Cat abuse charges dropped against teenager

Charges against a Shady Cove teenager arrested for allegedly setting a cat on fire in December have been dropped, the Jackson County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

The 17-year-old boy was taken into custody Feb. 10, cited for first-degree animal abuse and lodged at the Jackson County Juvenile Community Justice Building. Deputies from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department originally suspected the boy did not act alone in harming the cat, who was later named Meshach for his escape from fiery danger.

However, Jackson County sheriff's investigators weren't able to place the teen in the area where the abuse was thought to have occurred.

The teen told deputies that he had an alibi for the time of the abuse. Investigators were never able to disprove the alibi, the Jackson County District Attorney's Office said in a news release.

An acquaintance told police that the teen had bragged about setting a cat on fire. Oregon law demands that a confession must be corroborated by independent evidence. A press release from the District Attorney's Office said a confession without any details that would not have been available to the public would not be enough to proceed on a juvenile petition.

The case remains under investigation by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

The stray orange cat had been hanging around the home of Eagle Point residents Michael and Summer Finn, who had been feeding him. On Dec. 22, the cat showed up with severe burns on his face, ears and beneath his tail.

Police concluded the fire had been started purposefully by a liquid accelerant, as the cat's feet had not been burned and he didn't have any respiratory problems. Both are common for pets who have been trapped in structure fires. The cat was first taken to Jackson County Animal Control, then to Best Friends Animal Shelter in Talent. Staffers named the cat Meshach in reference to the biblical character thrown into a furnace. He later transferred to Sanctuary One Animal Shelter to continue healing.

Sanctuary One officials and the Humane Society offered a $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of criminals involved in the burning shortly after Meshach's story first began circulating through the media.

Meshach was adopted by a woman who lives in Talent and at last report was doing well and had recovered from his injuries.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com


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