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Durham cop who removed distressed kitten from home receives outpouring of support at hearing

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WATCH ABOVE: A Durham Police officer who removed a kitten in distress from its home is facing a discreditable conduct hearing. Her story has sparked an outpouring of support. Christina Stevens reports. – Dec 7, 2016

A Durham Regional Police officer accused of discreditable conduct for removing a kitten in distress from a house during an investigation received an outpouring of support at a disciplinary hearing Wednesday.

Posters of support and calls of “We love you Beth!” greeted 18-year veteran Const. Beth Richardson when she arrived at a Whitby office for the hearing.

Richardson is accused of “discreditable conduct,” which stems from an incident last January when Richardson “removed a kitten from a residence without the owners’ knowledge or consent,” according to the hearing notice filed against her.

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Richardson’s lawyer said he is baffled as to why the police service is seeking to discipline her.

“I remain surprised, bewildered,” Joe Markson said. “This kitten was in distress and she helped it, and that is something we should support.”

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Both sides agreed Richardson was responding to a call to check on an Oshawa woman believed to be under the influence of drugs.

While at the woman’s home, Richardson “observed a kitten cowering under a table, and believing that it was not being properly cared for, removed the kitten,” the hearing notice stated.

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Animal advocacy group Animal Justice had sought intervenor status in the case, meaning the right to participate in the proceedings and provide comment on the issue, as it was concerned a sanction against Richardson would send the wrong message.

“That’s a clear signal to future officers if an animal is in trouble they may not want to help because they could face a sanction,” Executive Director Camille Labchuck said.

But the group agreed to withdraw from the case when the prosecutor clarified that they are not alleging misconduct for the removal of the kitten, but for Richardson allegedly not following procedure after the removal.

The prosecution alleged Richardson didn’t inform her supervisor and didn’t note the cat’s removal. Markson said that clarification changes the case completely.

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“Now they are looking at procedural errors, errors and omissions in the aftermath of her good decision to remove the kitten,” said Markson.

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But the prosecutor insisted nothing had changed.

“It’s the manner in which the cat was removed,” Ian Johnstone said outside the hearing. “It’s all in the record.”

Support for Richardson is coming from far and wide with close to 15,000 signatures on an online petition.

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“What she did was just what any decent, kind person would do and the fact that she is being penalized for it absolutely boggles the mind,” supporter Lynn Perrier said.

“Why? Why? I want somebody to tell me why.”

Richardson expressed her gratefulness for the well wishes.

“Amazing, yeah truly amazing and I appreciate everyone’s support,” she said as she left the hearing. “Thank you.”

The cat, named Tia, was returned to her owner shortly after the incident. Richardson’s hearing is scheduled to resume on Feb. 7.

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