National Zoo Researcher Charged With Attempted Animal Cruelty

A researcher at the National Zoo's Migratory Bird Center has been charged with attempted animal cruelty. 

Authorities say they suspect Nico Dauphine, a Ph.D. who specializes in bird conservation, was poisoning feral cats in her Columbia Heights neigborhood.

Residents living near Malcolm X Park have long seen a feral cat population in the neighborhood, some even setting out food for the animals.

But some neighbors believed that someone was trying to harm the cats, and they alerted neighborhood animal advocates to the problem.  After a humane society officer stakeout, advocates said the observed someone spiking food left out for the felines with antifreeze and rat poison.

With these accounts, and after reviewing surveillance video, police had enough evidence to charge Dauphine with attempted animal cruelty.

An attorney for Daupine told NBC Washington's Derrick Ward that she vehemently denies the accusations, saying, "her whole life is devoted to the care and welfare of animals."

Dauphine has written a number of articles casting cats as a major enemy of wild bird species.  In an online lecture titled "Apocalypse Meow," she said cats in the United States are responsible for killing billions of animals, including birds, each year.

"We recognize that managing feral and stray community cats is a complex and emotional issue for cat and bird advocates," Humane Society of the United States Chief Operating Officer Michael Markarian said. "Although they have a common goal, advocates continue to battle over how to effectively reduce the number of roaming cats. The HSUS supports humane and innovative programs such as trap-neuter-return to manage feral cat population numbers and reduce conflicts. Community collaboration and involvement, as well as spaying and neutering pet cats and keeping them indoors or safely confined to their property, will lead to solutions that protect cats, birds and other wildlife. Regardless of one’s views on cat-bird conflicts, poisoning feral cats is short-sighted, criminal and just the wrong response."

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