A stray cat is recovering after being shot by a police officer for suspicion of rabies, The Portland Press Herald reported September 4. Is this an overreaction or a sensible precaution? Similar events have happened before. Also see: police killing cats.
Clark (named after Clark Kent, Superman’s alter ego) was shot August 20 by a Gorham (Maine) Police officer after he was suspected of having rabies. Clark had bitten or scratched a 7-year-old girl on Maple Ridge Road. The girl’s father reported the cat walked with a limp, and he “believed” Clark was rabid.
Clark didn’t like being captured, and allegedly attempted to bite an animal control officer during an unsuccessful attempt to trap him. Clark was shot by Gorham Police with a 16-gauze shotgun, after the decision was made between the officer and animal control that the best way to stop the threat of rabies was to kill the cat. Clark disappeared into the woods.
A thorough search was conducted, with no sign of the injured cat. Each day of searching showed no sign of the injured cat. The police officer who shot Clark thought he’d missed his target. Four days later, Clark was captured when he showed up in the yard of Debbie Webb, who had been feeding the cat for three years.
According to Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, state law requires the capture of a suspected rabid animal. Once caught, the animal must be taken to a vet or animal shelter for observation.
Now recovering at a Westbrook shelter, Clark has been declared rabies free. Everyone is hoping he can recovere from the injuries without surgery. The pellets shattered one bone in each of his front paws. The police department is paying for treatment, and an orthopedic surgeon is monitoring Clark. So far the cat is adjusting well to living indoors.
The vet believes Clark to be between 5 and 8 years old, and describe the friendly cat as a “love bug.”
Lt. Chris Sanborn said the police officer and the animal control officer remain on active duty, pending an investigation. Their names aren’t being released at this time. Sanborn says his officers followed state protocol in their attempt to trap a possibly rabid cat. He said he wasn’t sure what the protocol is when the cat can’t be captured.
Jeana Roth, community relations manager for the shelter stated
“This is not a typical way for a cat to be brought to us. We never want to see a situation like this again.”
Humane Society of the United States senior law enforcement officer Eric Sakach, said he has never in his 38-year career heard of a situation in which a police officer shot a domestic cat suspected of having rabies.
Debbie is concerned about her stray kitty, and finds it difficult to believe police would hunt down and shoot such a sweet cat in a yard where he felt safe. When hearing Clark had been shot then captured, she was terrified he would be euthanized.
Rabies is rare in Maine. There have only been eight confirmed cases in cats since January 2010. Residents are cautioned against feeding stray animals of any kind.
No word yet on whether Debbie will officially adopt Clark and turn him into an inside cat, but we can all hope she cares enough to do that for this sweet boy.