Police Officer Will Not Face Charges In the Shooting of Pet Cat

A North Catasauqua policeman will not face criminal charges in connection with shooting an injured cat he believed was a danger to the community, Northampton County’s district attorney said today, Monday.

District Attorney John Morganelli stated during a news conference that he decided after a lengthy investigation that Officer Leighton Pursell should not face any charges and instead receive a summary citation for cruelty to animals.

“It was a tough call,” Morganelli said of the incident which took place on Dec. “I did not find Officer Pursell acted with any malice or maliciously.”

However, the district attorney concluded that the animal should have not been killed without more of an effort to isolate the animal, and perhaps offer it veterinary care.

When the cat, Sugar, escaped out on Dec. 6, owner Tom Newhart got worried the cat could be injured and a neighbor who eventually found the cat on his property called police. Pursell responded to the call and reportedly found the cat several houses away at Mike Lienert’s property.

Sugar was hiding under a grill and, besides hissing at Pursell, showed no signs of some aggression, attorney Jenna Fliszar, who represented Newhart, had said. The officer poked and prodded Sugar but made no other effort to capture the cat or even to call for help from animal control, according to Fliszar.

Pursell shot Sugar in the neck, killing the animal instantly.

The shooting prompted an online petition with several thousand signatures for prosecutors to file animal cruelty charges against the officer, Morganelli said.

The 911 call from Lienert also described a cat who had been injured. The animal showed signs of mange, hair loss and was also bleeding from the back area, as well as walking with an “exaggerated limp,” Morganelli said.

“At this time, it was not known to the police officer that a domestic cat was missing in the jurisdiction,” Morganelli stated, noting the cat was not wearing any kind of a collar.

There also was a rabies concern back in December, with five cases that month and seven cases reported in November.

The North Catasauqua Police Department’s use of force policy allows an officer to discharge a firearm if an animal somehow “represents a threat to public safety” and as a “humanitarian measure when the animal is seriously injured,” Morganelli concluded.