This Has to Stop: Utah Cat Set on Fire Sparks Manhunt for Abuser

Although cats act like they are the bosses in our home, we love them to bits, and they make our lives much more fulfilling thanks to their antics. Every living thing wants to be loved, and it is, therefore, saddening to learn how inhumane some people are to the extent of setting a poor cat on fire for fun.A Utah cat set on fire and sparking a manhunt for the abuser is a story that has resulted in people wondering if some humans have gone insane. What makes it sadder is that the culprits are yet to be apprehended. Here is Sterling’s heartbreaking story, and other similar reports that show how cruel people can be.

Lucky to be alive

Imagine coming across the pitiful sight of a cat burned so badly that it has a gaping wound in his belly. That was what one woman saw when she found a cat that had wandered in her yard, perhaps hoping to find one human to have mercy on him. On July 21, 2020, the Good Samaritan called dispatch, and the cat was taken to the vet where the founder of RSQ DOGS, Kelli Stokes, said they named the feline, Sterling. Sterling is one lucky cat who may have used up one of his nine lives because the vet managed to close up the gaping wounds, and he was out of danger.

The cat recognized how he had escaped death by a whisker after being tied up and set ablaze. Therefore, by July 22, he was in high spirits despite the pain, although he was put under medication to relieve the pain and control infection. To prevent him from licking his surgery site, Kellis disclosed that they dressed him in a bodysuit. KUTV says the vets have nicknamed him Mr. Handsome and he will not be getting abused again since the authorities are not letting the perpetrators of the crime go scot-free.

The first case of its kind

Sergeant Mark Gower of Colorado City Marshal said of all the horrific scenes he had encountered regarding animal cruelty, Sterling’s was the first of its kind. Therefore, he urged anyone with any leads that will result in the perpetrators’ apprehension to call Colorado City Dispatch; those who prefer anonymity need not worry since they do not have to give their names. The Humane Society of Utah further offered a reward of $5000 to the person whose tip will lead to the animal abuser’s arrest.

If convicted, the animal abuser will face charges of animal abuse. However, since the crime happened along the state border, Sgt. Mark Gower was unsure which state’s law would apply; he revealed he would consult the statute book. If charged under Utah law, the convicted person will face a third-degree felony. On the other hand, if sentenced under Arizona law, then the felony will be a class 5 with no possibility of being lessened to a misdemeanor.

Penalties for such animal cruelty

In 2016, Sun Herald published the story of how two men, a man, and his nephew, were charged with aggravated animal cruelty after a video of them scalding a caged cat went viral. By the time the news was published, the men’s whereabouts were still unknown, but if caught, they would face a fine of $2,500 or /and six months in jail for the crime classified under a misdemeanor.

In 2017, Kevin L. Sullivan used lighter fluid to set a cat on fire. The fire department tried putting out the fire on the kitty using a blanket, but it was too scalded that a police officer had to shoot it to end its misery. Although Kevin at first denied being involved in the crime, he later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 3-year probation and could be jailed for up to 12 months. Kevin’s case was the third felony conviction since Butler County changed animal cruelty from being a first-degree misdemeanor, where the maximum sentence was only 180 days, to a felony.

While the above two cases show that the law does not tolerate any animal cruelty for whatever reason, Hernandez’s case revealed a loophole. According to Miami Herald, Hernandez doused a live cat with a flammable liquid and then lit it up and watched as it writhed in the cage trying to escape. However, Hernandez’s defense attorney claimed the animal in question was a raccoon, but the witness maintained it was a cat. Unfortunately, Hernandez was not sentenced to any jail time; instead, he was ordered to serve five years of probation and 100 community service hours.

Burning cats was ritualistic ages ago

While Sterling’s case being tied up and set on fire or that of Hernandez lighting up a cat using combustible fluid was shocking, you might be surprised to learn that the practice dates back to thousands of years ago. According to Atlas Obscura, the French enjoyed pastime activity that involved suspending cats over wood pyres or holding them in wicker cages and then setting them ablaze. Some would find amusement in dousing a cat in a flammable liquid, setting it on fire, and chasing it down the street. People would then collect and keep the burned cat pieces as good luck charms.

In some other instances, burning the cats was not the ritual; instead, they preferred beating it to cast out bad omen. Black cats especially have fallen victims to being beaten to date since they are claimed to bring bad luck. In the past, Denmark would celebrate Lent’s start by putting a cat in a barrel and hanging it up a tree. People would then beat the barrel with the cat inside- like a piñata- until the barrel was broken. Cats that escaped fast got to live another day while those that delayed continued to be beaten. The beating thoroughly entertained the Danes that they even crowned the champions of the beatings King and Queen.

Photo: Humane Society of Utah

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