Cat reward climbs to $10,000 

The search for Cocos assailant grips the region

click to enlarge Coco, a stray Siamese cat shown after a brutal gun attack - took most of his sight.
  • Coco, a stray Siamese cat shown after a brutal gun attack took most of his sight.

Provide a tip that nabs an elusive killer, and Crime Stoppers will pay you a nice reward -- usually around $2,000.

But if you want the big money, you're going to have to track down the culprit who stoked outrage in Fountain this month.

The reward: $10,000. The victim: Coco the stray Siamese cat.

Coco was discovered on March 14 in a back yard of the 400 block of East Missouri Avenue in Fountain. It had been strung up by its tail and shot repeatedly in the head with a pellet gun, shot in the side with a dart gun, then left to die.

The Pikes Peak Humane Society intervened, lavishing Coco with medical attention in hopes that he will retain partial sight in one eye and learn to trust humans again.

"One thing that's really gratifying is the way it's unified the community," said Ann Hagerty, spokeswoman for Pikes Peak Humane Society. "The donations are coming in at such a fast pace that we're still tallying them."

The Humane Society has collected a $5,000 reward to anyone who can offer a tip that leads to an arrest, along with $2,200 for Coco's medical care.

Last week, another animal welfare group, Dreampower Animal Rescue of Colorado Springs, upped the reward to a total of $10,000, after an anonymous donor pledged $5,000.

Along with the soaring bounty, an unprecedented manhunt has gripped the streets of Fountain. Five professional Humane Society investigators and dozens of Dreampower volunteers, including a retired FBI agent, have spread across the city, posting reward signs and looking for clues.

The search for Coco's assailant has also sparked bickering between the two welfare organizations. At issue is whether Dreampower will hinder the Humane Society's investigation by publishing a separate tip-line phone number.

But why is a cat receiving greater community outpouring than a human victim would?

"I don't think that any one person would ever think this is more important than a horrible crime against a person or child," said Gabi Belmont, cat program manager for Dreampower.

"All of us pick our passions," she said. And when it came to Dreampower's anonymous donor, "this person's passion is animal welfare."

Both Belmont and Hagerty said that discovering who shot Coco could help prevent crimes in the future, as animal abuse is often an early sign of potential violence toward humans.

But talk to a sociologist, and you'll receive another theory. Dana Rosenfeld, an assistant professor of sociology at Colorado College, says there's no statistical evidence directly linking animal abuse and rape or murder.

But when it comes to public perceptions, murder is condemned yet often viewed as "banal" compared to extreme animal abuse -- which is universally regarded in America as deviant behavior.

"This is a clear instance of right and wrong," she said because "cats are cute and cuddly and uncomplicated."

On the other hand, Rosenfeld said, while America is at war, killing tens of thousands of people in Iraq and possibly torturing people in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,"we don't know if we're doing the right thing."

When a clear case of right and wrong comes along, she said, the community rallies around it.

"People can imagine themselves doing murder," she said. But animal abuse, "that's the one thing we can't see ourselves capable of doing."

-- Dan Wilcock


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