A $2,500 reward is being offered for any information leading to an arrest. // Photo Courtesy of Sarah Richardson
It was just another summer day on July 11 when Sarah Richardson walked through her front door. She had just gotten home late from work at around 7 p.m. and called out to her cat, Chowder. When he didn’t respond right away, Richardson wasn’t surprised. This sort of thing was normal. She knew Chowder would eventually find his way home. Around 45 minutes later, Richardson was getting ready to run errands when she finally spotted Chowder on the front porch. She realized something was wrong when she saw he was lying on his side, acting strange.
“His arm was sticking out and he was flopping around, kind of like a fish out of water,” Richardson said.
Richardson ran out and discovered blood all over the side of Chowder’s right leg. He was unable to move, and every time he tried to get up, he would immediately collapse back onto the ground.
Richardson scooped him up, put him in his kennel and rushed him to the veterinarian where the X-rays indicated Chowder was shot with a gun.
“The vet said that he was most likely shot with a .22 pellet,” Richardson said.
Air guns are used to fire BBs or pellets and come in .22 and .177 calibers, with .22 caliber being more powerful with a higher velocity. A CO2 cartridge or a hand pump is typically used to power air guns, and they are commonly used for varmint and pest hunting, according to Airgun Depot, an airgun retailer.
When she learned what happened, rage flooded her emotions.
“I could not sleep at all that night,” Richardson said. “I was so sick to my stomach.”
Richardson immediately reported the incident to the police, but became disheartened when she realized there wasn’t much they could do without any eye witnesses or evidence.
Richardson, a graduate from Western, has had Chowder for six years. She has lived in Sunnyland for the past two years.
“It’s always been a friendly neighborhood,” she said. “Almost everyone knows each other.”
Richardson said she is thankful Chowder’s condition wasn’t fatal and he didn’t require surgery.
“Chowder got really lucky. He needed a lot of rest just to let the wound heal because there’s literally a hole in his side,” Richardson said.
Fueled by her anger, she began posting about the incident all over social media hoping to gain more information on finding the perpetrator. Through this endeavor, Richardson was informed of another similar incident, a person who had also had her cat shot a few weeks prior.
For Gillian Myers, things weren’t so easy.
Gillian Myers lived in Sunnyland for seven years and had never heard of anything dangerous happening in the neighborhood until her cat, Emmett, was shot on June 15. Myers discovered Emmett lying by her back door covered with blood on his back left leg around 9 p.m.
“A lot of things were going through my head,” Myers said. “The wound wasn’t bleeding a ton and it looked like he had been punctured by something, so I thought maybe he’d been bitten by a dog.”
Myers and her husband, Joey, rushed Emmett to the veterinarian where X-rays revealed Emmett was shot with a gun which had shattered Emmett’s leg bone.
“I felt so sad for my sweet guy enduring that pain, and I couldn’t wrap my head around why someone would do this,” Myers said.
Though Emmett was put on pain medications immediately, the veterinarian later determined he needed to have his leg amputated. But since no veterinarian in Bellingham specialized in that type of surgery during weekends, they had to either travel to Seattle or Langley, British Columbia. Fortunately, they were able to book an appointment the next day in Langley.
“I held it together until I left that night,” Myers said. “I had to pull over on my drive home because I was sobbing so hard and started to hyperventilate. I was so upset.”
Since amputation, Emmett has been recovering well. Myers had to keep him confined to their room for two weeks while his incision site healed. According to Myers, he has adjusted quickly to having only three legs.
“It’s been an amazing process to watch him deal with his new situation,” Myers said.
Myers and her husband filed a report with the police and another with the Whatcom Humane Society. The Bellingham Police Department has assigned a detective to the case in an attempt to identify any similarities between the two cat shootings.
“Any tips will be sent to the detective. Hopefully we can get enough information to identify a suspect or suspects,” Bellingham Police Lieutenant Danette Beckley said.
The Bellingham Police Department and Whatcom Humane Society were both sympathetic, but said the same thing. They couldn’t do much about it, but it was good to have it on file in case it happened again. Myers also reached out to the community to see if people would be willing to help.
“It was an immediate setback to have to pay to save our boy,” Myers said.
Richardson and Myers were brought together right after Chowder was shot in July. The two live down the block from each other but had never met before. People quickly linked them when they saw their Facebook posts were similar and thought the incidents were connected. The two became allies.
They discussed what to do and decided to create more posts on social media, create a GoFundMe page to help raise funds and make fliers to hand out and post all over the neighborhood so people could be aware of what was happening.
“The thought that someone was abusing animals like that in our neighborhood is very unsettling,” Riley Keown, Richardson’s roommate and friend, said. “We’re obviously very upset this ever happened, but the actions that Sarah and Gillian are taking now will hopefully stop any violence in the future.”
According to Myers, someone has offered a generous amount for a reward for any information leading to an arrest and since that original donor, others have offered reward money too, now totaling up to $2,500.
The original post of the reward was shared up to 3,000 times on Facebook and spread across the Bellingham community.
Although this was a tragic and scary situation, both women have been amazed to see the community band together. People have reached out, wanting them to feel safe and have offered an overwhelming amount of support near and far, ranging from neighbors, friends and strangers.
“It was humbling,” Myers said. “Other people in Sunnyland have been great too, people I’ve never met. They’ve been in constant contact with the police making sure they have all the information to hopefully find whoever is doing this. We are looking out for one another and that’s pretty awesome”
Both Richardson and Myers want to send a message to the perpetrator.
“I want them to know that, obviously, this is not okay. And it’s not like, ‘Oh, this one crazy cat lady is upset about her cat.’ It’s the whole entire neighborhood, let alone the city of Bellingham,” Richardson said.
According to Washington state’s animal cruelty law, “Animal cruelty in the first degree is a Class C felony, with a fine up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment up to five years.”
Any information should be reported to the Bellingham Police Department at (360) 778-8800.