Teen charged with abusing cat after video shared on social media

Nov. 9—LEWISTON — A local teen, accused of swinging a cat by its tail before slamming the animal onto the ground, has been charged with felony cruelty to animals.

The 17-year-old was charged with aggravated animal cruelty after a video of him swinging the cat went viral on social media. In the video, shot Nov. 4 on Knox Street, the cat is swung several times by its tail before being slammed onto the pavement.

The abuse of the cat, reported by several people who watched the video, was investigated by Lewiston police and Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout. Because the suspect is considered a minor, officials could release few details about the case against him.

In spite of the violence of the attack, the cat survived. A citizen brought it to the Animal Emergency Clinic where it was treated mainly for head injuries suffered when it was slammed on the ground.

The cat was later moved to the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society on Strawberry Avenue where it quickly became a staff favorite. Shelter workers tentatively named the cat Harlow and at least one shelter worker hopes to adopt him.

The cat is a male believed to be less than a year old. It is black with white on its paws and around its neck. Shelter director Katie Lisnik said the cat will likely lose one eye as a result of head trauma, but the animal has responded very well to affection and does not seem timid around people.

"He just loves to cuddle," Lisnik said. "He just wants to be on you."

On Wednesday, the cat was napping inside a carrier box and did not appear intimidated when a stranger leaned in to take a photo. It yawned, stretched and rolled into a ball for a nap.

Harlow suffered no broken bones when it was thrown to the ground, Lisnik said, which was a surprise to those who have seen the video. On Thursday, the animal will undergo further surgery on one eye which was damaged in the attack.

At the Humane Society, Lisnik said cases of flagrant abuse like that which injured Harlow are not common.

"Which makes it all the more shocking when it does happen," she said. "But I think Mainers overall are incredibly compassionate with dogs, cats and other companion animals."

Lisnik said she has talked with Mayor Carl Sheline and others about the case. The general feeling, she said, is gratitude that Strout and Lewiston police were able to track down the suspect and charge him appropriately.

By late Wednesday afternoon, the video of the cat being abused was still up on several Facebook pages. On each page, the video was followed by dozens of angry comments from people demanding justice for the cat now known as Harlow.

"I would not recommend anyone watch this," one local woman said of the video. "It's disgusting."

"Makes me sick to my stomach," said another.

According to Lisnik, other than the eye issue, Harlow is expected to make a full recovery.