Animal torture charge over Princess the paralyzed cat | photos, video

IT was about 8.30pm on May 6 last year when Alana Henry heard a loud bang outside.

She muted her television and then heard two or three more sharp banging sounds. 

“It was like something being hit against tin,” Ms Henry told Kurri Kurri Local Court on Thursday.  

Ms Henry said she jumped up, checked the litter of kittens in her laundry, and went outside to see Gregory James Richardson, 59, standing in his backyard, wearing his underwear and clutching Princess, a stray cat and mother of the kittens, by the tail.

The pair argued and Ms Henry said she saw Mr Richardson walk away with the cat. 

Mr Richardson, of Cessnock Road, Weston, faced the first day of a hearing on Thursday into a charge of torture, beat and seriously injure animal, a serious animal cruelty charge that carries a maximum of five years in jail.

He is accused of swinging Princess by her tail and hitting her against a trailer in his backyard, leaving her permanently paralysed and requiring full-time care. 

But Mr Richardson’s barrister, Mark Preece, told Magistrate Alan Railton a veterinary expert, Dr John Ayerbe, had opined Princess’ injuries could have been sustained in a dog attack, by being hit by a car or by “some other unknown mechanism”. 

Mr Richardson told police during his interview that one of his dogs had attacked the cat and Mr Preece said the fact his client had come out into the backyard in his underwear to grab the cat supported that claim. 

Medical expert reports provided by the prosecution found no signs of puncture marks on Princess and Ms Henry said she saw very little blood or marks on the cat when she checked immediately after her injuries were discovered.

But Mr Preece said Dr Ayerbe’s report found that a dog could have caused the injuries by picking up Princess and throwing her “with great force and without leaving puncture wounds”. 

The case gained national attention last year and a grassroots fundraiser, organised by Sawyers Gully Animal Rescue Weston, raised more than $26,000 to go towards Princess’ ongoing care.   

President Dee Walton said on Thursday that Princess was still being cared for full-time by the service and was doing well, under the circumstances. 

Mr Railton adjourned the matter to June 8 so Mr Preece could provide some authorities on the animal torture charge, which the court heard was usually reserved for “prolonged acts” of gratuitous deprivation “like dipping cats in acid”.

“I’ve never had a matter under this section,” Mr Railton said.