People from coast to coast want Joe the cat

Bruce Ritchie was hoping to adopt the little cat he found by the side of the road with 17 pellet shots to the head.

But it turns out Joe – named by animal shelter staff – is terrified of dogs and Ritchie has a dog.

So staff at the Sarnia & District Humane Society will have to choose who provides a home to Joe once he’s fully recovered, says shelter manager Donna Pyette.

“We have a huge list of people who want to adopt him. I’ve got about 100 names of people from Nova Scotia to British Columbia willing to pay the airfare to get him. I don’t know how we’re going to choose.”

It will be at least a month before Joe is well enough for adoption. He remains at Blue Cross Animal Hospital, recovering from two surgeries that removed 16 of 17 pellets, his damaged right eye and some bone fragments.  The last pellet remains lodged in the little white cat’s cheekbone.

Ritchie, 69, was returning from church on Feb. 2 when he spotted the bloodied cat on the side of Lakeshore Road.

“I love animals. I’d expect anyone who saw an injured cat to stop and help,” he said.

Ritchie pulled over and gingerly picked up Joe.

“It was just unreal. He licked my hand. You’d expect some aggression from a frightened cat but he’s unusually affectionate.”

Ritchie took the cat to the humane society on Exmouth Street, believing a car had hit him. “When I realized he’d been shot 17 times, I was royally ticked off at the idea that someone would do that.”

Ritchie posted the story on Facebook and word quickly spread. In just a few hours more than one million people knew what had happened and the public outcry has not stopped.

Two men, ages 19 and 20, face multiple charges related to the shooting. An online petition (www.yousign.org/en/justice-for-joe) has more than 16,600 signatures.  A Facebook page called Help End Animal Cruelty: In Joe’s Honour has 651 members. And a protest outside the courthouse calling for “Justice for Joe” attracted about 20 demonstrators.

The shelter has received more than $30,000 in donations for Joe’s care.

That’s unprecedented, said Pyette. The vet bill will likely be about $4,000, so the balance will to go a shelter fund to treat abused animals.

Each year, the Sarnia shelter investigates about 400 cases of cruelty and abuse.

“Cruelty has definitely been on the rise since I arrived here 12 years ago,” said Becky Knight, the shelter’s investigating officer on Joe’s case.

She said Joe’s abuse was “unusually brutal.”

“I think because it was so intentional and there was no need for it,” Knight said. “I’m just touched beyond words about the public response.”

Pyette said Joe is adding weight and his coat is healthier.

“He’s extremely affectionate and still trusts people. That gets to me,” Pyette said.

“A 10-pound cat is so defenceless. I wonder what kind of person is capable of something so horrific and cruel.”

– Cathy Dobson