PENNSYLVANIA – A district judge in Palmer Township has concluded that North Catasauqua police officer Leighton Pursell is not guilty of shooting and killing Sugar, the cat on Dec. 6 last year.
At a hearing early on Monday morning, Judge Jackie Taschner stated that while Pursell’s action in shooting the cat “was not right, it just wasn’t criminal.”
The charges against Pursell came about after he responded to a non-emergency call in his borough for a stray cat in someone’s backyard.
After arriving at the home, court records and testimony then showed that Pursell was determined the cat to be feral and possibly rabid.
He then informed the homeowner he would have to shoot it, and killed it with a bird-shot round from a .38 caliber pistol which his police department uses specifically for putting down animals.
The cat, however, belonged to a man named Tom Newhart, who explained Sugar had simply escaped his home and backyard and had been wandering through the neighborhood. Pursell stated he didn’t know the cat had an owner because it wasn’t wearing any identification tags. Had he originally suspected the cat had an owner, Pursell said, he would have tried to take it to a veterinarian or animal shelter rather than shooting it.
The animal cruelty charges against Pursell came after Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli conducted an investigation and determined that Pursell did not actually act maliciously when he shot the cat but that the evidence failed to show that the cat was seriously injured and that killing it was the only humanitarian option.
The killing of this particular cat also prompted an online petition calling for Pursell’s termination signed by more than 100,000 people. It even ended up drawing a crowd to a Borough Council meeting that called on authorities to investigate, and deluged investigators with emails, phone calls and letters from animal rights activists.