Versailles police are looking for a possible serial cat shooter, and an animal advocacy group is offering a $2,500 reward in the case.
Six cats have been shot with a BB gun in or near the Lanes View subdivision in Versailles so far this year. The latest shooting was Thursday off Midway Road in the northern portion of the city, according to police and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
Two of the six cats died, and several more from the neighborhood have been reported missing, according to PETA.
Police and Woodford County Animal Control are investigating but have few leads in the shootings. Officials hope media attention will help solve the crimes, said Elizabeth Coleman, a Woodford County Animal Control officer.
She said the shootings have occurred over the past six months.
PETA is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for the crimes, spokeswoman Shakira Croce said.
PETA has asked that anyone with information about the shootings contact police at (859) 873-3126 or Woodford County Animal Control at (859) 879-0598.
"Two cats have died, four more have been shot and left to suffer from painful and terrifying injuries, and several more are missing," said PETA senior director Colleen O'Brien in Washington, D.C. "PETA is urging anyone with information about the attacker or attackers to come forward immediately — before anyone else gets hurt."
Jocelyn Roper of Versailles is owner of Cinderella, a cat less than a year old that recently was shot in her neighborhood.
"I noticed her limping and immediately took her to get help," Roper said Friday.
A BB next to the cat's spine was removed. The animal was adopted last Christmas from a shelter.
"She is putting more weight on her leg now, so she's getting better," Roper said. "I don't know what my three daughters and I would have done if she had died because I lost my husband six weeks ago to the day."
The owner said she had not been aware of any other cat shootings in Versailles.
"I was so distraught about Cinderella that I posted it on Facebook, and people came forward with their stories. I have two other cats, and I won't let them out.
"Fortunately, we're moving to the country soon and won't have to worry as much about the cats."
Roper said she is "sad and disgusted" about the shootings.
"It's hard to think there are people out there who would hurt a cat. People should realize these animals are like members of one's family. When they hurt, it rips you apart."
Kristin DeJournett, a PETA cruelty case worker manager in Norfolk, Va., said those responsible for the shootings could be charged with torture to a cat, which is a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense. That's punishable by 90 days to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
For second or more offenses, she said, it's a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison and a fine between $1,000 and $10,000.
DeJournett said PETA regularly offers awards in such cases.
She said it's difficult to identify who might shoot a cat, but the use of a BB gun raises the possibility that a younger person was involved.
"If that's the case, that's a cause for even greater concern, because statistics show that young people who abuse animals never stop and sometimes go to even more violent crimes," DeJournett said.
PETA emphasized the importance of keeping cats indoors.
Cats that roam outdoors risk contracting disease or getting lost, hit by a car or snatched by bunchers: people who steal dogs and cats and sell them for use in experiments, spokeswoman Croce said.