Cats Poisoned, Groups Claim
A local animal advocacy group says that at least 43 cats and one dog have been maliciously poisoned and killed in Pinehurst over the past several weeks.
Dozens of cats have mysteriously died in the Village Acres subdivision in Pinehurst, according to Maureen Burke-Horansky with Animal Advocates of Moore County.
She said in a telephone interview with The Pilot that someone is throwing balls of meat laced with rat poison, antifreeze or some toxic substance into residents' yards. The ingestion of the substances results in a sudden and painful death for the animals, she said.
Moore County Animal Control and the Pinehurst Police Department say they have little information to confirm the reports.
Burke-Horansky said her organization has received numerous phone calls from distressed pet owners about these incidents.
"The first we heard about it was July 8," Burke-Horansky said, adding she has contacted numerous media outlets about the cases. "We have to let people know how to protect their pets."
She said treatment for the animals can cost more than $700.
While one Labrador retriever died as a result of poisoning and a few dogs have fallen ill, Horansky believes the attacks are targeted specifically at cats. She expressed her concerns about other individuals mimicking the Village Acres attacks.
She also believes that while the majority of deaths have occurred within Village Acres, the trend is starting to spread to other areas of the county.
Susie Hatcher, a Pinehurst resident, was the first reported victim, according to Burke-Horansky. She has two cats.
Hatcher said in a phone interview with The Pilot that on June 16 one of her cats became ill and recovered, while the other has disappeared. Hatcher said the veterinarian who treated the surviving cat believed it had ingested rat poison. Hatcher said the cats seldom went outside, and she is convinced the missing cat is dead.
"It's very upsetting," she said.
Hatcher said she contacted Animal Advocates and filed a report with the Pinehurst Police Department. In addition to her cats, Hatcher said three dogs became ill on her street.
One of them, the Labrador, had to be euthanized. She said several neighbor cats have also gone missing.
Capt. Floyd Thom-as of Pinehurst Police Department said that Hatcher's report was the only one he had received.
"We've had one report back on June 16 but nothing else since then," Thomas said.
WTVD-TV reported in a story broadcast Thursday that the Pinehurst Police Department had stepped up patrols in the Village Acres neighborhood in response to the attack, but Thomas said he had not been in contact with that station.
"I have not talked to anyone from Channel 11," he said.
Thomas said patrols in Village Acres were increased after Hatcher filed a report, but the Department cannot maintain those patrols for long periods of time.
Moore County Animal Control has received only sketchy details about the poisonings, ac-cording to Director Al Carter. He said he knew of one cat that had died and another that was poisoned but recovered. He said that his organization takes matters like this "very seriously," but that there were no suspects. He went on to say that any criminal investigations would be the Police Department's responsibility.
Carter said it is important that necropsies -- the animal equivalent to autopsies -- be conducted to determine the exact cause of death.
Bryant Voss, an Animal Control officer who patrols the Pinehurst area, said Burke-Horansky contacted him about the poisonings. Voss said he cannot determine exactly what is happening from the reports he has heard.
"[It is reported] it may have been rat poisoning," Voss said. "But there's nothing confirmed that says it was actually poison."
Voss said because older cats go into hiding when they are about to die, it is difficult to discern what happened to them. He noted that he has not seen any suspicious persons around the neighborhood on his patrols.
Burke-Horansky contends while the older cats do hide, she and her organization have found numerous dead bodies of young cats in the area. They have also had at least one younger cat die in their possession, according the WTVD report. She said individuals had discovered the balls of poisoned food strewn about the yard.
The Pilot contacted several local veterinarians. Many were unaware of the specifics of the poisoning cases.
One animal hospital reported that it has received a cat that someone thought had been poisoned, but a representative said it had no problems and was spayed or neutered without incident.
Another veterinary clinic reported that it received two cats that might have been poisoned but could not confirm it.
Dr. Jack Broadhurst, a veterinarian who specializes in cat health, said he has not seen one cat that has been poisoned. He said that if the poisonings were as widespread as reported, he probably would have heard about them.
Until someone is apprehended, Burke-Horansky recommends that pet owners keep their animals indoors. When they do need to go outside, they should be monitored closely to ensure they do not eat anything, she added.
Contact John Krahnert at 693-2473 or by e-mail at jkrahnert@ thepilot.com.
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