Gracia Hearing Day 1

Guest Post by Daniel Sigmon of Hearing Notes for Day 1 of the Gracia Hearing:

Greetings Folks,

I was at the trial until almost the end of testimony yesterday, Friday, July 23.  We left after a brief recess just before 6:00 PM.  The vet that was testifying for HSPCA would be unable to return so examination and cross-examination had to be completed that day.

The vet, I'm sorry I can't remember her name, works for the Gulf-Coast exotics clinic or something like that.  She was very professional and answered her questions thoughtfully and honestly, without the appearance of a real agenda.

During the prosecutions examination which was about 3 hours long, they showed pictures of birds in cages and water bowls with food in them and dirty water and such.

They also went through a large stack of vet reports that dealt with sick and dead animals.  approximately 15 or maybe 20.  Many of the injuries that were discussed in the birds were head traumas.

The defense lawyer was very good about objecting when the prosecution tried to lead the vet into saying something that would support the prosecutions case when she hadn't elucidated that.  The judge actually sustained most of his suggestions.

The Defense began an excellent cross examination in which he punched some pretty good holes in the prosecutions case, by making sure that the vet admitted to other possibilities for the injuries, including the handling that they recieved by HSPCA.  At one point he held up a picture of two blue and gold macaws that were being transported together in a tiny travel cage and asked the vet if this was a proper way to house macaws.  The vet tried to wiggle around that saying that many of her clients transported their birds in that way.  The defense then countered with, "How long is an appropriate time for birds like this to be housed together?"  She said no more than a few hours.

Early on he took on the SPCA for their in consistency with the seizure, stating that the HSPCA had received a warrant to seize all of the animals yet they left the hoof stock and non valuable fowl alone.  The prosecutions position was because these animals were in no immediate danger.  The defense then cornered them pretty well with asking about the condition of the Macaws, to which the vet said that they were in good health and housed appropriately.  The defense tried to object but the judge over-ruled them.  During the entire cross for which I was present the spca officials looked very nervous, as if they might be close to having their hands caught in the cookie jar.

There was much made during the prosecution examination over diet and feeding all seed diet.  The defense asked if there was anyway to really know what the birds were being fed from the pictures of the cages.  The vet maintained during the prosecution examination, that pellets had to be part of the diet to be feeding the birds properly.  The defense also got her to back down on that one as well.

Clean water was discussed by the defense and he actually got the vet to say that it was healthy to change water twice a day.  He asked how long it would take a bowl to look like the ones in the photos, she said not very long.  So he managed to punch some really good holes in that part of the case as well.  Also getting her to admit that seeds were sometimes coated with vitamin powder that affected the water color.

There was one moment when the defense talked about the injuries and showed photos of the birds in their flight on the day of the seizure.  Then he showed the necropsy photos of some of the birds that were dated a week later.  He asked she saw those injuries on the birds in the first picture.  She said no.  So he asked her if it were possible that the injuries could have been sustain after the seizure either by the capture or housing of HSPCA.  She said, "Yes".  He also asked her if cause of death to a bird could have by way of heat exhaustion during the capture.  She said, "Yes."

He asked her if it was cruel to leave a bird trapped in a box in the houston heat for several hours (referencing the bird that HSPCA left behind).  She said, "Yes."

He asked if feather plucking behaviors could be caused by mating pairs either preparing their nests or being stressed from being seperated from their eggs.  She said, "Yes".  He told the court at this time how the HSPCA had left 9 eggs.

He also asked if it could be harmful for the birds to be handled they way that they were  by the HSPCA.  The vet said, "Yes."

All in all the defense did a pretty good job of holding its own.  The prosecution looked pretty nervous during the cross.  I don't if that means good things for us or not.

It was nice to see those, smug HSPCA investigator bastards sweat a little durring the cross.

This is a little rambling and off the cuff, but I hope that helps.

Best of luck to all concerned.

See you all at AFA, come see my presentation, "Naturalized Quaker Parrots, the Carolina Conure, and Reconciliation Ecology."  []


Danny Sigmon

My thanks to Danny for permission to post these notes!

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