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Charges still being reviewed in cat poisoning case

NEWARK – An attorney representing the Licking County prosecutor’s office is determining if charges will be filed in a case involving poisoned Buckeye Lake cats.

“We don’t have a witness, and that’s the problem,” said Licking County Animal Control Director Jon Luzio. He said Newark attorney Mark Gardner is reviewing the case on behalf of the prosecutor’s office. An Ohio Department of Agriculture animal disease diagnostic laboratory report confirmed poisoned tuna was used to bait cats in the Buckeye Lake Estates. Luzio said there are suspects in the case, but finding enough evidence to charge certain individuals is taking time. “The whole case was given to the prosecutor,” he said.

Gardner said his case file continuously expands as he receives more information. “The file’s getting thick,” he said. Whenever he’s ready to make a decision, someone brings him more information, causing delays. There is a lot of animosity between the people involved, too, he said, which isn’t helping the case.

Luzio said poisoning pets is a fourth degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of a $250 fine and 30 days in jail. There may be additional cruelty charges, he said, although the county will need to confirm that the poisoned cats had owners.

According to the Department of Agriculture report, one of two bait samples from a Buckeye Lake Estates lot was proven positive for bifenthrin, an insecticide that attacks insects’ nervous systems. According to the report, it has roughly the same effect on cats.

Last August, stray cats caused major tension between some Buckeye Lake Estates neighbors, one of whom was angry toward the other presumably for feeding strays. According to Buckeye Lake Police Department reports, the two people had several verbal disputes, which eventually led to the grandson of the person who was feeding the strays assaulting the neighbor who was threatening his grandmother. The grandmother believed the threatening neighbor was mistreating the cats, including poisoning them, although there was no direct proof of abuse, according to police reports. The neighbor strongly denied any mistreatment of cats, saying the cats were only being trapped and taken to the animal shelter or given to farmers.

BARK Animal Rescue founder Bonnie Mansfield requested that the tuna used to bait the cats be tested for poison.

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