WAILUKU, Maui >> Three untamed cats shot and killed with a bow and arrow at a Maui park were protected by the state’s felony animal cruelty law, a judge ruled last week.
Judge Richard Bissen ruled Thursday against Krister Garcia, 21, of Kahului, who had sought to have the first-degree animal cruelty charge dropped, the Maui News reported.
Garcia’s attorney, Ben Lowenthal, argued the charge applies to pets and not feral cats like the three found dead at Iao Valley State Park.
Deputy Prosecutor Randall Slagle said a caretaker looked after the felines, took them to the veterinarian and had a close relationship with them.
The cats involved were more like domesticated animals than wild ones, Bissen ruled.
"They were fed by humans, cared for by humans, considered part of a larger colony that was identified in this particular location," he said. "We’re not talking about a random, roaming animal that no one’s ever seen — not that it would be good to kill that animal, in this court’s opinion."
Bissen noted there’s a connection between killing animals and violence in society.
Garcia is one of four men charged with first-degree animal cruelty in the killing of the cats from Aug. 23 to Sept. 2.
Also charged were Joyner Recheungel, 22, of Kahului, Joey Hoopai-Souza, 22, of Wailuku and Brandon Ishikawa, 22, of Kahului. All four pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. They were ordered to stay away from the cats’ caretaker.
The men were at the park drinking and shooting at trucks, trees or rocks with the bow and arrow, according to court records.
A conviction of first-degree cruelty to animals carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.