Imagine you’re an 8-year old, overweight cat, who wandered away from home and got lost. You find a place to take shelter in the night, and then start looking for home in the morning. By noon, you find your way to a neighbor’s yard and you’re almost home, but the temperature hits eighty-five degrees. When you were sprier and younger, this wouldn’t have bothered you at all, but at twenty pounds, without your food and water bowl, you’re getting hot and tired. You lie down to rest a while, and since cats can’t sweat, you might even pant a little to cool yourself off.
You’re just about ready to leave, when a human with a gun strides into the yard and points it at you. Since you’re a pet cat and you’re not feral, you’re not afraid of humans, and of course you have no idea what a gun is. So you just lie there, not knowing you’re about to get shot in the head and die. What was your crime? You lay down and panted in a neighbor’s yard, in the city of Lebanon, Ohio, where policemen with no veterinary knowledge whatsoever can execute cats on sight just for looking sick.
This is what happened to Dori Stone’s cat, Haze, who went missing Friday, August 19, and was shot one day later by a police officer whose identity has been withheld. “He didn’t come home Friday night. And then we looked for him frantically yelling up and down the alley, the streets….nothing,” Stone told WKRC, a television station in nearby Cincinnati.
Saturday morning, a neighbor’s son-in-law saw Haze lying in her yard, thought the cat was sick, and called the police to report it. If he had instead called the Humane Association of Warren County, the local shelter and adoption center, Haze would still be alive today. According to WKRC, a police officer arrived a few minutes later. The neighbor describes what happened next. “I heard this pop. I said, ‘What’s that?’ My granddaughter says, ‘They killed the cat!’ ” The police officer had shot and killed a harmless, defenseless cat in someone’s backyard without their knowledge or consent.
According to the Dayton Daily News, Dori contacted the police Sunday, and they told her they had killed a cat on her block the day before. She found Haze, dead, in the neighbor’s trash. “We love our cats, do you know what it was like to pull your pet . . . out of the garbage bag and his head is bloody with a bullet hole in it?” says Stone. “It’s so violent that they did this to our animal and made no effort to call the humane society or find his owners.”
Lebanon Law Director Mark Yurick and City Manager Pat Clements both told the Daily News that they support the police officer. Yurick acknowledges that the Ohio Revised Code prohibits maliciously or willfully killing a domestic animal, but goes on to say, “There is no evidence this officer acted maliciously or willfully. The officer wasn’t doing anything other than attempting to put a sick animal out of it’s misery.” Clements says, “It appears that the officer’s actions were necessary and in compliance with departmental policies. There are currently no local or county agencies equipped to respond to sick or injured stray cats, and our options are limited.”
The Daily News further reports, “According to a police incident summary, the caller said the cat was a stray and that he was fearful the cat had rabies. The animal was panting, did not respond to the officer’s presence, and the officer felt the cat was suffering and in distress, according to the report summary. The police policy manual states that the animal will be destroyed where it is located if it is safe to do so and under no circumstances is an officer to transport the animal in a city vehicle.”
Stone says that Haze was well-groomed and obviously not a stray. He wasn’t wearing tags, but she had reported her missing cat to the Humane Association, who the police never contacted. According to WKRC, Stone and her husband “plan to lobby for changes in the police policy.” Hopefully, it will be in time to save the next supposedly sick, stray cat.
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