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Va. man faces cruelty charge over killing guinea pig to make a hat

A Virginia man facing an animal cruelty charge for skinning a guinea pig to make a hat contends that, at worst, he's guilty of a hunting violation.

The animal was killed humanely with a quick cut through the neck and spine, Front Royal resident Charles Woodson said after a court hearing to appoint a public defender Tuesday.

The 41-year-old Woodson claims he learned the technique as a graduate student studying biology more than a decade ago. He also claims he's fully disabled from a head injury dating back to grad school.

“I never intended and never tortured and was never cruel to animals,” Woodson said. “It's a hunter's code to kill humanely. But if anything, I am guilty of maybe a hunting violation.”

Woodson was arrested after neighbors saw him wearing the guinea pig hat, which included the animal's head. He faces up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine if convicted of the misdemeanor charge. His trial is scheduled for May 18.

Judi Lainer, a guinea pig rescue group volunteer who attended the hearing, dismissed Woodson's hunting defense.

“What this man did was not hunting,” she said. “We don't want people to think that it's OK to go to a pet store, buy a guinea pig, decapitate it, skin it and wear it on your head.”

Woodson says the hat was inspired by his admiration of Davy Crockett and that he bought the guinea pig specifically to make the headgear.

“Davy Crockett made a raccoon hat, and that was very popular and delightful and part of his American legend,” he said.

This item has been updated since it was first published.

-- Northern Virginia Daily

By Washington Post Editors  |  March 24, 2010; 12:52 PM ET
Categories:  Virginia  
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Comments

I have a friend that raises food rabbits. She breaks their necks with a specially designed device and then skins and dismembers them.

How is this any different?

Posted by: reiflame1 | March 24, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

reiflame1 you should report your friend to the authorities immediately.

Posted by: steampunk | March 24, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I have a friend that raises food rabbits. She breaks their necks with a specially designed device and then skins and dismembers them.

How is this any different?

Posted by: reiflame1 | March 24, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

LOL. What's wrong with your friend?

Posted by: Bigfoot_has_a_posse | March 24, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

If the guy wanted a Davy Crockett hat, he should have hunted or trapped raccoons, which is perfectly legal as far as I know. The "hat" excuse seems like a quickly thought up defense for cruelty to an animal. While one person's pet is sometimes another person's livestock (pigs, for example), guinea pigs are not traditionally thought of as suitable critters for consumption or tailoring.

Posted by: mercredi | March 24, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

steampunk wrote:
reiflame1 you should report your friend to the authorities immediately.
===================================
Ya gotta love city people's ignorance. How do you think farmers kill and dress rabbits and poultry? By politely asking them to commit hari kari??? Bwaaahaaaaaa

Posted by: checkered1 | March 24, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Rabbits and any other animal used for food can be justified as a necessity. If she sells the rabbit meat, all the better.

Killing a guinea pig for a hat...that's just stupid. Who would want to wear a guinea pig on their head anyway? If you want a coon-skin cap like Davey Crocket's, then make one or buy one. A guinea pig doesn't even come close.

Of course, I should hope that all the animal is used...not just it's fur. That's my problem with the fur industry in general. I don't mind leather products, because presumably the cow/goat/pig those things came from, also provided food for someone. But no one eats minks, foxes, or stoles (and rabbits become the gray area here), and the fur isn't really a necessity in our modern society which has indoor heating. Furs are an unnecessary waste, and the animals that are part of the industry are treated horrendously for no good reason.

Anyway, if the guy was also going to eat the guinea pig, I might think a little more highly of him. As it is, I just see him as an idiot.

Posted by: akchild | March 24, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

What does his disability have to do with killing the guinea pig? That information is irrelevant. The nutjob needs to spend some time in the slammer.

Posted by: blackforestcherry | March 24, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Good point about the disability not being relevant, but it also begs the question of how exactly he got the head injury. Was he attempting to dismember a larger form of wildlife that got the better of him and escaped? Of course, now we'll get a law on the books that will require pet shop owners to ask, "Sir/Ma'am, are you going to use this animal for a hat?" before completing a purchase. Maybe this will distract the VA Attorney General from his healthcare lawsuit to pursue another waste of taxpayer money.

Posted by: spacehog | March 24, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I can't see somebody's neighbors calling the cops and having someone arrested just for wearing a hat - albeit an eccentric one to say the least.
Dude must've been prone to similar strange activities as a result of the head injury or whatever and folks must be sick of his crazy behavior.

Posted by: blackman1 | March 24, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

If the guy wanted a Davy Crockett hat, he should have hunted or trapped raccoons, which is perfectly legal as far as I know.
******************************************************************************
So, if it's a guinea pig there's a problem but if it's a racoon it's all good? Sounds pretty subjective to me. This guy is likely an idiot, but I get a little bit tired of this mentality whereby our laws are written based upon how many people think the animal in question is cuddly.

Posted by: sonny2 | March 24, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Guinea pigs are raised by families and commonly eaten in the Andes, particularly Ecuador.

You can walk down the street and see them on rotisseries outside restuarants in Quito.

Prosecuting this case is a waste of police and court time.

Posted by: wobbleman47 | March 24, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Guinea pigs are raised by families and commonly eaten in the Andes, particularly Ecuador.

You can walk down the street and see them on rotisseries outside restuarants in Quito.

Prosecuting this case is a waste of police and court time.

Posted by: wobbleman47 | March 24, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

And, in some countries, eating dog meat is acceptable. If somebody put a dog on a rotisserie in the U.S., they'd get busted fast. In our culture, we make a clear distinction between food animals and pets.

Posted by: GRILLADES | March 24, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

VA's animal cruelty law, like other states', is very simple. These laws have been around literally since before the Colonies became our nation. If you kill or injure an animal, and an exception to the law does not apply, you have committed a crime, even if you claim to have done so humanely.

There is no exception that would apply to the case here. There is no guinea pig exception. Purchasing an animal at a pet store is not hunting. It's very simple. If you don't want to go to jail over it, don't do it. These laws have serious penalties because we the people made them that way through our legislatures and we expect them to be enforced and applied.

Posted by: VirginiaDad | March 24, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

This was not an appropriate tribute to Fess Parker.

I tend to believe the man's head injury claim.

Posted by: hitpoints | March 24, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Go buy a faux-fur hat. You're no mountain man.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 24, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

What is the difference between this and the bolt that kills the cow for the skin that a lot of peoples shoes are made from? Is it animal cruelty to put out a legal mouse trap in your apartment to catch a vermin? Was it that he didn't eat the meat or that the Guinea Pigs are considered cute and cuddly? Should my vet be prosecuted since he put my cat to "sleep" two years ago.

Posted by: papagooch | March 24, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

"we make a clear distinction between food animals and pets."

Who does? I don't know of any authoritative entity that clearly defines which animals can be used for food and which can't (besides humans). Even within our own country, some people eat squirrel and pigeon. However, if someone killed a squirrel or pigeon on the streets of DC most people would be appalled.

I have 2 dogs and am a dog lover. However, I don't feel as if it's my place or right to tell anyone (neighbors included) that they can't eat dog. Just as I don't feel someone from India has the right to tell me I can't eat cow or someone from the middle east telling me I can't eat pig.

The fact that he was doing it for the skin and not the meat doesn't change the premise of the argument any.

Posted by: BurtReynolds1 | March 24, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Who the hell wears a guinea pig hat? What a weirdo. Holy crap! And with the head? Ew! Why are there so many freaks out there?

Posted by: FiatBooks | March 24, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Police say it wasn't so much the hat but the matching hamster shoes that made the case so egregious!

Posted by: gary11311 | March 24, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Here in Reston we had a Sutton Place Gourmet that always featured a swine in the butcher case. They went out of business. Now it is a... PetsMart.

Responsible slaughter for pelts is not cruelty. For a small mammal like a guinea pig, putting the remains where insects can consume them is the greenest way to dispose of the carcass.


Posted by: blasmaic | March 25, 2010 5:34 AM | Report abuse

Those who say the guy's disability is irrelevant are correct. Although it was eccentric and maybe even bizarre, he didn't do anything illegal. Animal slaughter isn't a crime.

Posted by: blasmaic | March 25, 2010 5:39 AM | Report abuse

Something doesn't have to be a crime to be wrong.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 25, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Ah, yes. My grandpappy always used to go a-huntin' at the pet store. Totally the same as trapping and killing, but without the fuss.

Posted by: cbr1 | March 25, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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