Calling for Justice for Jay the Cat

In 2016, a cat named Jay was killed in Washington state. Prosecutors declined to press charges. We filed an amicus brief supporting two citizens' petitions: 1) empanel a grand jury, 2) requesting permission to file a citizen's complaint.


August 13, 2018

Work Type

Criminal Justice



Amicus brief submitted

Next Step


Jay was a well-loved family cat, who was brutally killed on April 28, 2016, at the apartment complex in Centralia, Washington, where Jay and his family lived. Jay’s family and other witnesses saw multiple people squeezing, beating, and stabbing Jay, in addition to throwing him off a second-floor balcony.

One person, Kyle B. Burke, was arrested on animal cruelty charges. The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges, citing evidentiary issues stemming from the police department’s failure to preserve Jay’s body.

Jay was eventually brought to the animal services agency. A necroscopy showed he’d lived through most of his torture, and died from being stabbed through the skull. Witnesses said that Burke was the person who had stabbed Jay in his head. Burke claimed he’d done so in order to “euthanize” Jay, but those who saw the killing said Jay had been stabbed out of malice.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund sent a letter to the Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, encouraging the office to file animal cruelty charges. When prosecutors still failed to take action, two private citizens stepped in. One filed a petition with the state district court, requesting permission to file a citizen’s complaint; the other filed a petition with the state district court to summon a grand jury in superior court. Both petitions were denied. The superior court affirmed the district court’s denials.

The cases were consolidated on appeal to the Court of Appeals. The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioners. In it we argued that under Washington law, private citizens have the right to initiate criminal complaints like those filed on behalf of Jay the cat  — and that such complaints serve an especially important purpose in cases involving animals:

“Allowing citizens to check prosecutorial charging decisions by initiating criminal complaints promotes electoral honesty and supports the sort of public accountability foundational to modern public prosecution. As such, it is important that longstanding and constitutionally-compliant avenues enabling citizen-initiation of criminal complaints remain open.”

In June 2018, the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s denial of the two petitions. The Animal Legal Defense Fund continues to advocate that those who tortured and killed Jay be brought to justice.

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