According to Rena Rikard, a DMV officer and Connelly Springs resident, 17 cats were found along Roger Hill Road off N.C. 18 on Friday afternoon.
Four of the cats were dead of gunshot wounds and six others wounded. Ten of the cats were suffering from a variety of sickness or were emaciated.
Rikard contacted Burke County Animal Control, which responded and took five of the cats to animal control, three of which later died of their injuries, according to Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant.
She said this is not the first time people have let out stray animals at the particular bridge, which is near where she lives.
“I thought ‘Somebody is throwing out more cats,’” she said. "So I had to go on to Shelby and run my errands, but when I came back at 10:30, these cats are still sitting on the side of the road.
“They were all alive and it looked like one had a bummed up leg,” she said.
Rikard works with a rescue group and fosters dogs and she knew a lady who might be able to help the cats.
“I have a lady that helps me and when she got down there at 2 o’clock, I told her somebody has thrown out more cats down there at the bridge,” Rikard said.
They both met at the bridge to see if they could catch the cat that looked like it had a wounded leg.
“When we get down there, there was some food out near the fence and a couple of the cats were lying near the food dead,” she said. “It looked like they had been shot.”
They both start looking around and found another cat lying near the edge of the woods bleeding from its face, Rikard said.
“It is still alive and it had been shot in the nose,” she said. “We get to looking a little further and there is a little yellow cat that is just emaciated and its fur is all matted and it looks real sickly.”
They attempted to catch as many of the cats as they could and then called animal control.
“They (animal control ) took five of the cats,” Rikard said. “There was a black one that could walk hardly. I don’t know if it had been shot in the back or in the leg or if it had just got hurt otherwise.”
They ended up catching two that looked like they were in good shape, she said.
On Saturday, Rikard went back and was able to catch three more cats, but she knew there were more.
Lisa Tessener, of Connelly Springs, was scrolling through Facebook on Sunday when she came across a post of Rikard’s explaining what she found.
“Sunday, I saw a friend of a friend shared her (Rikard’s) post where she has talked about how she had just found these cats and that she was going back out there to look for more and she was asking for help,” Tessener said. “I messaged her and said I was coming to help.”
Tessener, with her husband, went back out on Sunday to meet Rikard. They found another dead cat and saw a gate near the bridge that led up to a driveway to a field that had bullet holes in it, Tessener said.
Tessener and her husband say that bullet holes were found high on a fence and led them to believe the cats had been strung up and used for target practice.
“There was a pool of blood below the shotgun holes, and as we looked around, I saw another dead one and, as I started moving brush aside, I saw one alive that is now at the vet,” Tessener said.
Rikard said it appeared someone had put out food for other cats and shot them while they were eating.
They also found shotgun shell casings as well as what appeared to be 9 mm and .22 caliber shell casings in the road near the cats.
They also brought food to help lure any remaining cats out.
“I brought tuna and we lured a total of five cats at that moment,” Tessener said.
Rikard and Tessener ended up taking some cats home with them but one died overnight. Tessener called her vet, Dr. E.J. Kennedy with Animal House of Rutherford College, and he told her to bring them to his office on Monday morning.
They took four to the vet on Monday morning and one was cleared, but another had to be euthanized due to its injuries. The other two are still being treated, Tessener said.
Kennedy checked all cats, even the deceased, to see if they were micro-chipped, but none were, Tessener said.
However, multiple bullets were pulled from the face of one cat.
“It was horrible," she said. "I couldn’t even watch because the image will stick in my head forever.”
One cat will have surgery Tuesday to try and remove a bullet lodged near its spine, Tessener said.
Tessener plans on retrieving the cats once they are released from the vet’s office.
Four of the cats are being fostered by Rikard, and one with Tessener, and two still remain at animal control, Tessener said.
Whisenant confirmed Monday that animal control had picked up five of the cats Friday afternoon.
"On Friday, Animal Control received a call that a person had found some cats at a pull off on the side of the road about half a mile from the Burke and Cleveland County line," he said. "There were about nine or 10 cats in the area. Some of the cats had been shot. Three that had been shot were still alive and two were found that had not been injured. Those five were brought to the Animal Control Shelter.
"The three that animal control took that were shot did not make it. The other two are there (at animal control)."
Tessener said the cats that were healthy enough to be fostered didn't appear to be ferals.
“All the ones that we captured seemed pretty tame and none of them seem to be feral at all,” Tessener said. “These will rub up on you and love on you, and the one I have here now is already neutered, so this was somebody’s pet.”
Cat’s Cradle in Morganton has created a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the veterinary bills. To donate, go to www.thecatscradle.org/donations-2.html as well as going to their GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/cats-used-for-target-practice.
The identity of the person or persons responsible is unknown, but a Silver Dodge Ram truck, carrying what appeared to be animal carriers, was spotted in the area Thursday, prior to the cats being found, Rikard said.
Several animal carriers also were found in the bushes near where the cats were found.
A list of the color and types of cats that were found will be released on Tuesday, along with more information on the condition of the wounded cats. Whisenant said those who think one of the cats housed at animal control may be theirs, can stop by the shelter at 425 Kirksey Drive, Morganton.
(Morganton.com - Dec 12, 2016)