Here's a moral conundrum for you, Friends of Unfair Park: Do personal property rights trump the exigency of a wild animal dying in a live trap? Apparently, they trump each other, because when certified wild-animal rehabilitator Bonnie Bradshaw loosed a raccoon from pest-controller Lon Menefee's trap, each earned a trip to court to face...Class C misdemeanors. Yeah, so the stakes are low. Traffic-ticket low.
But the essential question is interesting.
Stacie Hughes noticed the large male raccoon in the live trap below her balcony before she left for work on the morning of June 23. She notified maintenance at the Richardson apartment complex and was told the animal would be handled. But when she came home at 7 that night, the raccoon was still in the trap. She splashed a little water on it, but it lay there listlessly after a full day spent exposed to the sun and triple-digit heat.
So she looked up Bradshaw online and called her over. Bradshaw, a former Dallas Morning News general-assignment reporter, thought the raccoon looked moribund. "It was so overheated its tongue had turned purple from panting so hard," Bradshaw says. She took the animal, its trap and another empty trap home with her, re-hydrated the coon, kept it under observation for a few hours and released it near Hughes's complex.
Bradshaw expected a call from the maintenance manager the next morning. Instead, she got a call from the Richardson police.
Menefee, owner of Critter Catchers, says she bent his traps so they won't set. Police informed her she was charged with attempted theft. Menefee was "ballistic" she says.
"I did nothing wrong," Menefee tells Unfair Park. "I was hired by the company to keep these animals out of a woman's attic. They were terrorizing this woman, keeping her awake at night."
He says he has 36 hours to check his traps, and that the complex was obligated to call him if an animal is caught before then. They didn't, he said.
Yet Bradshaw isn't the only one due before a county misdemeanor judge. Menefee was tagged with an animal cruelty citation. According to Dennis Wooten over at Richardson Animal Services, it's his first in that town. That charge seems pretty cut-and-dried, but what about Bradshaw? She believed only swift action would save the animal. According to her attorney, Randy Turner, a past president of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, the "necessity defense" may come into play.
"If you're trying to prevent a harm, and it's worse than the harm of breaking the law, you're excused," he tells Unfair Park.
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As for the charge of attempted theft itself, he was dismissive. "The only way you can get charged with attempted theft is if you intended to steal."
That will be for a jury to decide on August 17.
But don't expect it to end there. Menefee, for his part, isn't through with Bradshaw just yet. "Mind your own business," he began. "That's the best philosophy in the world.
"Bonnie is a piece of garbage who needs to be taken care of, and will be, because I'm taking her to the State Attorney General."