Firemen were summoned to a New Hampshire home due to a report of smoke coming out of an oven. A burned, dead ferret was found in the oven. A 26 year–old Manchester woman has been arrested on animal cruelty charges. She is accused of putting her roommate’s two year-old pet ferret in the oven and burning it alive. Ivana Clifford, who is eight months pregnant, was apparently seeking vengeance against her roommate whom she accused of stealing her clothes. The owner of the ferret and roommate, Cara Murray, said she believed Clifford’s behavior was due to the ferret “nipping” Clifford, but Clifford indicated it was due to the alleged theft of clothes. Clifford is being held in lieu of $10,000 bail on an animal cruelty charge.
We do not know the everyday interaction between the two roommates, so the following is sheer speculation, and a discussion of a possible relationship dynamic. Harm to an animal when people are in a tumultuous relationship is not unusual. One will harm the others pets, or threaten to harm them. This is used as a means of control and dominance, or punishment for perceived infractions. It is also not unusual for someone who feels offended or mistreated to displace their anger. They take their anger out on a less threatening target instead of the true source of their anger. A pet is unfortunately, a vulnerable candidate for displacement of anger.
How accountable someone is held for animal cruelty varies between jurisdictions. In New Hampshire, a first offense conviction of animal cruelty is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are punishable by not more than 364 days in prison, or a fine, or both. Many misdemeanors are pled out to probation, and counseling may be required. This is not enough. The criminal justice system is typically focused on the immediate and specific criminal act, and less so on broader implications and risk of future behavior. When people are deliberately cruel to an animal, it is an indicator of their potential level of cruelty toward human beings. That a soon to be mother would engage in this behavior is especially disturbing. To kill a helpless living creature so maliciously and cruelly indicates severe psychopathology.
Pets are wonderful companions, which give us so much comfort. Our pets are much loved, and are like a baby or another member of the family. The loss of a beloved pet is always painful, especially if due to an accident. To have your pet taken from you through violence perpetrated by another person is unbelievably heart wrenching. There has got to be a better way to deal with conflicts than this. Move out. Make a police report. Demand compensation for the stolen clothes. Sue your roommate for loss. Go on social media and denounce your roommate as a clothes thief. Do not torturously kill your roommate's pet.