Category: crime

These Men Need To Go To Prison For Siccing Their Dogs On A Cat Named Buddy

I took a pass on this story when I first saw it because there’s only so much senseless violence toward cats people can tolerate, and I don’t want people to feel like they’re going to be stressed out when they visit PITB.

Our primary goal here, after all, is to celebrate cats and have a laugh.

But this story is too infuriating to keep quiet about, and when I realized the victimized cat’s name is Buddy, I couldn’t ignore it.

Buddy, a black cat, was on his front porch in Philadelphia on Tuesday when two men passed by, let their dogs loose and ordered them to attack poor little guy.

The men cheered their dogs on with “Get him!” and “Good boy!”, and Buddy probably would have died there if his human didn’t hear the commotion and run outside to intervene.

The two suspects collected their dogs and ran off, while Buddy’s human rushed the injured kitty to the Pennsylvania SPCA, where he underwent surgery for life-threatening injuries.

“Buddy is still hanging in there,” the SPCA announced on Thursday. “He remains in critical condition, but we are cautiously optimistic.”

Buddy, who suffered bite wounds and other injuries over his entire body, was a stray who was cared for — but not fully adopted — by a Philadelphia family. The family told the SPCA that Buddy “didn’t want to live inside,” so after getting him neutered they let him stay on their porch and fed him daily.

“He has lots of puncture wounds,” the SPCA’s Gillian Kocker told KYW-TV, the local CBS affiliate. “They’re worried about infections, but mostly what they’re doing right now is making sure that he’s comfortable and has the medication he needs, especially pain meds.”

While Buddy is recovering and is under 24-7 monitoring, donors from around the world have chipped in, giving more than $30,000. Any money left over after veterinary costs will be used for “Buddy’s buddies,” the SPCA said, meaning other cats in their care.

If and when Buddy recovers, the SPCA said, he will be placed with another family. Meanwhile, the suspects could face felony charges for animal fighting and cruelty to animals if they’re caught, Kocher said. Let’s hope they are.

Anyone who recognizes the suspects should call the SPCA at 866-601-7722.

Montana’s Governor Killed A Mountain Lion In One Of The Cruelest Ways Imaginable

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has to go.

The so-called “avid hunter,” who once boasted of serving “mountain lion teriyaki, antelope chops wrapped in bacon, and elk tenderloin” to investment bankers visiting his home, apparently wanted to kill another puma so badly that he put the word out to fellow hunters.

On Dec. 28, one of those hunters caught sight of one of the large and elusive felids just a few miles outside of a protected area near Yellowstone. The hunter unleashed his hounds on the cat, who escaped up into a tree, and kept the dogs there for hours to prevent the puma from escaping while the Mighty Hunter Gianforte drove hours to the location, got out of his car and bravely shot the terrified animal at point blank range.

What Gianforte did was not hunting, according to retired physician, naturalist and outdoorsman E. Donnal Thomas Jr., a Montanan who is well known for writing about hunting and outdoor sports.

Driving to a place where quarry has already been trapped and shooting it is “the difference between a hunter and shooter,” Thomas told the Yellowstone Mountain Journal. “He didn’t hunt the lion and he didn’t have to hike for six hours to reach it. It sounds as if all he did was walk to the bottom of the tree, pull the trigger and kill it.”

Mountain lion in a tree
A mountain lion, also known as a puma and cougar, in a tree in Montana’s Little Belt Mountains. Credit: Forest Service Northern Region/Wikimedia Commons

The governor may have broken the law, and certainly violated ethical guidelines, by refusing to say anything about the “hunt” and having his press office ignore phone calls, emails and public records requests by journalists. That’s primarily the reason the story is breaking now, more than two months later: Journalists were finally able to track down people with firsthand knowledge of Gianforte’s “hunt” and corroborate the details with other people who were in the know.

Gianforte has had his share of hunting incidents in the past, including two incidents in which he broke the law, once for hunting an elk without a permit, and once for killing a wolf that was radio collared and actively tracked by scientists. (He was let off with a warning.)

In that incident, Gianforte killed the wolf after it ventured out of protected lands, as he did with the mountain lion, who was also wearing a tracking collar. The cat turned out to be a five-year-old male who was monitored by staff at Yellowstone park.

If you’re wondering why Gianforte’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he famously assaulted and body-slammed a Guardian reporter who made the mistake of doing his job and asking Gianforte — who was a congressional candidate at the time — about his healthcare policies.

“At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” wrote Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, who witnessed the assault. “Faith [Mangan, field producer], Keith [Railey, photographer] and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!'”

In an audio recording of the assault, an angry Gianforte screams “Get the hell out of here!” while the shocked reporter responds, “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses!”

Hunting mountain lions should not be legal. There is no such thing as “too many mountain lions,” even by arbitrary federal standards, as the animals are rare, elusive, not hostile to humans and rarely harm people unless cornered or their cubs have been threatened. There have been between 15 and two dozen fatal encounters with mountain lions in the last century. By contrast, dogs kill an estimated 25,000 people a year.

While we refrain from discussing politics or ideology on PITB, primarily because we want all readers to feel comfortable as regulars on the site and we believe politics shouldn’t poison everything, we agree with writer Abigail Weinberg’s assessment:

“Puma. Cougar. Mountain lion. There are many names for the big cats that roam the Americas, rarely attacking humans.

But there’s only one name that springs to mind for Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte: Asshole.”

Montana, you can do better.


All images from Wikimedia Commons.

Bring Your Cats Inside: Thieves Are Snatching Cats From Yards And Selling Them Online

A week after a brazen thief stole a Portland family’s cat off their front porch, a pair of cat thieves were caught on security footage snatching a cat from a residential street in the UK.

The latter is not an isolated incident. A group of amateur sleuths, comprised of people whose cats were stolen and others concerned about the spate of thefts, found several of the missing cats listed for sale on a UK pet classifieds site, Pets4Homes.co.uk.

The latest cat-napping happened in East Birmingham, where home security cameras captured footage of a man and a woman creeping along a residential street shortly before 4 am, armed with cat treats, milk and a plastic bin and quietly searching for neighborhood felines.

East Birmingham’s Charlene Jones told the UK Sun that she was woken up by her dogs, who alerted her to intruders on her property.

“I didn’t notice anything until the dogs started barking, and I looked out the window and caught them in the act,” Jones said. “It all happened around 20 to four in the morning, at this point she was just putting the cat into the bin. I opened the window and the cat escaped.”

Cat thieves
In this still from Jones’ security cameras, the cat thieves are seen with the treats, milk and plastic bin they were using to capture neighborhood kitties.

An angry Jones, whose own cat was stolen three weeks ago, confronted the thieves, who claimed they were working for a local animal welfare charity and were trapping strays.

“I went out and spoke to them and she started reeling off all these charity numbers and claiming she worked for them,” Jones said.

When Jones later reviewed the footage she recognized the cat, who belongs to a neighbor a few doors down the street.

“I feel angry,” Jones told the paper. “I have done my own research, she has been selling cats for eight months.”

Jodie Smith of Solihull, a town of about 123,000 about 18 miles from Birmingham, said her family’s cat, Arlo, was stolen in January. A friend later spotted Arlo on Pets4Homes, but the Smiths weren’t able to recover him.

“It’s awful, this is my daughter’s cat,” Smith said. “My daughter can’t go to bed with cuddles from her fur baby. She is absolutely gutted.”

Arlo the cat
Arlo was listed on Pets4Homes but the family was unable to recover him.

Pet thefts on both sides of the Atlantic have been on the rise since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As entire countries went into lockdown, demand for companion animals skyrocketed, leaving many shelters bare and breeders sold out.

Criminals saw an opportunity and began stealing pets, mostly dogs at first, from yards, homes and kennels, prompting the owner of one lost pet site to dub 2020 “the worst year ever” for dog thefts, according to the BBC.

With exotic cat breeds commanding large amounts of money on the open market, from a few hundred dollars for breeds like Persians to $20,000 for Savannah cats, opportunistic thieves began targeting felines as well. “Moggies,” cats of indeterminate origin or no particular breed, aren’t exempt either. Some may be stolen because thieves mistake them for exotics, while other thieves apparently find it worth their time to snatch cats that can net them $100 or more on sites like Craigslist and Pets4Homes.

In the UK, cat thefts have increased threefold within the last five years, a trend accelerated by the pandemic and the resulting scarcity of cats, especially those with breed pedigree. Police rarely recover the stolen pets, and authorities say some people are targeted after sharing photos and video of their pets online.

Stealing cats is especially easy in the UK, where the majority of people allow their cats to roam free outdoors and the idea of keeping cats strictly indoors is seen as cruel or improper, even though felis catus are domesticated animals and don’t have a “natural habitat.”

In the Portland case, no one has come forward with any solid information in the theft of Kiki the cat despite two relatively clear shots of the suspect’s face and extended footage of her approaching and taking the cat from the Autar family’s front porch on Feb. 20. Like the UK catnappings, the Portland suspect seemed motivated by profit: The family said their cameras also caught the woman checking for open car doors, and the way she grabbed and held the cat — holding him at arm’s length, dangerously carrying him by the scruff of his neck — indicated she saw him as an object, not a living creature.

Karina Autar told PITB on March 1 that her family hasn’t given up hope.

“We are all just getting by, we are coping by putting in all our energy [into finding] him,” she said.

Cat thief suspect
The thief was caught snatching KiKi off his family’s front porch on Feb. 20.

In the UK, Jones is not the only person to confront the cat thieves. Amy Buckley, 29, told The Sun that the woman seen in Jones’ footage also told her she was an employee of an animal welfare organization.

“She came to mine around January, claiming she worked for the PDSA and that they’d had a report about a large number of stray cats in the area,” Buckley told the paper.

She said she was immediately suspicious because PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) is a charity run by veterinarians that provides care, not TNR or general trapping services.

PDSA confirmed the woman does not work for the organization, while local police told the paper they had taken several reports from people whose cats had been stolen and were investigating the thefts. Meanwhile, an RSPCA spokesperson urged caretakers to have their cats microchipped.

In the meantime the victims are trying their best to locate their stolen furry family members, but they’re also angry at the pain the thieves have caused families and children.

“There are other families going through the same heartbreak,” Smith said. “For a lady to have some money in her pocket, she is destroying little children.”

Nubbins The Cat: Is It Ever Right To Steal A Kitty You Believe Has Been Abused Or Neglected?

Troy Farrell’s cat, Nubbins, has been missing since October.

Neighbors told the Sonoma man that a couple who rented an Airbnb two houses down the street had been asking about the nearly tailless tabby and had seemed fond of her. That was Farrell’s only lead, but the owner of the Airbnb rental wouldn’t tell him who rented the place at the time Nubbins vanished.

When I read about Nubbins my first thought was that she was probably snatched up by people who thought they were doing the right thing by “rescuing” a neglected cat.

It turns out that’s exactly what happened.

First a veterinarian from Long Beach, more than 400 miles away, called Farrell and told him Nubbins had been brought into the vet’s practice for a health checkup. When they scanned the kitty’s microchip, Farrell’s contact information came up.

Farrell says he thought his ordeal was over, but the veterinarian — citing obligation to the client — wouldn’t tell him who brought the cat in. Instead, the vet said she’d pass along Farrell’s contact information and ask the couple to return the cat.

When they didn’t return Nubbins, Farrell filed a police report with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, hired a private investigator and implored the local district attorney to look into the case.

“Those are evil people,” Farrell told an interviewer in late January. “Those are people without a conscience, those are people without a heart.”

He said he’s been lost without Nubbins.

“I don’t have kids. She’s my kid and she’s seen me through so many things. And they took her, and I want her back,” Farrell said. “The second I’d open that door or drive up the driveway or go out back … There’s Nubbins just in my lap.”

Nubbins and her kittens
Nubbins in Farrell’s home. Originally a stray who escaped California’s wild fires, Nubbins gave birth to a litter before Farrell had her spayed and chipped.

The ‘catnapper’ comes forward

Now there’s a new development in the case: A man has come forward and admitted he took Nubbins, describing her as a neglected street cat who had been left outside to fend for herself in the cold without access to food or water.

The man detailed the allegations in a letter to Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick, and he’s not hiding his identity or denying he took the cat without asking Farrell. He identified himself as James R. Wakefield, an attorney in private practice out of Irvine, California.

“[W]e were never going to let that cat get put back in the living condition she was in without a fight,” Wakefield wrote in the letter to the sheriff.

While vacationing at the Airbnb in California wine country, Wakefield encountered Nubbins, saying she was “obviously hungry” and “she scarfed down the food” the vacationing couple gave her. Wakefield said that when he asked the Airbnb’s owner about the cat, the man said she was a local stray who needed a home.

Describing him and his wife as “70-year-old catnappers,” Wakefield said they’d do “everything in our ability to protect” Nubbins.

Farrell disagrees. He said the stumped tail and damage to Nubbins’ lip were from her days as a stray, when she escaped California wildfires several years ago and wandered into Farrell’s neighborhood. He took her in, he said, and she’s been his cat since. Nubbins is allowed in and out of the home as she pleases, he said, and always returns after she’s had her day’s adventures.

Nubbins refuses to be an indoor cat, Farrell said, and is well known to neighbors on the block, who also feed her and look out for her. It’s not uncommon for outdoor cats to make small circuits around their neighborhoods, visiting friendly neighbors for snacks and scritches before heading home for the day.

“That cat lives so large it’s not even funny,” Farrell said. “That cat has so many houses, so many people, so many little girls to play with down the block.”

Nubbins the Cat: Lounging
Nubbins lounging outside. Her human, Troy Farrell, says the former stray likes to visit his neighbors every day.

That appears to be true: Farrell’s neighbors have backed up his story to the press, there are videos of the beloved cat hanging out in yards on the street, and one concerned neighbor even wrote a letter to the local newspaper imploring the police to get the situation sorted and return Nubbins to Sonoma.

The police have told Wakefield to return the cat to Farrell, while a spokesman for the district attorney told the Sonoma Index-Tribune that the DA is still reviewing the case. Like many other states, California considers pets as “property,” and authorities would have to determine if Nubbins is “worth” at least $950 to file criminal charges.

If Farrell can’t get Nubbins back via law enforcement his remaining recourse would be a civil trial, the newspaper noted.

Is it ever okay to steal someone’s pet?

This case raises some thorny questions. Farrell seems lost without his cat and has been clearly emotional in interviews with reporters as the saga of Nubbins has stretched on over the months. Meanwhile, I don’t think there’s any doubt Wakefield and his wife thought they were doing the right thing.

At least part of this standoff can be chalked up to misinformation and a lack of information: Matthew Knudsen, the man who rented the vacation home to the Wakefields, told them Nubbins was a stray who didn’t belong to anyone, according to Wakefield’s letter to the sheriff. Farrell said Knudsen owns and rents the house two doors down but doesn’t actually live in the neighborhood and doesn’t know how well Nubbins is cared for.

So from the Wakefields’ point of view, they thought they were rescuing a neglected cat and doing a good thing. At the same time, any cat servant should be able to empathize with the anguish another cat lover feels if their beloved feline goes missing or is stolen.

It’s easy to read the details and think maybe Farrell wasn’t doing right by his cat, and as readers of this blog know, I’m a strong advocate of keeping cats indoors for a long list of reasons, including myriad dangers to outdoor cats and the damage cats can do to local wildlife like birds, small mammals and lizards.

But I also know how easily people tend to toss out accusations of animal abuse and/or neglect. One reader was very upset with me when I posted a photo of Buddy with his paws stuck in the screen door that opens from the living room to the balcony. She strongly felt I was abusing Bud by allowing him to hang there for a few extra seconds while I snapped a few photos.

Context is important in that case too. Buddy loves to lounge on the balcony in the summer, and he’s gotten his claws stuck on that damn door more times than I can count. (The many claw marks on the screen attest to that.) When he gets stuck he cries pitifully until I drop whatever I’m doing, lift him gently off the ground so he can unhook his claws without hurting himself, and reassure him in a soothing voice that he’s okay. It’s the cat dad equivalent of putting a band aid on a scraped knee.

No matter how many times Buddy gets stuck, no matter how many times I tell him “No!” and try to discourage him from scratching the door, he won’t stop doing it. He’s even got a four-foot-tall, sturdy scratcher literally a foot away, just a step inside the door! Clearly he has alternatives.

Not only is Buddy incredibly stubborn, but the day I took the above photographs, he’d already gotten stuck twice — including 20 or 30 minutes prior.

So yeah, I took the photos. Does that make me an animal abuser or guilty of neglect?

That woman thought so. If she’d been in a position to take Buddy, maybe she would have.

At the very least, the saga of Nubbins provides another good reason to keep cats indoors, even if they’re former strays who like to go outside. (Easier said than done, I realize.) But I don’t think there are any bad guys here, just people who thought they were doing the right thing without complete information.

PITB readers: What’s your take on this story?

Pa. Man Charged With Felony For Running Over Cat With His Truck

A former councilman in rural Pennsylvia faces two animal abuse charges after trying to run down a group of cats — and hitting at least one — with his truck earlier this month.

Frank Pagani Jr. was charged with aggravated cruelty toward animals, a felony, as well as a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge, according to a story by Beaver County Times reporter Garret Roberts.

Neighbor William Bittner, who helps care for the neighborhood strays, captured the Dec. 1 incident on his home security camera. The clip (embedded below) shows Pagani’s truck speeding up on the residential street and swerving toward cats who were in the road before blowing through a stop sign. Pagani Jr. then made a left turn to a side street and pulled into his driveway a few hundred feet away.

The 31-year-old was behind the wheel of the truck and his father, Frank Pagani Sr., was in the passenger seat during the incident, according to the Times. The Paganis live in New Galilee, a town of 379 people in rural Pennsylvania about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh.

In this still from Bittner’s video, Pagani’s white pickup truck aims for a cat, circled, in the road. The cat hasn’t been seen since.

Bittner said last week that Pagani Jr. called him after he realized the incident was caught on video and said he’d resign his council seat.

“He thinks that’s the end of it,” Bittner said at the time. “You just can’t let an act like that go on without someone being charged.”

Bittner and his neighbors have been caring for the stray colony for years. In addition to feeding the strays, they’ve run a trap, neuter and return (TNR) program, fixing 28 cats, and have found homes for kittens who were born to the colony cats.

The Pagani family apparently panicked when they realized Bittner had captured the incident on video and posted it to Facebook. Per the Times:

“The police affidavit also details repeated phone calls were made to the homeowner who caught the incident on camera by Pagani, his father and his mother. Voicemails received by police detail the family asking for the video to be taken down.”

The video shows Pagani’s truck striking at least one of the cats, who immediately ran off with the other strays. It’s not clear how badly the cat was injured, and Bittner said “he’s not showing up” at regular feeding times.

“We’ve been searching and searching and we can’t find him,” he told WKDA, the local CBS affiliate.

Locals who reacted to the video on Facebook were horrified by the footage.

“I adopted one of those kittens,” one woman commented. “This breaks my heart.”