Half-cat mutilation investigated in Lake of the Pines

Nevada County Sheriff?s Office says motive still a mystery
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The discovery in Lake of the Pines of a mutilated cat with a checkered ownership history has sparked an investigation by the Nevada County Sheriff?s Office. The half cat, including head and hollow chest cavity, was discovered March 24 by a Lake of the Pines resident in the roadway on Inverness Way, Sgt. Ray Kress said. Kress said the incident was an isolated one, with no other reports in the area of the same type of cat killing. He added that the sheriff?s office and Nevada County Animal Control could not speculate on a motive for the crime. Ruling out the teeth of a predator as the cause of the mutilation, Kress said the skin of the cat appeared to have been cleanly sliced with a sharp cutting instrument. Internal organs, including the heart, were removed, he said. The cat?s back half was missing and has not been recovered, he said. There were no bruises on the cat?s remaining head, leg and rib cage to indicate it had been struck by a car or been beaten in any way, Kress added. ?We?re looking at this as felony animal cruelty,? Kress said. ?We have a short list of persons of interest and are actively investigating.? An identifying microchip was discovered during examination of the partial corpse and Shirley Hartford, president of Friends Forever cat sanctuary was soon notified. For Hartford, the news of the horrific discovery of the cat she knew as Panda were bitter proof of the fear she had felt soon after it was adopted out to an Auburn-area woman in late October. Hartford said she made several attempts to have the cat returned to Friends Forever after she learned the feline had been given soon after to a relative of the woman ? and then, in turn, given to another relative. ?We screen adopters but I was surprised at this one,? Hartford said. ?I told her that was not acceptable.? Hartford said her own investigation led her to the second set of relations but those people coldly rebuffed her demands to give up the cat or go through the proper adoption screenings. Hartford said her calls were blocked, misleading phone numbers were given out by family members and she even hired an attorney to help with the dispute. On March 27, she was told by Nevada County Animal Control that Panda had been found on the road. Panda had been raised since she was a kitten by Hartford and adopted after five months in her care. The news of Panda?s death hit hard. ?It was one of the worst days in my life,? Hartford said. ?As I tried to have it returned, I had a nagging feeling it would end badly.? Like the Sheriff?s Office, Hartford said she can?t say what happened to Panda and why. ?I don?t know,? Hartford said. ?It could be someone?s doing it for the thrill of it. Or it could be some guy who?s just crazy.? Friends Forever has put up a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the perpetrator in the death of Panda. And Kress said anyone with information should contact the Nevada County Animal Control Division at (530) 273-2179.