Update: Medical Examiner believes the cats in this case were killed by an animal. Read more about crimes like these in my next article here:
PETA and Alley Cat Allies are offering a combined cash reward of $5750 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the deaths of two confirmed cats, and a third whose death looks suspicious in Lakeland, FL. Two additional cats are reported missing. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-8477 or the Lakeland Police Department at 863-834-6900.
“This is a shocking and disturbing case of animal cruelty, and whoever is responsible needs to be found,” says Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies. “Intentionally killing a cat—pet, stray or feral—is against the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”
The first cat was discovered on March 5, 2014. A homeowner discovered his cat mutilated in his front yard.
“There was no hair, there was no blood, there were no guts,” Lea Ellen DeWitt said. “It was just the front half of the cat.”
Losing a beloved pet is heart-wrenching, but to discover it dead the way DeWitt’s husband did was terrifying.
“He found the front half of the cat, only the front half of the cat,” she said.
Following that discovery, the remains of a second cat were found in the front yard of another home. The cat had a large hole in it's body. The third, most recent victim was found on April 23, 2014.
A veterinarian has confirmed that the injuries of the first cat were consistent with a knife. The cat was cut in half behind the front legs, with additional evident mutilation. The most recent cat’s injuries are yet to be attributed to a weapon, but it is assumed the injuries were inflicted by a person.
There may be more missing cats out there in the area. A suspect has yet to be identified.
PETA Director Martin Mersereau urges, "anyone with any information to come forward now, before anyone else gets hurt. Families must also take care to keep their cats indoors—and if you see a cat roaming freely, do everything you can to get him or her to safety. You may be saving a life."
Lakeland community neighbors are scared and disgusted, and for good reason. Psychiatric and criminological research has established a relationship between cruelty to animals and a host of other violent behaviors towards people—animal cruelty must be taken seriously. Cats are now the number one pet in America, with over 82 million cats in homes, but caring for cats extends beyond pets. According to Alley Cat Allies’ research, 25 percent of Americans have fed an outdoor cat.
“No matter where a cat lives—indoors or outdoors—they are cared about and valued,” says Robinson. “There is something inherently American about loving cats and wanting to protect them. The fact that people are actively spaying or neutering and vaccinating their cats is evidence that we are an animal loving society.”
Research shows that over 80 percent of cats in homes are neutered, and many cities have started Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs to spay or neuter and vaccinate outdoor cats. Trap-Neuter-Return is an established, mainstream program designed to care for community cats and keep them out of shelters. Over 430 cities and counties endorse TNR as policy for community cats. Nationally there are over 600 nonprofits dedicated to the care of stray and feral cats, and millions of people who care for outdoor cats daily.
If you're in the Central Florida area, and you'd like to learn more about TNR, CARE Feline TNR is one of the largest. Here's their website: http://carefelinetnr.org/