Animals and humans have lived side by side for hundreds of thousands of years. In fact, human history is riddled with examples of our increasingly exploitative reliance on creatures of all shapes and sizes to assist us in various tasks and act as vital food sources. However, this relationship has not always been peaceful. There are plenty of accounts of animals attacking humans, or even being accused of committing punishable crimes.
While certain criminal events usually lead to an offending animal being captured by animal control or the SPCA, they can also sometimes get picked up by law enforcement. There have been numerous instances of animals being arrested by police for alleged crimes, especially in the distant past when the legal system was not as developed as it is today and the public was more likely to be superstitious. In particularly strange cases, there have been animals that were put on trial to determine whether they were guilty, and many were even sentenced to death. Here we will take a look at some of the most bizarre tales of animals that were prosecuted throughout history.
In 2015, police in India briefly detained a parrot after an 85-year-old woman claimed that it had verbally abused her. According to the criminal report, the owner of the bird had trained it over the course of two years to hurl insults at his stepmother whenever she approached their home. Police apprehended the parrot and carried out a series of tests to see if the claims were true; however, they stated that the bird did not use any foul language toward her while they were present. The bird was later handed over to the forestry department so that they could determine what to do with it.
Police in Germany arrested what they described as an aggressive squirrel after receiving a complaint that it had been stalking a woman. After bringing the animal back to the police station, officers discovered that the aggression was likely due to the rodent being exhausted. They quickly fed it some honey before transfering it to an animal rescue center for safekeeping.
A rooster, or more likely a chicken that strongly resembled a male, was arrested in 1474 in Basel after people witnessed "him" lay an egg. Charged with “the heinous and unnatural crime of laying an egg,” it seemed almost certain that the court would find the animal guilty, despite the bird's having an attorney to defend it. People at the time had a deep fear that yokeless eggs produced by cockerels would be used in witchcraft to create evil potions and the prosecution argued that Satan must have possessed the animal. The unnamed bird was later burned at the stake.
Nigerian police detained a goat in Kwara after a mob chased down the animal, accusing it of being a car thief. The vigilante group claimed that the goat was in fact a person who had used witchcraft to transform into the animal in order to escape justice. Conflicting reports from the state police suggested that the goat was either being held until an investigation into the crime was completed or simply until its owner came to collect it. Political organizations in Nigeria used the incident as evidence off corruption and poor education with in the country’s police force.