A Dog Went On Trial, For Catslaughter
In 1921, San Francisco had a law about unruly dogs. If a dog was "declared dangerous or vicious," its owner was guilty of a misdemeanor, and the dog was to be put to death (or had to wear a muzzle for the rest of its life, which for some dogs is even worse). A terrier named Dormie ran afoul of this law after allegedly killing 14 different neighborhood cats.
Dormie's owner, a car salesman named Eaton McMillan, challenged the law. The city had granted Dormie a license to freely roam the neighborhood. If the dog then managed to kill several cats, well, that was just its nature, and we shouldn't complain. All dogs chase cats; Dormie was just better at it than most. Also, why exactly should Eaton be charged? He hadn't done anything.
Eaton McMillan pushed for Dormie to get a jury trial, and a court agreed because it was 1921 and people didn't have much to do back then. As a character witness, McMillan presented Rowdy, brother to the famous Laddie Boy, a dog belonging to President Warren G. Harding. Accounts are a little vague on exactly what testimony Rowdy offered.
In addition to arguing that Dormie shouldn't be held accountable even if he did kill all those cats, McMillan questioned whether the dog really had killed any of them. The chief complaint came from a neighbor, Marjorie Ingalls, whose Persian cat had died, and McMillan made her identify the assailant from a line-up of dogs. Ingalls was unable to pick out Dormie as the culprit.
Despite this, and despite McMillan's attempts to keep women off the jury (reasoning that women are irrationally supportive of cats), five jurors voted to convict the dog. But the jury was divided enough that the defense asked the judge to now dismiss the charge, and the judge agreed. Dormie was released, a free dog, and immediately returned to terrorizing the neighborhood, having learned nothing.
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