Cleveland, Tennessee police made an arrest in the burning of Katniss the kitten and charged the 31 year old man with felony cruelty to animals.
Katniss was subjected to the extreme act of animal cruelty earlier this month. She was found by a Good Samaritan and received round-the-clock care with Animal Aid veterinarian Todd Dolen and his staff. Katniss fought to stay alive for two weeks but died Sunday morning after a setback in her condition late Friday night.
Katniss’ caregivers became deeply attached to her, as did thousands of animal lovers who followed her progress and offered their love and support. Locals stopped into the Athens, Tennessee veterinary clinic, and others from far and wide followed the Justice for Katniss Facebook page.
You can read more in our post from Monday, RIP Katniss: Kitten Burn Victim Dies.
Authorities arrested Cleveland resident Gary. A. Westfield shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon and charged him with Aggravated Cruelty to Animals, which is a Class E felony that carries a punishment of up to six years in prison, along with a fine of up to $3,000.
Westfield appeared at a court hearing today and will return to court for another hearing on October 30.
Cleveland Police spokeswoman Evie West said, “Through the course of the investigation, we are able to determine that the event didn’t take place where it was initially reported at 9th and Wildwood, rather occurred on Gaut Street around Central Avenue. Other information gathered led to witnesses who came forward to identify Gary Westfield as the suspect involved in setting the kitten on fire and other injuries which eventually claimed the life of the feline, who was named Katniss by caretakers.”
The reward of more than $1,000 offered for information on the case led to Westfield’s arrest. The witnesses who provided the information asked the Cleveland Police Department not to identify them out of fear of retaliation.
Westfield has a long record of previous charges and convictions. Records show Westfield has convictions on aggravated burglary, theft under $500 and over $1,000, resisting arrest, assault, and being a fugitive from justice. He was jailed with bond set at $5,000.
“[The suspect's] arrest shows that some sort of fruition and some good will come out of this,” Dr. Dolen said in remarks at the Times Free Press. “I hope the person that did this will go to jail.”
“We plan to meet with the local police and local schools to tell Katniss’ story.”
“We want them to take this case seriously and prevent things like this happening in the future”
“My first reaction was anger,” Dr. Dolen told Channel 9. “I was furious that someone would do such a terrible thing to such an innocent creature.”
“The kitten was burned severely all over its body,” said the veterinarian, “it smelled of smoke and had burnt hair everywhere.”
“I took care of her 24 hours a day for those two weeks we were there.”
“We’re not going to put up with [animal abuse],” said Dr. Dolen, “we want prosecution of these people. We want it to stop.”
In this WTVC Channel 9 report, from this evening’s news, Gary A. Westfield appeared in court today, and Dr. Dolen spoke with a news crew: