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'Baby' cat survives shooting

| Thursday, June 26, 2008

Terri Ludwig cannot understand how someone could be cruel enough to shoot her cat. Baby, 18 months old, is one of six rescued cats and two rescued dogs who are part of her family. The cats are all neutered or spayed and allowed outside during the day but spend nights inside her Dawson home.

On Sunday, Baby came home seriously injured with a bullet wound near his left shoulder. The bullet exited under his chin.

The damage was so severe that Dr. Curtis Geary of Lemont Furnace, near Uniontown, had to amputate the cat's entire leg.

"We love our animals, we take care of our animals, and someone comes and shoots them," Ludwig said. She said other cats have disappeared through the years, "but this was the first shooting."

She does not believe the shooting was accidental.

"It was too good a shot," she said. "If the bone hadn't stopped the bullet, he would have died."

Geary said the shot could have killed Baby.

"The humerus, the top bone of the front leg, was completely shattered," he said. "The bone changed the bullet's path. It was headed to the jugular vein."

Geary said the bullet was likely a .22-caliber, shot from a rifle.

"I know it was not a pellet or buckshot," he said. "The damage would have been greater with a larger bullet."

Geary said Baby will be able to live a full life with three legs. "The only concern is infection," he added.

Right now, the wound is clean and Baby's stitches will be removed in about two weeks, Ludwig said. "He's never going out again."

Baby's surgery cost nearly $800. Ludwig has not yet called police, but will likely file a report for animal cruelty. She said a friend down the street, whom she did not name, had a cat who was shot in the head about two months ago. That cat also survived.

"They have such a strong will to live," Ludwig said.

Geary said he has not recently treated any cats in the Connellsville or Dawson areas except Ludwig's, but has treated several from the Uniontown area. "Counting both cats and dogs, I treat two to three shot animals a month, year round."

Whoever shoots a dog or a cat has committed a second-degree misdemeanor under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code concerning cruelty to animals. The code allows for fines of at least $500 for "killing, maiming, mutilating, torturing or disfiguring any dog or cat whether belonging to himself or otherwise." A subsequent conviction becomes a third-degree felony, which increases the fines and includes possible jail time.

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