Officer on paid leave, state investigating after cat's jaw broken at Rowan County Animal Shelter

An animal control officer in Rowan County is on paid leave and a state investigation is underway to uncover what led up to a cat’s jaw being broken at the Rowan County Animal Shelter.

Cooper, the cat, has had multiple surgeries over the last several days to fix his broken jaw.

Sarah Bruce runs Precious Furbaby Rescue. She says Cooper was an owner-surrendered cat to the Rowan County Animal Shelter. She picked him up earlier this week at the shelter to try and place get him adopted out, but when she got Cooper from the shelter, she noticed something was wrong.

Bruce said, “I was very upset. I felt like the animal wasn’t handled properly.”

Bruce went on to say, “There was a lot of blood, but I had asked what happened to the staff member, and she said that he had gotten loose during getting them out and getting them into the carrier. Usually they’ll do rabies or microchip during that process, and that he kind of fought them a little bit.”

Somehow Cooper ended up with a broken jaw.

Bruce said, “They (the veterinarian’s office) did say that it probably took a lot of force for the jaw to be split the way that it was.”

But Bruce doesn’t think any of the workers meant to harm Cooper. She said, “I don’t feel like the cat was handled correctly, but I don’t feel like anybody there would intentionally hurt an animal.”

Bruce hopes the investigation brings changes at the shelter. She said, “There is a substantial amount of new employees there that I don’t feel are properly trained to deal with animals.”

Rowan County Manager Aaron Church released the following statement:

“Rowan County is deeply saddened to hear that an animal received injuries while at our shelter.  It has been determined that the injury occurred while the animal was in our care based on the information that we have.  Until the State investigation is complete we are unable to give exact specifics on how the injury happened.

The county has contacted the Carolina Animal Hospital of Charlotte to convey that we will be covering all the vet bills.

An officer involved has been placed on administrative leave with pay until the investigation is complete.

We ask that everyone give the State time to consider all the facts while conducting their investigation so that the truth can be reached.

Again, we regret that this occurred and we will continue to make every effort to treat all animals humanely as we improve our policies  and the care that animals receive at our facility.”

Cooper has kitty braces that will help him heal from his injury. He will be fed canned food, mixed with water, so he doesn’t have to chew his food. He’s recovering at the home of his foster mom. Bruce said Cooper’s foster mom may end up adopting him.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture is looking into what happened to find out if there are any violations that could result in civil penalties for the individual officer or the shelter as a whole.

If they suspect that there are any criminal violations, they would work with local law enforcement on the case.

The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office says they received information about Cooper’s case through their new Animal Welfare Hotline. People who want to submit complaits can call 1-855-290-6915.

Rowan County will be holding a public forum on April 12 at 6 p.m. in the Rowan County Board of Commissioners Meeting room. Dr. Kelli Ferris, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Animal Welfare at N.C. State’s Veterinarian School, will be at the forum. The county says the forum will help them develop new policies for the new cat wing and the entire shelter.





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