ADAMS -- Police still have no leads as to who attempted to kill a young cat by hanging it last December, but they are hoping a reward will encourage someone to step forward with information.
Allen Harris, the president of Berkshire Money Management in Pittsfield, has offered $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.
"This is a heinous crime," Harris said. "I recognize that without some additional incentive the perpetrator or perpetrators may not be brought to justice. I implore anyone who knows something, anything, that may be helpful to law enforcement to do the right thing and report it."
The 6-month-old cat, Cleo, was found tied to a makeshift gallows by a large shoe string and left to hang in the secluded area by a Specialty Minerals Inc. property along Howland Avenue (Route 8), according to Adams Animal Control Officer Carrie Loholdt. An SMI worker found the animal and called police. The cat is recovering.
"Whoever did this is a very sick individual," Loholdt said. "It was premeditated."
Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, said millions of people have abused animals and often it's children who feel powerless and express themselves through the abuse. It can be something as simple as using a slingshot to hit or kill a bird and most outgrow it and find a way to express themselves that's socially acceptable, he said.
Levin, who has studied the correlation between animal abuse and human violence for the past decade, said there's a limited set of people who abuse animals that are "far more dangerous.
"Someone who sadistically maximizes the pain and suffering of a cat or other animal in an up-close and personal way gets a thrill out of [the] act," Levin said. He suggested that the perpetrator is most likely a teenager, young adult or a group of young people.
The expert added that there's typically a linear progression for the type of people capable of committing such a crime and said it's likely this isn't the first or last time something like this will happen.
"It may be a warm-up, it may be the most recent in a series of such acts," Levin said. "Regardless, this person needs to be found."
Adams Police Sgt. Richard Tarsa said no other such crime had been reported leading up to the attempted hanging and nothing has been reported since.
"We don't believe this will lead to other incident, it appears to be an isolated incident," he said.
That doesn't mean police have ruled additional acts of violence out as a possibility however, Tarsa added.
"We're continuing to pursue any and all angles but haven't received any leads since the reward was posted," he said. "Whoever did this had to go out of their way to avoid being seen. No question, this was cruel and senseless."
Tarsa added that if a suspect is found, additional charges could be pending.
Loholdt said Cleo is starting to warm up to people but the road to recovery will be long and arduous.
"I've never seen a cat or other animal so focused and fearful of people's hands as she is," Loholdt said. "She clearly was tortured before the hanging."
If it weren't for the Northern Berkshire Cat Rescue group, Cleo would have been euthanized because of her fear of humans and the trauma she suffered, Loholdt said.
Several people have visited Cleo but most have declined adopting her because they soon realize how fearful she is and the amount of care it will take for the cat to be acclimated and feel safe.
One woman said she'd like to adopt Cleo but needed to meet with the rest of her family first to decide if it's viable, Loholdt said.
"Cleo's young enough that we believe she can make a full recovery with patience and time," she said. "This is a lifetime commitment."
To set up an appointment to meet Cleo or to make a donation, visit www.gdcnerescue.org.
The Adams Police Department can be reached at (413) 743-1212.
To reach Josh Stilts:
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