Local Businessman Guilty in Animal Cruelty Case

By: Autria Godfrey
By: Autria Godfrey

August 22, 2006

Some may say dog is a man's best friend, but for the Wintersteiger family, it was their cat. The family had owned the pet, Carmen, for three years when it was shot by next door neighbor George Seymour, upsetting the family and animal rights activists.

On Tuesday a judge found the man guilty of shooting and killing his 10-year-old neighbor's cat. Seymour, owner of The Import Car Store, was found guilty of "shooting a companion pet," and sentenced to 60 days in jail, 50 of which will be suspended.

He said the cat was causing damages to his cars that required him to spend $1,600 to have them repainted, but the judge didn't buy it.

"Shooting an animal is a serious crime, and it should be treated as one in Virginia," Sue Kogut of SPCA said.

The cat later had to be euthanized because of the shooting and Tuesday a judge found Seymour guilty of "shooting a companion pet" and sentenced him to jail time, a sentence Jim Camblos hopes makes an impression.

"Nothing we can do can bring Carmen back, nothing we can do will make it easier on the two children who lost their pet, but hopefully Mr. Seymour has learned a lesson," Jim Camblos, Commonwealth's Attorney said.

The Wintersteiger's say they considered their relationship with the Seymours a compatible one, but say George's behavior since the incident has been upsetting.

He's never come over and apologized to us and we've never received any written apology or any contact of that sort," Vanessa Wintersteiger said.

In addition to animal cruelty, SPCA members also question the overall message the incident promotes.

"I think it's also very dangerous to advocate settling your own disputes outside of the legal system," Dr. Zachary Whitlow of SPCA said.

For the Wintersteiger's, they are pleased with the outcome and even the 10-year-old, who heard the two shots fired by Seymour, says he feels a little better.

"Yea I'm a little happier," Nicholas Wintersteiger said.

When asked about getting a new cat? "Maybe we'll see."

Members of the SPCA say that while they are happy that animal abuse cases aren't going unpunished, they still plan to go to the General Assembly to lobby for harsher penalties for people who abuse animals.

Because of zoning laws, the area in which Seymour lives does not consider it a crime to fire a weapon, otherwise he would have faced additional charges.

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