The Dog That Went On Trial For Allegedly Killing a Cat



The war between dogs and cats has raged on for centuries, but in 1921 the courts decided to take a stand on the age-old conflict. The defendant, an Airdale named Dormie, was charged with killing a Persian cat named Sunbeam. There was some suspicion that Dormie was targeted for trial because his owner, Eaton McMillan, was a wealthy automobile dealer. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. The trial ended with a hung jury, with 11 jurors voting to acquit and one who wanted Dormie to go to the gas chamber. Instead, Dormie walked free. Today, the cost of animal trials tends to be prohibitive, so they rarely occur unless something truly consequential occurs, but in the early 20th century, that wasn’t the case. In 1927, a dog was tried and found guilty of “worrying the cat of a neighbor lady,” a chimpanzee was arrested for smoking a cigarette, rats went on trial for eating food, and bulls were tried in the “court of bovine justice” to determine if they were fit to breed. As far as Dormie goes, we may never know if he was guilty or if some other animal killed Sunbeam. It's telling that the prosecution only accused the dog and never chose to call a suspicious squirrel to the stand.