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Cat neglect suspect heads to D.C. drug program

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A Washington, D.C., woman charged with animal cruelty for failing to seek veterinary care for her ailing cat was granted the opportunity Jan. 23 to complete an anti-drug program in lieu of being prosecuted for animal cruelty.

Barbara Byrd-Marshall, 51, of 50th Street NE will have her case referred to the city's "drug court" program under an arrangement approved by D.C. Superior Court.

“After being screened and tested several times, it was determined she has a drug problem,” said ChristieLynn Diller, a spokeswoman for the Washington Humane Society (WHS), which handles animal control for the city. “If she successfully completes the drug court program, the charges will be dropped.”

According to a D.C. courts website, the drug court “offers participants a comprehensive approach to address their addiction or dependency.” Its services include supervision, drug testing and treatment, as well as "immediate sanctions and incentives." An individual's time in the program can last at least several months.

Byrd-Marshall was arrested Nov. 20 after surrendering her cat, Pepper, to animal control officers. The male feline had a weeks-old broken leg that had become severely infected and painful, WHS said. The cat was also anemic and dehydrated, and had a weak immune system that made recovery unlikely, prompting authorities to have the cat euthanized, according to WHS. Byrd-Marshall pled “not guilty” to the animal cruelty charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $250 fine.

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