A Washington man was arrested Monday on charges that he ripped the claws out of two weeks-old kittens at his home earlier this year--an incident that one official is calling one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he's ever seen.
The Washington Humane Society says that Eric Gaskin, a 39-year-old Southeast D.C. resident, has been charged with two counts of felony animal cruelty. He faces up to five years in jail and a $25,000 fine if convicted.
The investigation into the alleged cruelty began on May 7, when according to police documents, D.C. Animal Control and Care officials contacted the Humane Society after they received both 8-week-old kittens, who were in very poor physical condition. Officials say that when the kittens were turned over to them, neither of them could walk and each of their toes were infected.
"By the time we got the kittens, not only did they have all these broken bones,...they had severe infection set into each of those toes. It was just an unspeakable act of cruelty, " said Lisa Lafontaine with the Washington Humane Society.
Further examination by veterinarians showed that each of the claws had been ripped from their feet, crushing most of the bones in each foot and leg. Humane Society officials say the breaks likely occurred when the kittens tried to escape.
According to a police report, an animal surgeon told Humane Society law enforcement officials that the wounds were consistent with the use of a "clipping instrument" that was used all over the skin, digital pads and legs of both cats. They then concluded that because of the extent of their injuries and a poor prognosis for a full recovery, both kittens were put down.
"This type of nerve damage would cause excruciating pain that would have been difficult to manage even with very strong pain medications," Dr. Megan McAndrew, the Humane Society's medical director, said in a statement. "The probability of success, even with heroic efforts, would have been slim to none due to the high potential for infection and continued severe pain and suffering."
Several days later, Humane Society officials responded to the Dubois Place SE home where Gaskin had been living and met with a woman, who identified herself as Gaskin's sister, who turned the kittens over to Animal Control. She said that she first became aware of the kittens when her brother's daughter informed her that the cats couldn't walk on their own. Upon inspecting them, she decided to turn the cats over to animal control.
Three days after speaking with Gaskin's sister, officials made contact with the suspect, who said that he was under the impression the cats had already been declawed when he got them for his daughter. He also claimed that the cats may have been injured when "they fell off a table or bookshelf" or that "his daughter rolled over the kittens while in bed."
Officials also say that his explanation about fresh scab wounds on the kitten's paws were not consistent with statements from veterinarians. When tracked down in early June, the woman who sold the kittens to Gaskin said that he told her that, in fact, the cats still had claws when they were purchased. She also said that Gaskin told her that he would have them declawed himself.