By Talbert Toole
While recovering from a cardioversion procedure, Water Valley resident Waurene Roberson coddled her cat that appeared to be recovering from a fight with another feline. Although his shallow wounds were beginning to heal, Skitter was very much still lethargic.
As his symptoms became worse, Skitter began aggressively panting. Roberson knew it was time to take him to Valley Animal Hospital where she left him to be examined by Dr. Fred McCullar.
McCullar noticed that Skitter’s sores were infected and treated the spots with antibiotics; however, Roberson’s cat was still lethargic and was not showing signs of improvement. Accompanied by her son, Roberson made another trip to McCullar for further examination The veterinarian decided to X-ray Skitter which ultimately unveiled the truth—Roberson’s cat had been shot.
The X-ray revealed Skitter’s wounds were caused by a metal pellet and a .22 bullet that were lodged in his abdomen, along with fluid surrounding his heart and lungs.
“He tried to drain it, but the three of us couldn’t hold him,” Roberson said. “He couldn’t put him to sleep with the injectable sedative or it would kill him.”
Unable to drain the fluid and remove the pellet and bullet from Skitter, McCullar referred Roberson to Mississippi State University’s veterinarian clinic. They offered the services Skitter needed for survival.
After a visit to Starkville where the clinic examined Skitter, Roberson was finally able to bring her cat home where she could take it to a local veterinarian for further check-ups. Although Skitter was finally back in his own home, the heavy breathing began to reappear, according to Roberson.
Roberson rushed Skitter to Crossroads Animal Hospital in Oxford where the veterinarians were able to drain fluid that built back up. Roberson said she did not think Skitter’s chances were good, but he managed to turnaround quickly.
After another check-up to reassure Skitter’s vital signs were stable, the veterinarians found that there had been no more build-up of fluid.
“They think he’s likely to make it,” Roberson said. “[The veterinarian] said give him two more weeks and that should tell it for sure.”
A Call to Action
On Thursday, May 27, Roberson began to take action to find the culprit who shot her cat.
She posted to Facebook offering a $100 reward to anyone who might have information on the person, or persons, responsible for shooting Skitter.
The post also included that a dog had been shot and killed on Friday, May 21, in the same residential area where she lives.
“Would also like to hear from concerned citizens about anyone whose pet was hurt or who has seen someone abusing or shooting cats and dogs,” she posted on Facebook.
Wanting to raise more awareness of the issue, Roberson spoke to the Water Valley Board of Aldermen Tuesday, June 4, to ask questions and advocate for neighbors to be on the lookout for someone shooting animals.
“We are trying to get people to watch and report things, hopefully to the police, so they find out who’s doing this,” Roberson said to the board.
Roberson said she had many other residents express concern regarding the issue, not only for pets but for children who roam the neighborhood.
“[The children] could get caught in this crossfire,” she said.
While speaking to the Board of Aldermen, Roberson raised the question of legality regarding the discharge of firearms for people other than police and those in a self-defense situation in the city limits of Water Valley.
Mayor Donald Gray clarified that is not legal for anyone other than police or in a situation of self-defense to fire a weapon within the city limits.
Roberson asked the Aldermen what they consider a weapon.
“Pellet guns and even in old, old ordinances, slingshots,” Gray said.
Specifically, the ordinance states:
“City of Water Valley Ordinance for Discharging Firearms: It is unlawful for any person to discharge any firearm or engage in target practice within the city unless in self defense or in necessary protection of life or property or while executing some law provided that target practice may be engaged in a closed room, but not upon any street or open place in the City of Water Valley.”
Alderman Kagan Coughlin said weapons cannot be used in public spaces but can be kept on private properties; however, a discharge means combustion which is illegal anywhere in the city including private property, he said.
City Attorney Daniel Martin clarified there are consequences for injuring a person’s pet.
“[A person] can be liable for the medical bills and also criminal fines,” he said. “It is an illegal act.”
Even if someone believes an animal to be a stray, Martin said shooting or injuring it is not the acceptable way to take care of a feral animal in the community.
“As Ms. Roberson says, there is a great risk to the community, to children and to the elderly,” Martin said. “They do not have the same ability to protect themselves.”
News Editor Alyssa Schnugg contributed to this report