State: Shelter employees didn’t break law when injuring cat

Published 12:05 pm Monday, March 21, 2016

The NC Department of Agriculture has cleared Rowan County employees of wrongdoing in an incident where a cat’s jaw was broken.

Rowan County animal control officers on March 8 broke the jaw of a cat named Cooper. The incident occurred while officers were placing a microchip in Cooper. The cat received multiple surgeries, which Rowan County government has committed to pay for.

Now, state investigators have released results of a report into the incident. Investigators from the Department of Agriculture found the cat’s fractured jaw to be consistent with an accidental injury. Following the incident, the cat was provided access to veterinary care within 30 minutes of his injury, according to the report.

The investigation was conducted by Dr. Patricia Norris, director of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Section.

“The findings of this investigation do not substantiate a violation of the NC Animal Welfare Act,” County Manager Aaron Church said in an email. “We appreciate Dr. Norris’ thorough review and we are glad due process was followed.”

Church said the animal control officer responsible for the cat’s injuries remains on paid, administrative leave. Church said he would make a decision on the officer’s future later this week.

Although Rowan County’s employees didn’t violate any laws, Cooper’s injuries have resulted in fiery anger from local animal advocates.

A petition on with more than 4,500 signatures calls for Animal Shelter Director Clai Martin to be fired. A Facebook page calling for Martin to be fired has also been created.

Cooper’s injuries are the first reason listed on the petition for Martin to be fired. Others items listed as reasons include: photos of a dog being dragged by an animal control officer, shelter leadership refusing to implement a volunteer program and the length of time animals are allotted before being euthanized.

Throughout controversy, Church has stressed that county employees are following state law.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246