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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Bellingham Residents Urge Community to Keep Cats Inside

A local cat enjoying the sun on Nov. 25. // Photo by Claire Ott

By Ella Banken

Several cats, in varying degrees of health, have been found in dumpsters and trash cans in Bellingham neighborhoods recently, and residents are taking to the internet to raise concern of these events. 

Jarret Anderson and Jennifer Karnecki created a Facebook page on Nov. 29 called “The Whatcom County Cat Killer” in hopes to alert the community of these recurring incidents. They are encouraging people to keep their cats inside and contact the police with any information. 

The post received 160 likes in two days. 

“We’re not making it into a witch hunt page,” Anderson said. Karnecki agreed, and said they didn’t want to interfere with the police investigation. 

Anderson’s 9-year-old cat Toby had been missing for about five days when he was discovered dead in a trash can outside their residence in the Puget neighborhood on Aug. 31, Anderson said.

“Aug. 27 was the last time I saw him,” he said. “It wasn’t uncommon for him to sometimes not come back for an evening, but it had been about a day and a half and I started to get worried.”

Anderson hung up missing cat posters all around the neighborhood when Toby hadn’t been seen for a couple days, he said. 

Another roommate of Anderson’s found Toby in the trash outside of their house, he said. It appeared Toby had been in the trash for a while. 

Jennifer Karnecki witnessed a similar event on Nov. 13 when her neighbor’s 4-year-old cat Rainbow was seen being tossed into a trash can. 

Neighbors saw someone on a bicycle take a cat out of a backpack and toss it into the trash before riding off quickly down the alley as neighbors tried to stop him, Karnecki said. The neighbors were unable to catch up to the cyclist, but were able to pull Rainbow out of the trash. 

Karnecki and her husband were called into the alley by neighbors and she immediately recognized the cat as Rainbow. He was largely unresponsive when first pulled out of the trash, but had no visible injuries. 

“I’ve known Rainbow since he was a kitten,” she said. “He used to come into my house and play with my own cats.” 

Karnecki contacted Rainbow’s owner as soon as she recognized the cat, she said. Rainbow was treated at Maplewood Animal Hospital and recovered well, given the state he was found in. 

“I presume he’s just fine, which is a happy ending to this story, there’s not a lot of happy endings in this story,” Karnecki said. 

According to Karnecki, Rainbow’s owner reported the incident to the police. 

Anderson reported Toby’s death after reading about other cats being killed around the same time, he said. 

The Bellingham Police Department sent out a press release on Sept. 5 that stated two cats were found deceased within a one week span. Their causes of death were unknown, but given the close proximity of their deaths, they would be investigated. 

“I was under the assumption that maybe someone ran him over in the back alleyway and they panicked and threw him in the garbage can,” Anderson said. 

However, Toby didn’t appear to have any visible injuries, Anderson said. 

“It was a pretty traumatic thing, I just wanted to get him out of the garbage can and bury him in the backyard,” he said. 

Trisia Kulaas, former roommate of Anderson had a close connection with Toby as well, she said. 

“He was a sweetheart,” Kulaas said. “It’s pretty heart-breaking.”

After her former roommates reported the incident to the police, they were told that similar events had been happening in other neighborhoods, Kulaas said.

“That is one of the things that has really caused me to jump to action, I heard after the fact that this was rampant in the city and that cats are being found all over the place dead in garbage cans,” Karnecki said. 

Karnecki started a GoFundMe page on Nov. 22 to raise money to print posters to put up around town, which has already raised $260. 

According to the GoFundMe page, the original goal was $100 and any funds donated over $100 will be donated to the Whatcom Feline Alliance, which is offering a cash reward for information that could lead to an arrest, according to their Facebook page. 

Others are also offering monetary incentives for information about these incidents. The Bellingham Harold, a Bellingham Herald parody page on Facebook, posted on Nov. 30 that they are offering a $1,000 reward for “evidence leading to the arrest of the Whatcom Cat Killer.”

“We need to elevate awareness,” Karnecki said.

This series of incidents is frightening, Kulaas said.

“I love all the true crime podcasts like everybody does, and one of the things that freaks me out, is there’s always that escalation from hurting animals to hurting people that is alarming,” Kulaas said.

Animal abusers are five times more likely than non–animal abusers to commit violent crimes against people, four times more likely to commit property crimes and three times more likely to have a record for drug or disorderly conduct offenses, according to research in a project conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

These events are especially disturbing because Bellingham is a pet-friendly community, Kulaas noted.

“Make sure that your pets are inside at night,” she said.

Laura Clark, director of the Whatcom Humane Society, agreed with this advice. The Humane Society worked with the Bellingham Police Department on the incidents included in the September press release, she said. 

“The Whatcom Humane Society always encourages people to keep their cats inside or in a supervised outdoor environment for their safety,” Clark said.


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