Although this petition garnered more than 213,000 signatures, it was not enough to convince a District Attorney in Pennsylvania to pursue criminal charges against the officer who blew away Sugar, a family’s six-year-old, eight-pound Domestic Short-haired cat. According to Monday’s PINAC, and reported here in a previous story, in December 2015, Officer Leighton Pursell gunned down the orange tabby, who was sitting poolside on a neighbor’s property, after she reportedly hissed at him. The neighbor had called 911 when he found the cat on his property; the cat appeared to be slightly injured and the homeowner, unable to contain her, requested assistance. After he arrived on scene and shot her, Pursell then tossed her body in a dumpster, and left the property. The officer’s actions, followed by what amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the court system, have further angered animal advocates and Sugar’s family.
When the 18-page report on the case was produced by Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli on May 2, his investigation indicated that the North Catasauqua officer didn’t act maliciously when he shot the cat December 5, and found he should only be cited for animal cruelty. Officer Pursell claimed the cat was dragging its hind legs and leaving a trail of blood, so he pulled out his .38 caliber revolver and shot her, believing he was acting humanely. However, this testimony goes against the evidence presented in the case, which failed to show that the cat was seriously injured. A post-mortem showed no trauma other than fragments of the bullet that killed her.
After she was killed, the incensed family created this Facebook page entitled “Justice for Sugar”, where followers frequently posted updates to the case. Sugar was an indoor cat, who escaped her home without her collar, and the owner does take responsibility for that. The attorney for the family said that the District Attorney’s statement that Sugar had mange and hair loss was also absolutely untrue, based on the same veterinarian’s report. The family is still pursuing other actions to hold Officer Pursell accountable for killing Sugar. This statement from DA Morganelli may support the family’s claim that further legal action is indicated:
“I cannot conclude that (Sugar) should have been summarily killed without more of an effort to isolate the animal and, perhaps, obtain veterinary care.”
Officer Pursell’s attorney is fighting to get the single animal cruelty charge dismissed, claiming his client ‘acted appropriately after encountering an injured and apparently feral cat’; further, that ‘(Pursell) viewed the animal as a threat to public safety.’ The owner is disappointed by the decision, stating, ‘my pets are like my kids. I just want this officer disciplined for what he did to Sugar.’ The petition is still open for signatures; Officer Pursell remains on the force. It is unknown if any training will be offered to officers regarding future interactions with animals while on the job, though classes through organizations such as CELET have been available across the country since 2005.