Case Snapshot
Case ID: 18634
Classification: Shooting, Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: cat
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Sunday, Sep 11, 2011

County: Washington

Disposition: Open

Suspect(s) Unknown - We need your help!

Animal Control Officer Thomas Gulluscio is looking for help in solving an animal cruelty case. He'd also like to find an adoptive family for two kittens on the mend.

The two kittens were found abandoned at the Black Magic Car Care Center on John Street on Sept. 11. At the VCA Turco Animal Hospital, the oddly behaving, blind and feverish kittens were examined, and veterinarians discovered that each kitten had a single BB in its skull.

"They'd each been shot by a BB gun," said Doreen LaPorte, hospital manager.

The projectiles were tiny, LaPorte said, and penetrated the skull bone but did not break through into the cranial vault, the area that holds the brain.

"They're lucky," said LaPorte.

Removing the BBs could be problematic and cause more skull damage, she noted, so the metal balls were left in place.

With care and treatment from the animal hospital staff, the kittens have recovered. They get a little bit stronger every day, LaPorte said, and about half of their vision has returned.

"They're running around like crazy," she said, and they're also "cute as a button."

The kittens, one male and one female, have bonded with each other and are likely littermates, LaPorte said. They're about 10 weeks old now. One has no neurological symptoms at all anymore, while the other is still walking around with a head tilt. That symptom will likely disappear as the kittens continue to grow stronger, she predicted.

After their two-week convalescence in the hospital, the kittens will return to the shelter sometime today. The family that adopts them can also receive the X-rays showing the BBs lodged in their skulls, said LaPorte.

Because they're used to the confines of the hospital, LaPorte suggested that the kittens be confined to one room of their new home initially, and have a gradual introduction to other areas before they're allowed to have free run in the house.

Finding an adoptive family will probably be easier than finding the person or people responsible for shooting the kittens.

"I'm asking the public for assistance," Gulluscio said.

The veteran animal control officer had no answers when asked why someone shot the kittens; he said it's hard for him to think like a "monster."

"My God, who can stand there and shoot an innocent (8-week-old) kitten in the head?" he asked.

His best guess was that someone didn't want the kittens, tried to kill them, then left them for dead.

"It's the only thing I can think of," he said.

LaPorte said she assumed the culprit was a child or a teenager.

"I'd hate to think that some adult could do that," she offered.

Westerly police officers will be assisting Gulluscio with the investigation, said interim police Chief Edward St. Clair.

"It is something we take seriously," St. Clair said.

Once caught, the culprit will face animal cruelty charges, said Gulluscio.

One Rhode Island state statute requires that anyone guilty of torturing an animal or causing it to suffer is subject to a jail sentence of up to 11 months and a fine between $50 and $500. Another statute offers the identical punishment for anyone who maims and then abandons an animal. A third statute states that maliciously killing or wounding an animal warrants up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, in addition to 10 hours of community service.

The culprit may also face weapons charges, according to St. Clair. If the shooter was a minor, he or she is only allowed to use a firearm under specific, supervised situations, he said, and if the BB gun was fired in the John Street neighborhood, there could also be charges for firing in a compact area.

In addition to finding the guilty party, Gulluscio would also like people to know that if they need to get rid of a cat or dog, they can bring it to the shelter.

"If you know someone looking to get rid of an animal, there are humane ways to do it," he said.

To adopt the unnamed kittens, contact the animal shelter at 401-584-7941.


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