County to pay medical costs for cat injured at shelter

Published 2:06 pm Friday, March 11, 2016

Rowan County government will pay for the cost of medical bills for a cat that was injured while in the care of animal control officers.

In an emailed statement, County Manager Aaron Church confirmed allegations that an animal control officer injured a cat named Cooper. He said county government would pay for the cost of medical bills. He declined to provide information about how the injury occurred until the state inspectors wrap up an investigation.

Debbie Orbison, who is fostering Cooper until surgeries are complete, alleged that the injuries occurred when an animal control officer was trying to place a microchip in the cat.

Church has also declined to provide the name of the officer who has been placed on administrative leave with pay until an investigation is complete.

“We ask that everyone give the state time to consider all the facts while conducting their investigation so that the truth can be reached,” Church said in an emailed statement. “Again, we regret that this occurred and we will continue to make every effort to treat all animals humanely as we improve our policies and the care that animals receive at our facility.”

A Facebook page created for the cat has resulted in hundreds of dollars in donations to pay for veterinary bills. Rowan County Commissioners also received a number of emails from animal advocates about Cooper’s injuries. First, the animal advocates posted email addresses for county commissioners on the Facebook page. Some also shared responses received from county commissioners.

One response from county commissioner Craig Pierce states, “Will you stop this chain letter. We have contacted the state to investigate this issue and your emails along with the other chain emails are not productive. We will do what is necessary to resolve this issue.”

In a phone interview, Pierce said he received a number of emails that were phrased identically.

Already angry about Cooper’s injuries, animal advocates further alleged Friday that animal control staff were euthanizing cats in response to outrage about Cooper’s injuries. South Carolina resident Christine Zois said animal advocates were en route to the Rowan County Animal Shelter when three cats were suddenly listed as “no longer available.”

Church said animal control officers euthanized a number of cats on Friday because the animals exhibited “excessive, aggressive behavior” toward staff.

Rowan County Animal Control Supervisor Clai Martin was not at the animal shelter on Friday, and did not return phone calls requesting a comment.

Church said Rowan County Animal Control is allowed to euthanize cats within three days if officers pick up the animal. An owner-surrendered animal can be euthanized on the day it is surrendered.

“Animal Control may refrain from adopting Feral Cats to rescues or individuals if the cats cannot be safely removed from their cages, vaccinated for rabies, or microchipped,” Church said in an emailed statment. “This does not mean that feral cats cannot be adopted. This means that if employees feel that the cat is a danger to them and/or the public they have the right to humanely euthanize the cat in accordance with all applicable state rules, regulations and laws thereby forfeiting the adoption.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246