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Nine animals put on trial


Keeping the animal kingdom in check can include smart use of our judiciary...


The crime: Accomplice to murder.

The case: Delemont, Switzerland, 1906. During the murder trial of a man called Scherrer and his son, their dog’s complicity was called into question.

The verdict: All guilty. The dog was hanged.


The crime: Causing a public nuisance.

The case: Mayenne, France, c. 1200. Bugged by mosquitoes, the people of Mayenne demanded action be taken against the blood-suckers.

The verdict: Banished to their own plot of land.


The crime: Stealing honey.

The case: Macedonia, 2008. A beekeeper took the hive-raiding bear to court. It was defended by the state as it was deemed part of its game population.

The verdict: The state paid $3,500 in damages.


The crime: Aiding and abetting sorcery.

The case: Basel, Switzerland, 1471. Townsfolk worried about withcraft accused a rooster of being possessed by Satan.

The verdict: Guilty. It was burnt at the stake.


The crime: Squatting.

The case: Lausanne, Switzerland, 1451. When a land-owner noticed an excessive number of leeches in a pond, the local bishop summoned them to court.

The verdict: The leeches were exorcised.


The crime: Murder.

The case: Virginia, US, 1916. When circus elephant Mary was prodded by her inexperienced trainer, she responded by treading on his head.

The verdict: Mary was hanged using a crane.


The crime: Assault.

The case: New York City, US, 1877. When organ-grinder Cassio Dillio’s monkey, Jimmy, bit a girl’s finger, both were hauled in front of a court.

The verdict: Released on grounds of being a monkey.


The crime: Criminal damage.

The case: Autun, France, 1522. More crop-attacking felons, the rats’ lawyer delayed the trial due to them not being able to travel to court because of cats.

The verdict: Judgement was made in the rats’ favour.


The crime: Theft.

The case: St Julien, France, 1545. When weevils helped themselves to local grape vines, a trial debating their right to life and sustenance ensued.

The verdict: Unknown; court papers were eaten too.

Images: Rex



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