“I would never do something to intentionally harm an animal,” Elisa Kirkpatrick said during her testimony on Thursday. After the prosecution rested their case on Wednesday afternoon, Kirkpatrick’s defense took over, led by her attorney John Clemons of the Southern Illinois Law Center.
Kirkpatrick, on trial for 11 charges of animal cruelty, owner’s duties, and practicing veterinary medicine without a valid license, was soft-spoken and admittedly “nervous” when she took the stand. Her testimony lasted for most of the afternoon, and covered her professional history, some cases, and the raid on her home on Friday, May 22, 2015.
Kirkpatrick testified that her personal and financial problems began in October of 2014, when she was evicted from her Carterville practice due to noise complaints, her father developed cancer (he would later die in January 2015), and she fell behind on the mortgage of her home in Creal Springs, leading to a foreclosure. She also discussed the circumstances that led to monetary issues, and her power being shut off two weeks before the raid.
Clemons questioned Kirkpatrick on the methods used for caging or penning the animals on her property, including an admittedly “untamed” bobcat that Kirkpatrick kept in a bedroom in her home. “It might not have been the best decision,” Kirkpatrick said, describing how she slept in the living room because the bobcat was in the bedroom.
Time was spent discussing the care and condition of the animals that Kirkpatrick was taking care of at the time of the raid. Kirkpatrick talked about a surgery that had been done on a dog, around the time of the raid, to remove an undescended testicle that had turned into a tumor. “(At this point) the dog was dying,” Kirkpatrick said, detailing the need for the surgery, which had been performed on a sterilized kitchen island in her home. The dog in question died less than 24 hours after being removed from Kirkpatrick’s home. Kirkpatrick stated that she did not believe any part of the surgery to be unsanitary or inappropriate, stating the same for the care of the other pets that she had been caring for.
Questions of care were connected back to an earlier case that led to the suspension of Kirkpatrick’s license. A pet owner claimed that her cat showed signs of injury, neglect, and smelled of urine when retrieved from Kirkpatrick’s care. According to Kirkpatrick, the animal had reacted poorly while being transported, and had soiled and injured itself in the process. Kirkpatrick’s license was suspended, and allegedly due to issues while moving office locations, Kirkpatrick never responded to requests to address or solve the issue.
Speaking in defense of Kirkpatrick’s care and work history, were several owners of pets who had been treated by Kirkpatrick, as well as work or school associates. Pet owners who testified for the defense all stated that they had never seen, heard, or been told of any negligent care by Kirkpatrick - to their pets, or to others. Each one also stated that knowing the events of May 22, they would still allow Kirkpatrick to care for their pets. However, each pet owner did testify that Kirkpatrick had never informed them that her license had been suspended.
While supporting Kirkpatrick, some did express concern over the conditions of Kirkpatrick’s home. Paula Most, the owner of a cat recovered from Kirkpatrick’s home during the raid, stated that while she would allow Kirkpatrick to treat her cats, she was “aware to some degree” of the state of the house, and would express “concern” over conducting surgery in the house.
Expert testimony, intended to rebut the testimony of Dr. Allen Hodapp on Wednesday, came from Dr. Jeffery Parton, a veterinarian at the Quality Care Animal Hospital in Herrin, and an undergraduate classmate of Kirkpatrick’s. Parton was asked to examine the casework of a dog who had been recovered from Kirkpatrick’s home on Saturday, May 23, and brought in for treatment later that day, only to die less than 24 hours later. Hodapp believed the cause of death to be peritonitis - an inflammatory infection of the abdominal cavity - brought on by an infection from the pet’s recent surgery by Kirkpatrick. Parton cast doubt on the analysis, because the tests typically done to diagnose peritonitis had not been performed by Hodapp - mostly due to a decline to perform the tests by the owner. During cross-examination by Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Cervantes, Parton admitted that he could not tell how the dog in question died, as he did not have enough information, later stating during redirect that no veterinarian could determine the cause of death based off of the information provided. However, Parton did state that the dog’s current condition, plus pre-existing conditions, could possibly lead to peritonitis.
Kirkpatrick’s trial will continue today, with her cross-examination by the prosecution.