So much for nine lives
This sad story happened at Sebastopol, California, P.D. in the late 1980s. You know, back when you could still shoot a suffering domesticated animal. Here’s why, now, you can’t.
One night my buddy Scott saw a barely hobbling cat. He was dragging a dead leg and “really messed up.” Scott figured it had been hit by a car and was suffering badly. He decided to euthanize it. He caught it and drove it to the city yard. By policy, because shooting could be heard in town, it was preferable to club these things to death. Scott got kitty out and took a swipe at its head. By now, the cat had gotten wise, and with a Mike Tyson-like head bob, only took a glancing blow. With Scott in foot pursuit, she darted away. Scott swung madly. Several solid body blows were met by shrill cat screams. But still, she wouldn’t give up the ghost.
Scott’s heart sunk. He had only hoped to end suffering, not multiply it. He decided to ditch his baton and just whack the cat with his sidearm. He center-punched its head with his .40 cal and, following policy, tossed it in the dumpster. He finished his shift and went on his three-day weekend.
Two days later, city workers heard some strange noises coming out of the dumpster. Investigating, they found a bloody, severely injured kitty cat clinging to life. Gently grabbing her, they drove Code 3 to the nearest veterinarian. The shocked vet observed a grievous bullet wound to the cat’s head and multiple serious blunt trauma injuries about the torso. Dismayed, he called the police department and reported that “some sadistic maniac” was shooting and beating cats.
Later the same day, a woman called the police department to report that, uncharacteristically, her favorite cat had been missing for two days. It was black and white. Being a small town, the dispatcher knew that city staff had taken a black-and-white cat to the vet, so she informed the woman thusly.
After hanging up, the dispatcher recalled that Scott had dispatched a cat at the city yard. She called Scott at home and asked him if, by any chance, his cat was black and white. “Indeed it was,” replied Scott. “Well, maintenance workers found a badly injured black-and-white cat at the yard, and they took it to the vet,” she replied. “It’s clinging to life.” Scott responded with a laugh, “Weird coincidence, but don’t worry, that cat’s dead.”
Not much later, the vet called back and told the dispatcher that besides being shot and beaten, the cat was extremely dehydrated. She thought, “Yeah, that’s because he’s been in a hot dumpster for two days.” The dispatcher disclosed to the vet what she feared may have happened. “What in the hell is wrong with your officer? Shooting a cat and leaving it to suffer? I’m working like hell to save her!”
Seeing things worsening, the dispatcher handed things over to a lieutenant. He called the veterinarian, only to learn that the lady with the missing cat was indeed the owner. “How’s the cat doing?” he asked. “The cat died!” gushed the vet. “I tried my best to save her!”
Scott returned from his days off and, shown a photo of the cat that was at the hospital, was incredulous. “That cat was dead!” he insisted. Nonetheless, he assured everyone that he had no choice. “That cat was messed up, it must have been hit by a car.”
The next day, the lady who owned the cat called Scott. “I understand that you’re the one who shot my cat and left it in a dumpster to suffer. How could you?” Scott felt terrible and apologized profusely. But, he assured her that the cat was injured, suffering terribly, and he had no choice. “It was dragging a dead leg and could barely move,” he said. The woman replied, “Oh my god! Do you know who I am? I’m well known in Sebastopol as the cat lady. I own dozens of cats with birth defects, disabilities and handicaps. People give them to me to care for them. That cat’s back leg was paralyzed from birth. She was a wonderful creature and just fine!” Scott’s reply? “Oops, I’m sorry, ma’am.”
This episode blew up the local newspaper for weeks. Many people wrote in, blasting poor Scott and the P.D. for their unspeakable cruelty. It’s most likely why, decades later, law enforcement agencies have policies that prohibit euthanizing domesticated animals. So much for nine lives!
— Brett Gripe
Novato (California) P.D., ret.
As seen in the June 2021 issue of American Police Beat magazine.
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