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When cats attack

Animal Cruelty

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The Flathead didn’t need another animal cruelty story.

This August, national news media picked up a story about a mob of Kalispell residents who found an escaped pet alligator in a local fishing pond.

The mob got the gator to swallow several fishing lures, shot it with an arrow and threw it ashore, where four men tied it up and tried to slit its throat.

Afterward, despite public outcry over the incident, Flathead County did not file animal cruelty charges. Montana law makes it illegal for anyone to knowingly beat, torment, torture, injure or kill an animal without justification, but county officials said the statute does not list alligators as animals.

Now, after an incident involving three men and a cat in late November, local citizens, joined by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on Dec. 11, are again asking the county to file animal cruelty charges.

According to reports from the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department and a county animal shelter, a stray cat got trapped in Sliters Ace Hardware in Bigfork for a week in November.

On Nov. 21, employees tried to catch the cat. After it scratched and bit two of them, store manager Tim Dalton attempted to catch it.

When the kitten scratched and bit him, Dalton struck it on the head with what Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont described to the Independent as a club, a board or a stick. Dupont didn’t know if Dalton approached the cat weapon in hand, or picked it up and used it after being bitten.

Either way, Dupont says, “The guy didn’t do it with any malice aforethought.”

Deputy County Attorney Tim Wenz, who looked into filing charges, agrees, noting Dalton had the cat brought to the shelter to try to get it help.

But the shelter’s report says an employee who brought the cat in thought it was already dead.

In fact it was alive, but bleeding from its nose and in shock. Ultimately, shelter employees euthanized the cat. Dalton did not return calls for comment.

As of now, the county does not plan to file charges.

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