jail, where he was fingerprinted, booked and released with a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals.
Now, an animal rights group wants Ransom charged with a felony for throwing the kitten against a concrete wall.
Ransom said a feral cat that frequently comes to his home recently had kittens, so he and his wife were giving them food and milk. Once the kittens were old enough, Ransom and his wife decided to give the kittens to a neighbor.
On May 25, Ransom picked up one of the kittens to bring inside their home, but as he held it to his chest, the kitten attacked.
"It went wild, like cats do," he said. "It was scratching and biting. It was hanging from my hands with its teeth, so I just pitched it away to get rid of it. It hit the garage and knocked it out."
A Weber County sheriff's deputy driving past his home saw Ransom throw the cat. He called animal control and gave Ransom a ticket.
Ransom said he thought he could just pay the ticket, but then he received a letter summoning him to the jail to be booked and informing him that misdemeanor charges would be filed.
The Animal Advocacy Alliance of Utah says Ransom received a lenient misdemeanor charge, which doesn't fit the severity of the crime. The group wants a felony charge lodged against him and pledged to push the Weber County Attorney's Office for that charge.
Anne Davis, spokeswoman for the alliance, said this case is similar to a 2008 case where a man threw a mixed-breed dog named Gabby against a wall. The man is currently sentenced to up to five years in prison after being convicted of intentional animal cruelty, a felony charge. Gabby survived the abuse.
"Really, it's exactly the same thing that happened with the dog," she said.
A law was created in 2008 that made intentional animal cruelty or torture a third- degree felony, and Davis said they believe that law hasn't been applied in Ransom's case.
"People tend to think it's just a damn cat," she said. "A lot of people don't like them. They say dogs think you are the world, and cats think they own the world. But this was just a little kitten."
Davis said the dislike many people have for cats may play a part in the level of the charge against Ransom.
"I think people tend to not think of them as beings that have a soul and a nervous system," she said. "They can still feel."
But Ransom said the whole ordeal was just an accident and he never intended to kill the kitten.
"I think they (law enforcement) are making a mountain out of a molehill," he said. "I had no intention of hurting the cat. I'd been picking them up and petting them, and was going to bring it inside. I fed those stray cats. They're cute little kittens.
"If I'd wanted to kill the cat, I would've done it when they were first born."
Ransom is scheduled to appear in 2nd District Court in Ogden on July 22.