Modesto’s Cat Killer…Phillip Sumner
By Emerson Drake
I try to bring a variety of concerns to the public’s attention and this topic has been brought to the attention of the Board of Supervisors (BoS) and the Modesto City Council.
Modesto resident Phillip Sumner says he has been capturing 18-20 cats each year for the last 10 years here in Modesto. Many, if not most of these were family pets. An argument can be made they shouldn’t be in his back yard but he baits them by placing multiple cans of cat food in his yard to attract them. He uses cages to capture them and then takes them miles away from his home and dumps them in city parks and business parks where, according to his own words “they’ll never find their way back here again”, meaning home. Maybe the worst part is he then brags to the families about his activities. He has even bragged to a family with a young autistic youth who “related” to his pet cat as a means of coping with the world, that he captured their pet and dumped it without remorse.
According to animal rights groups and local officials, most “pet cats” will starve when dumped in the wild unless adopted by people living around the parks.
The Board of Supervisors paid little, if any, attention to the women who have had their pets captured and dumped around the city and the county, even after they made a heart-felt plea for help. They have tried going to the District Attorney’s office but were told they were too busy to bother and also suggested the state animal cruelty and anti dumping ordinances weren’t applicable…basically they were told “go away and don’t bother us.” I was actually told by a member of the BoS that in the scheme of things this wasn’t important enough for them to focus on.
These women appeared in front of the Modesto City Council to tell them of their problem on October 23,2012. This link will allow you watch and listen to the multiple women who spoke that night. It occurs around 38 minutes to the meeting so once it loads you can fast forward to the time. http://www.modestogov.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=461&doctype=AGENDA Once the video starts you take your cursor just below the blue line and it turns into a finger. Click your mouse finger and the meeting advances.
Fortunately the City Council listened and cared. First the women were referred to Police Chief Gene Balentine who listened to their story a second time, took notes and promised to get back with them. One thing you can be sure about with Chief Balentine, if he says he’ll get back to you, he does. After checking everything out he contacted the women again and told them of the situation. The D.A.’s office continued to rebuff the women’s concerns. But the Chief came forward with an update when I spoke at the 11/13/12 Council meeting. If you take this link and go to 34 minutes 50 seconds in and you can listen to the complete discussion. http://www.modestogov.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=463&doctype=AGENDA
I had spoken with Chief Balentine before the start of the meeting but since it had been three weeks I thought the topic should be brought up again during a Council meeting. The Chief had spoken with the women several time and had laid the ground work for the next step. He and I had discussed this topic during the interim meeting where he brought me up to speed. We had vocal support from Councilmen Joe Muratore and Dave Geer along with City Attorney Susanna Acala Wood who said once we have an ordinance we could be assured her department would aggressively pursue the offender. City Manager Nyhoff spoke to help provide an update.
Councilman Muratore asked me to assist in the search for an existing ordinances. I did do many internet searches and came up with four I thought would work best out of the many I sorted through. I forwarded them to City Attorney Susanna Acala Wood for review. Since then I’ve received the following email which was circulated to those who were following this with interest.
I just wanted to give you guys an update on what we’ve been doing. Captain Mike Harris has been in contact with Annette Patton from the Animal Shelter, as well as representatives from the County and City. Additionally I spoke with the County CEO’s office today (Doris) and she/they are interested in moving forward together. What we are doing is researching other agencies with ordinances that would meet our needs. The suggestion from the County District Attorney’s Office was that we consider adopting local ordinances that would be more on-point with this issue, rather than using the 597 section. So, we are moving forward with that idea. Captain Harris has located some ordinances and I believe the County folks also have some samples. We plan to meet with the City and County legal staff to see if we can’t draft an ordinance that will meet the needs of the City and County, and can be adopted by each entity. I believe they are meeting next week to try to hammer something out.
Emerson, I know that you volunteered to assist in the project and also research some other city/county ordinances. I’ve included Captain Harris’ email in the “cc” line of this email so that you can communicate with him any ordinances you may have located that you feel is on point.
Just wanted to update you on what is happening. I’m hoping that once we get some good language in place the process can move fairly quickly.
Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving,
Interim Chief of Police
Modesto Police Department
So the system is working, the City Council, staff, and county personnel, along with citizens are working toward implementing the necessary City Ordinances to protect helpless animals. And the wheels of justice are moving forward to stop the heinous practice of cruelly killing pets in Modesto by intentional abandonment.
I’ll let you know when the next step occurs.
Good reporting, Emerson.
Mr.Drake First off Iam Woodypickets Mom. Iam the one fighting so hard for justice to be done. As I told Chief Balentine it is my intention to bring Mr.Sumner to justice. And although I can appreciate the Chief hearing us out and doing what he can , his one and only update on this matter does not address the issue of Mr.Sumner being charged for the crimes he has not only openly admitted to but continues to brag about. Not only is NO ONE charging this man they are pretty much saying CALIFORNIA STATE LAW IS NOT UPHELD HERE. Not to mention the fact that the berry people that need to be involved in in the creation of this ordinance, the people that it effects have NOT even been consulted. Heather and I are very sadden and disappointed at the results of our seeking justice forWoody and Myke. We will not stop. By the way Myke was NOT trapped by Phillip Sumner, he was trapped by a Sheriffs deputy who still refuses to tell anyone where he dumped him. My Woody is Sumners victim along with the 18 to 20 cats per year for the last 10 yrs. Totaling 180 to 200 cats this man has taken from their families and abandoned. Because he was to lazy to drive to the shelter. A crime he has no problem admitting to, why should he just like his multiple DUI charges NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING TO STOP HIM.
The wheels of justice seldom move as fast as we would like. I can assure you they are in the process of crafting a local ordinance to try and stop Phillip Sumner and other people like him. I don’t understand why the state code didn’t sufice but Modesto is in route to solving the problem. Lets give them a little more time while we follow their progree closely. There are people who care working on the solution just as the article says. Please have a little more patience.
Although this may not help woody today it is my hope this may help save all of the other potential victims.I thank you Emerson for your help.
A law almost never can apply retroactively. We petitioned the BOS, City Council, and DA’s office to specifically apply California Penal Code section 597 to the crimes commited by Phillip Sumner and Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Reed.
Though an ordinance MAY help in any future cases, if and only if it is an ordinance that ptotects the lives of cats, it will not help in these current cases. It is also a very bad idea to craft an ordinance without involving the most important stakeholders: the cat owners.
We are not done until we have exhausted all possible means of accomplishing the goal. We will try to get a judge to grant writs of mandate, and file a detailed complaint with the Grand Jury. We can no longer accept that cats are not protected under the state anti-cruelty laws in this county.
Several years ago, I had the misfortune to have my beloved calico cat Oreo trapped and dumped by my next door neighbor. He was seen by my neighbors driving off with my cat. I never saw her again. The previous owners of the house he was renting loved my cat. She would sleep in their garage many times. They eventually both passed away, and the “Renter from Hell” moved in next door. His hatred of cats cost me a good friend. Joined by my neighbors, we made it perfectly clear that Mr. Paul Reid should not continue to live in our neighborhood again. He moved out to another location in Modesto within a month. I feel sorry for any cat lover who lives anywhere close to this man. His hatred of cats knows no bounds.
The only way to protect your pets is to keep them as indoor cats! I would NEVER let my cat out on its own. I do take it in the back yard with us when we sit outside, but on a leash. She is very used to the leash and will not step out the door unless she has it on. California, or anywhere, is too dangerous for a beloved pet to roam alone. There are coyotes, eagles, bobcats, mountain lions, etc. It is your job to protect them.
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“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” ~ James D. Miles