This is a story that will make you want to hold your pet a little tighter. It is also a story that shows how something good can come out of something horrible.
|Blackie survived severe burns he suffered after a 17-year-old attached a firecracker to him.© The Valdosta Daily Times/Pat Gallagher|
When he came home, the second kitten turned up with terrible burns, too, as well as the neighbor’s cat. At first, they thought the curious cats had gotten into something flammable. But then they realized with dread that someone had intentionally hurt these cats by attaching firecrackers to them.
Despite extensive efforts to save them at the University of Florida, two of the cats – Fluffy and Little Jim - died. Only Blackie survived, disfigured with scars and portions of his ears amputated.
News of the crime shocked the community, and people rallied together.
“The story of ‘Fluffy,’ ‘Little Jim,’ and ‘Blackie’ generated a buzz throughout South Georgia,” read an editorial in The Valdosta Daily Times. The paper reported that it was “inundated daily with calls, letters, rants and emails for weeks from outraged citizens.”
“Many believe that these three cats deserve the very same consideration shown to human beings,” the editorial said. “After all, these three cats – although four-legged and furry – had/have every right to live out their days curled up in a loved one’s lap, swishing their tails from side to side as they prance with attitude across the room, napping on a sofa.”
A local church took in donations, residents held bake sales and put donation jars in restaurants to help with the sky-high veterinary bills. Brooks Animal Rescue Club offered a $500 reward for information about the crime.
When The Humane Society of the United States’ Georgia state director Cheryl McAuliffe found out about the crime, she called local law enforcement authorities and offered a $2,500 reward for information in the case. The HSUS routinely offers rewards in animal cruelty cases across the country and also works to strengthen cruelty laws.
$3,000 was the largest reward ever offered in Brooks County for an animal-related crime.
“That reward got everybody’s attention,” McAulliffe said.
And it worked. Someone came forward. On Feb. 2, authorities went to the local high school and arrested a 17-year-old boy on felony charges of aggravated animal cruelty. Brooks County Sheriff’s Lt. Keith Anderson said the boy initially confessed to the crime, but now denies it. He awaits trial in November.
Out of Bad Comes Good
|Amanda Hall, D.V.M. of Baytree Animal Hospital, holds Blackie.© The Valdosta Daily Times/Pat Gallagher|
Local resident Charles DeVane helped found the Brooks Animal Rescue Club in Brooks County.
“As horrible as it was, it did get the attention we needed to get some work for animals going on around here,” DeVane said. “It was a community effort, and not just one person or group. It was really heartwarming to see everyone come together.”
“When you have a situation like this, you need to jump square on top of it to make people aware,” DeVane said. “People do care about animals and when there’s a case like this, you find out who they truly are and they will come together. I believe the world is getting more sensitive to the needs of animals.”
Capitalizing on the wide range of groups that came together to help after the crime, DeVane and others have founded a new group called the Coastal Plains Humane Society Coalition to share resources and information.
On April 9, McAulliffe traveled to Brooks County to be one of the group’s first official speakers.
“I talked about pulling together and the importance of contacting their legislators about better animal protection laws,” McAulliffe said. “It was a pretty horrific crime, but look at what came out of it: They got the alleged perpetrator and it has pulled a whole area of the state together.”
Blackie's Unwavering Love
As for the survivor, Blackie – he’s back at home with his human companion.
The Valdosta Daily Times provided this update:
“Despite being burned and disfigured, ‘Blackie’ remains eager for human contact, a little love and affection, and the opportunity to pick up his life where he left off, at least to the best of his ability.”“He doesn’t appear to hold a grudge, even though what happened to him was both illegal and just plain wrong. Based on comments made by his veterinarian in recent interviews, ‘Blackie’ has demonstrated a tremendous capacity to forgive and move forward beyond this tragedy. Maybe this cat has something to teach us human beings after all.”