Cat killings prompt concern in Chesco

Is there a serial cat killer or killers on the loose in western Chester County?

As my colleague Kathleen Brady Shea reports in today's Inquirer, three disturbing incidents involving cat deaths within the last six weeks have compelled the Chester County SPCA to issue a warning: Keep your felines inside.

CCSPCA spokesman Rich Britton said a trio of "very troubling, heinous" deaths, especially so close to Halloween, had prompted the directive; however, he said the agency always advocates keeping cats inside so they will live significantly healthier, longer lives.

[A good time to reiterate the warning: don't let cats roam, particularly black cats who are sadly preyed upon by animal abusers around Halloween]

"If anyone brags about being a cat killer, we want to hear about it," Britton said.

Becky Turnbull, the agency's animal protective services coordinator, said research had shown that the kind of person who abuses animals often escalates to injuring people.

[A reason many states - though not Pennsylvania - have laws to include pets in restraining orders involving domestic partners. See my colleague Emily Brill's interesting story that ran in the Inqurier earlier this month about a similar bill under consideration in New Jersey. A Utah State University study published in 1998 found that abusers had threatened or attacked pets belonging to 70 to 75 percent of women who reported domestic violence.]

Here's what happened in Chester County according to Shea's report:

Last month, four kittens and two cats, several of which had been mutilated, were found on the property of an East Fallowfield couple who had been caring for the animals.

A few weeks later, an East Pikeland Township couple called police after finding one of their cats dead, the second one in a week. Britton said the residents assumed the first cat was a victim of hunters and had been hit with a bow and arrow; however, no arrow was recovered.

Less than a week later, the couple found a second dead cat, this one with facial trauma. A necropsy proved inconclusive on the cause of death, Britton said, adding that the cat also had internal injuries. He said it was possible a car hit the cat but that it was suspicious that two cats died in a week on the same property.

On Sunday, a male cat was found dead at a home in North Coventry Township, where a resident had been caring for two cats and three kittens, Britton said.

The cat appeared to be a victim of a bow and arrow, Britton said, adding that cat fur was found on an arrow nearby. But officials are concerned about the mother cat and her three babies, who remain missing, he said.

Turnbull said the three incidents did not appear related; however, nothing is being ruled out. She said the agency was following up on leads but no suspect had been identified.

Crimes against animals carry a minimum penalty of a $1,000 fine and a maximum of two years in prison, Britton said. Anyone with information is asked to call 610-692-6113, Ext. 213. Callers may remain anonymous.