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Charge Stands Against Man Who Threw Cat In Fire

A charge of aggravated cruelty to animals will stand against a Garland man who faces allegations that he threw a cat into a fire.

President Judge Maureen Skerda ruled in the case against Elijah J. Cottrell, 19, after a hearing on Monday. Warren-based Pennsylvania State Police were dispatched back in December for a report of an incident involving a cat that allegedly occurred at a Fiddlersgreen Road address in Eldred Twp. According to the affidavit of probable cause, troopers identified two individuals who reported to be with Cottrell at the address between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. on Nov. 4.

They told troopers that “they were having a fire and a cat was rubbing on Elijah Cottrell” and that Cottrell “picked up the cat by the neck and threw it into the middle of a burning fire.”

Troopers report the cat was thrown 25 feet. He was subsequently charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and cruelty to animals.

At the outset of Monday’s hearing, Skerda noted that the Commonwealth is seeking to add an additional count of aggravated cruelty to animals – torture. Assistant District Attorney Casey Strickland said there is a hearing set for that issue later this month. For Monday’s hearing, Strickland called the veterinarian that provided care to the car, Dr. Theresa Konzel, to testify. She testified that she had been told the cat was thrown in a bonfire the previous night and went on to detail the injuries sustained by the cat — burns over her entire body, whiskers and toenails that were “melted,” burnt hair.

Konzel also told the court that 75% to 80% of the pads on the cat’s feet suffered third-degree burns. Monday’s argument was technical and centered on the definition of phrases like “serious bodily injury” that are required for the aggravated cruelty charge to be met. Konzel testified that the pad injuries would have caused “severe” pain and that there was “definitely” a risk of death present in the situation, even though the cat did not sustain long-term impairment.

Strickland said it’s “amazing” that throwing a cat into the fire doesn’t automatically meet the level for aggravated cruelty and noted that it was unfortunate that the cat couldn’t articulate how much pain it was in.

Cottrell’s counsel, Alan Conn, argued that the specific elements of aggravated cruelty were “not established.”

Skerda, in denying Conn’s motion that served as the basis of the hearing, cited the third-degree burn testimony.

“The court believes ‘serious’ has been met,” she said, but that the ultimate decision would go before a jury.

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