North Catasauqua, PA — A Pennsylvania cop who chose to shoot a man’s beloved pet cat, rather than bring it to a veterinarian for a health check, will not be charged with animal cruelty — despite the rather murky circumstances of the animal’s killing.
Tom Newhart and his wife rescued ‘Sugar’ at birth six years ago, but just over a week ago, the cat managed to slip out of their home.
“I found the cat sitting right here,” said neighbor Mike Lienert, according to local 69 News, who also noted the cat appeared to be injured. Lienert then called North Catasauqua Police to help.
“First thing at the door [Officer Leighton Purselle] said it’s not politically correct but if injured we will put it down,” Lienert explained. Purselle then proceeded to the backyard pool area to check on the injured animal.
But Purselle, according to Lienart, didn’t bother to give the cat much of a chance, apart from some ‘poking and prodding’ it — and didn’t try to catch Sugar. Apart from simply hissing, the cat wasn’t aggressive in any way, Lienart noted. Nonetheless, Purselle shot Sugar — and told Lienart he’d have to clean up the mess.
A number of questions about the incident have surfaced as outraged local residents wonder if Purselle could have done more to save Sugar — and if Lienart’s original report the cat was injured, were true. So Newhart asked his vet to perform an exam of Sugar, after recovering the cat’s body from his neighbor’s pool area.
“No lacerations, no blood, other than neck wound on body,” Newhart read from his vet’s report.
Newhart originally called for Purselle to be fired and for the police chief to step down over the shady incident.
But Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli stated in a press conference Monday, “In this particular case, I do not find the officer acted maliciously. I believe he made a judgment call that not many folks will agree with, and I think perhaps the officer could have extended other efforts to capture the cat.”
According to Morganelli, and at least somewhat contradictory to the vet’s report, Purselle claimed Sugar “showed signs of mange, hair loss, [and was] bleeding from an injury on [its] back area.”
Newhart, through his attorney, Jenna Fliszar, originally requested an investigation into the shooting death of his beloved family pet.
According to 69 News, seven people were interviewed during the course of Morganelli’s investigation, but their recollections differed.
“Stories changed pretty rapidly once this gained some attention,” Fliszar said. “So it’s hard to tell who’s telling the truth or what the actual facts are.”
Purselle will not be charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty but did receive an animal cruelty citation “which basically indicates you cannot ill-treat an animal by failure to provide veterinary care,” Morganelli explained — adding, “I [think] that is what his failure was.”
Newhart is heartbroken and much of the community, furious.
“By the time he realized she had gotten out, she was already dead,” Fliszar noted of how quickly Sugar had been killed by a cop.
“Where was the effort made to help?” Newhart lamented. “Here they are to serve and protect, not be judge, jury, and executioner on someone’s lost cat?”