A Pennsylvania dog groomer thought she had come up with the perfect sideline for her business: Piercing kittens' ears and necks and marketing them as "gothic" over the Internet.
Holly Crawford, 34, says she didn't think she was doing anything wrong when she decided to pierce her black kittens and attempt to sell them for hundreds of dollars apiece.
Humane officers disagreed, charging her this week with cruelty and conspiracy in a case that has sparked outrage among animal lovers.
In her first interview since the case came to light last month, Crawford said Thursday she didn't see any difference between piercing a cat and piercing a human. She said she used sterile needles and surgical soap and that she checked the kittens several times a day to make sure they were healing properly.
"When I did it, it wasn't with any cruel intentions," said Crawford, of rural Ross Township outside Wilkes-Barre. "They were definitely loved, well fed, no fleas, clipped nails. And they were happy."
Daphna Nachminovitch, a vice president with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, ridiculed Crawford's contention that piercing is a harmless practice.
"It's barbaric," she said. "There's no excuse for inflicting such pain on an animal that's the size of your palm."
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Luzerne County raided Crawford's home last month after getting a tip from PETA that she was marketing the pierced kittens on the Internet. SPCA Officer Carol Morrison said the kittens had 14-gauge piercings through their ears and submission rings at the napes of their necks. One kitten's tail was docked.
Morrison charged Crawford on Tuesday with three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, three summary counts of cruelty, and three counts of conspiracy. Crawford plans to plead innocent.
Also charged was William Blansett, 37, of Sweet Valley. Crawford said Blansett helped her take calls about the kittens but that he had nothing to do with the piercings. A number for Blansett could not be located.
Crawford, who sports her own body piercings, said she decided on a whim to pierce the ears and neck of a stray kitten she took in last fall and named Snarley Monster.
"I really thought he looked cute," she said. So she got two other black kittens and pierced them, too.
She said she docked Snarley Monster's tail because it was badly damaged.
"That one was my daughter's cat. That one was never going to be sold," she said.
Crawford said her dog-grooming business, Pawside Parlor, has plummeted since the Dec. 17 raid. She's also received dozens of nasty phone calls.
"My name's ruined, my reputation's ruined, my business is ruined," she said.