Cumberland Times-News

Local News

July 13, 2011

Constitution Park cats ‘tortured’

CUMBERLAND — About 20 cats at Constitution Park recently were “tortured” by an intentionally-set poison that led to an excruciating death for the animals, said Dick DeVore, the county’s emergency management division chief, who also oversees the county’s animal control operations.

The poison may have been some sort of acid or corrosive, since it “melted” the paper plates used to place the poison out for the cats to the sidewalk, said Peter Masloch, a concerned citizen who has helped monitor cat feeding stations at the park.

“Whatever the substance was, it led to a very painful death,” said county shelter manager Karl Brubaker. The poisoning has reduced the population of a cat colony at the park down to eight animals.

 The county plans to “proceed with prosecution” because “animal cruelty will not be tolerated,” DeVore said.

DeVore said he couldn’t comment on whether there is a suspect in the case or other details of the investigation because it isn’t complete yet. There isn’t enough evidence yet to bring charges, DeVore said during a meeting of the Allegany County Animal Control Board on Wednesday at the county public safety building.

“I think it’s horrific that anyone would do this, and animal cruelty is a violation of the law,” Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim said after he heard the first reports of the poisonings.

Cumberland resident Kenneth Wilmot asked whether he could obtain a copy of the investigation report. DeVore said a report wasn’t available because the investigation is still under way.

Along with an update on the poisoning case, DeVore also said he wanted to clear up some misconceptions about a trap, neuter and release program which could take place at the park. He said he’s still waiting for changes to certain city ordinances and a formal OK from the city before embarking on the program. Only one cat was trapped so far, on an experimental basis, while the county had a neutering clinic available.

DeVore’s attempt to clear up misconceptions led to a lively back-and-forth with Wilmot and former animal control officer Gay Cole. Cole and Wilmot thought that the program wouldn’t work or wasn’t authorized under the law.

Some of Wilmot’s statements about the cats in Constitution Park and other issues brought laughter and heckling from some of the 20 people in the audience.

At times, the meeting degenerated into two or three people interrupting one another or talking over one another until board chairwoman Peggy McDaniel stepped in.

“Doing the same old thing will bring the same results,” DeVore said, after stating that thousands of cats had been euthanized at the shelter over the past 10 years.

“Yet you are telling us there’s still a problem,” DeVore said.  A new policy ending euthanization of animals for space reasons was instituted last year. A trap, neuter and release program deserved a chance to work, he said.

“We have to be open to new things,” DeVore said.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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