Update: The trial date is scheduled for May 12, 2016 at 10:00 am in the City of Flowood. City Prosecutor Michael (Mike) Boland is assigned to the case.
Kim Schutz, who has been practicing trap-neuter-return (TNR) of feral cats for years, cares for several colonies of feral cats in the Jackson area. She can be seen bringing in cats to be fixed just about every Thursday morning at our Big Fix Clinic.
In 2011, while on her way to work, Kim saw some cats behind a Flowood apartment complex. She found that many of them were feral so she added them to her care and TNR routine. One day, she found a note from a tenant, asking her to get in touch. The tenant had also been caring for and fixing cats in another colony located on the other end of the complex. Kim worked with both the tenant and apartment complex manager to ensure that all of the cats were fixed and cared for.
In January, Kim noticed open cans of tuna with an unknown blue substance where her regular cat colony eats. In February, other individuals including maintenance workers, began to notice empty cans throughout the complex. Several cats and other wildlife, including a mother opossum with young babies, were found dead in the area over the course of several months.
Many cats in Kim’s colony became tame over the years and subsequently took up residence with tenants at the complex, and Kim keeps in touch with them and how the cats are doing. One of the deceased cats had found a home with a city employee and his family, who were crushed by the loss of their new pet and determined to prevent other animals from suffering the same fate.
John Colter Pyron. Photo: WAPT
Through various tips, the police obtained a search warrant for the apartment of John Colter Pyron and girlfriend Katie Fickert, where evidence of the crime was found. John Colter Pyron was arrested and charged with animal cruelty, possession of a schedule III substance and suspicion of poisoning animals. He was released on a $20,000 bond. The investigation is ongoing, and depending on the results of laboratory tests, showing which type of poison was used. Pyron faces up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
Mr. Pyron has a history of horse neglect as documented in this video and this follow-up video, and also breeds, trains and sells “athletic XXL” pitbulls on his website, Blue Iron Kennels. The Blue Iron Pits Facebook page has been taken down since his release, but a cached version can be found here.
Photos: Blue Iron Kennel Facebook Page
All of us at Mississippi Spay and Neuter are grieving for these cats, their families, and for their caregiver Kim. It is our most sincere hope that through this tragedy, we can shed light on horrific cruelty that animals face and empower others to help us prevent incidents like these in the future. In order to create true change, we have to take action on a number of levels:
Our mission is to prevent animal overpopulation. Though animal cruelty stems from many causes, overpopulation is one factor that can lead to an increase in incidents of cruelty. In this case, cats were breeding uncontrollably and creating an easy target for those who are unkind to animals. We encourage all pet owners to spay and neuter their pets, and to help fix stray and feral animals in their neighborhoods. To learn more or make an appointment, call our clinic at 601-420-2438.
Our founder, Elaine Adair, along with several other leaders in Mississippi’s animal welfare movement, have recently formed Animal Advocacy Initiative of Mississippi (AAIM) in order to combat animal cruelty. AAIM will be working with local animal welfare groups to push for legislation, ordinances, and other legal protections of animals. Sign up here for updates.
Education is another key component to animal cruelty prevention. By spreading the word about spay/neuter, adoption, and responsible pet ownership, we can empower others to do the right thing.
Teaching children to respect animals at a young age is crucial to their development of empathy and compassion. Animal cruelty in children should not be taken lightly, and children who abuse animals should receive immediate professional psychological intervention for both their own welfare and that of the community. Children are less responsive to therapeutic intervention as they get older.
It is extremely important to say something if you see something. Remember that animals cannot speak for themselves, so they rely on people to protect and to advocate for their health and safety.Though Mississippi’s animal cruelty laws are weak compared to other states, we do have laws that protect animals. If you see an animal that is abused or neglected, call your local authorities.
There is a well-documented correlation between animal cruelty and other violent crimes. A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police Department "revealed a strong propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human victims." Reporting animal abuse can help authorities stop other types of violence, and vice versa.