In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a dog person. Always have been. Their general goofy good naturedness makes most of them great family pets and a lot of fun. Some do important duty like shepherding, retrieving, guard detail or service work that makes them not only lovable but mighty handy to have around, too. And then there are the felines. Cats are OK, but they can be filling. And their inscrutable, imperious nature can be off-putting, especially to the more canine-inclined among us. But while I may find their appeal baffling, plenty of people can look past the hair balls and strange diseases and see the better aspects of their personalities. Somehow. And while I wouldn’t have one as a pet, I sure wouldn’t want to see anyone’s Mr. Mittens put down with a bullet for the crime of laying in a neighbor’s yard.
That’s basically what happened to a wayward kitty named Haze who’d gotten away from its owner. When the cat turned up in the yard of a neighbor, it had been out in the wilds of suburbia for a day without food or water and was panting in the 85-degree heat. That’s when the Lebanon, Ohio police were called.
An officer found the cat lying in the sun, panting. He assumed it was sick or injured. That’s when he decided to put it out of it’s ‘misery’ with a bullet to the head.
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.”
Well, as long as it’s in the policy manual…. The locals haven’t released the officer’s name, no doubt to spare him the fun of the ASPCA folks marching outside his house.
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 [sic] 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.”
It’s possible the responding officer knows an awful lot about cats, but diagnosing a reclining panting tabby would seem to be problematic for a typical beat cop. Or most anyone else short of a vet. I guess placing a call to the local Humane Society branch in Lebanon wasn’t one of those limited options.
Look, being a cop definitely isn’t easy. You’re never going to please everyone no matter what you do. But if an animal isn’t aggressive, foaming at the mouth or an obvious threat to anyone, it’s hard to see how committing kitticide is better than calling a local shelter. So given the local rules of wildlife engagement, if you live in Lebanon double-check that gate latch or Fluffy may end up sleeping with the fishes.