ALERT: This story includes details and visual material of severe injuries to an animal. Reader discretion is advised.
HILDALE — Law enforcement is seeking information from the public about a cat that was found in Hildale Tuesday afternoon that appears to have been tied up and set on fire.
Updated July 26, 2 p.m. The Humane Society of Utah is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone with information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for torturing the cat.
Colorado City Marshal’s Sgt. Mark Gower told St. George News a person called dispatch Tuesday afternoon after finding a wounded cat in her yard.
“The cat wandered into a person’s yard, and they hurried and took it to the vet down in Hurricane, and that’s kind of where we’re at — to see if we can come up with a time frame of when this happened and where it happened.”
He said if the suspect or suspects are apprehended they will face animal abuse charges.
“We would definitely look into the statute book and try to see what applied,” he said. “There would definitely be some cruelty to animal charges.”
Because this happened along the state border, charges could be slightly different.
Under current Utah law, a person who knowingly or intentionally tortures a companion animal, which refers to a domesticated dog or cat, could face a third-degree felony charge for animal cruelty.
In Arizona, the charge for animal abuse increased last August from a class 6 felony to a class 5 for people who intentionally kill or mistreat an animal. This also changed the law so that a felony charge could not be dropped to a misdemeanor.
Kelli Stokes, the founder and director of RSQ DOGS, said in a Facebook post that the cat had been found by a lady in Hildale who said it had been tied up and set on fire. The cat has gaping wounds but is still alive
“I knew when I decided to make Hildale our mission area that it would be hard. But some of the things we have seen over the last three years have been absolutely horrific,” she said.
RSQ DOGS were taking donations to help the cat. The estimated cost for treatment was around $1,500.
Tuesday evening, Stokes said they named the cat Sterling, and he had just gotten out of surgery.
“I ran over to the ER to see him, but he was still in the process of waking up, so I couldn’t get a great look at his belly area. The doc was able to clean out the wound and she was actually able to completely close it,” she said.
Stokes said the veterinarian agreed that his injuries and burns aligned with the woman’s story that the cat had been tied up and set on fire.
Wednesday morning, Stokes updated Sterling’s story. After having surgery to clean and close up his abdomen, Sterling not only survived the night, but he was also in good spirits, she said.
“He does have very severe burns throughout his body. And he is on several medications to control pain and infection,” she said. “Sterling was licking at his surgery site. So we gave him the option of a cone or a bodysuit, and he chose the bodysuit.”
She said they are working to file a police report and get a reward in place to help catch the suspect who did this.
When St. George News asked Gower if this type of animal cruelty was a frequent occurrence in the area, he said he hadn’t seen anything like this before.
“This is the first I’ve dealt with it out here,” he said.
Gower said while there are no suspects at this time, they are investigating the incident and ask anyone who has information to please call the Colorado City Dispatch at (928) 875-2695. He also added that they can remain anonymous if needed.
Donations can be made at the RSQ Dogs website.
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