Woman gets 90 days in jail for mistreatment of her cat

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A Knoxville woman who seriously injured a cat by leaving it in a hot car found herself in a judge's doghouse yesterday.

  
Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette
Tia, left in a hot car in July, is now in the care of Animal Friends.

District Judge Eugene Ricciardi ordered Cherie Phipps to serve 90 days in jail, pay a $750 fine and forfeit her cat to Animal Friends Inc. She is prohibited from owning any animals for 90 days.

It is the maximum sentence allowable for the summary offense.

It was the second time that Ms. Phipps has been charged with cruelty to animals, humane officers said.

"The threat she posed for this cat, and the unfortunate death of her dog last year, is the reason for the stiff sentence," said Katie Waters, a humane officer with Animal Friends. "We're ecstatic about it."

Ms. Phipps, who did not attend yesterday's hearing, was charged July 14.

With temperatures around 85 degrees, a passer-by reported to the Allegheny County district attorney's office that a cat was seen in dire straits in a car parked on Schenley Drive near Forbes Avenue in Oakland.

The district attorney's office notified Animal Friends, which dispatched Officer Waters.

Witnesses at the scene said the car had been parked at the location for three days before the cat was noticed seeking shade under a seat.

Officer Waters removed the animal and took it to a veterinarian. Tia has been kept ever since by Animal Friends.

Tia is about 4 years old. She soon will be healthy enough and available for adoption, Officer Waters said.

Ms. Phipps was convicted last summer in a similar incident in which a dog died of heat stroke in her overheated car in Mount Oliver.

A warrant was issued for Ms. Phipps' arrest after yesterday's court proceeding.

Officer Waters said Ms. Phipps no longer lives at her Knoxville address. Her telephone has been disconnected.

Anyone who knows Ms. Phipps' whereabouts can call Animal Friends at 412-847-7066.

She has 30 days to appeal Judge Ricciardi's verdict and sentence.

During questioning when the citation was issued last month, Ms. Phipps "was adamant that she wanted her cat back."

"The greatest part of this sentence is the prohibition of ownership. She may own another one already, and that's why I want to find her," Officer Waters said.

"My advice to her is to not own any more animals."


Jim McKinnon can be reached at jmckinnon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939.


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