HAMILTON – A Hamilton man has been cited for discharging a firearm within the city limits after being accused of shooting and killing a cat that was caught in a trap set out by a local church.
Lee Maxey, 65, of Hamilton was issued a citation in Hamilton City Court for discharging a firearm within city limits.
Hamilton Police Chief Ryan Oster told MTN News that he received a report of a domestic cat that was alleged to have been caught in a trap within the city limits on May 18 th. Oster said the complaint alleged that the animal was euthanized after being trapped.
An investigation by the Hamilton Police Department Animal Control officer determined that the property owners at 700 North 4th Street, identified as the Bitterroot Valley Calvary Chapel, have had an ongoing problem with feral cats and raccoons on the property.
The feral cats have been defecating on the church’s property in a sand volleyball court that is utilized by the youth group.
The animal control officer determined a church maintenance staffer had been trapping these animals, using live traps. A neighbor’s domestic cat was caught in the trap. The cat did not have obvious identification and was destroyed by the maintenance staff.
The Hamilton Police Department issued Maxey a misdemeanor citation as a result of the investigation. Hamilton Police have also been in contact with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to determine if any state trapping regulations or rules have been violated.
The Bitterroot Valley Calvary Chapel said in a Facebook post on May 19 that they had set a live trap.
“We weren’t targeting any pets. In doing so, we inadvertently disposed of a neighbor’s cat,” they said.
As of Wednesday, the post no longer appears on their Facebook page.
MTN News has made repeated attempts to get comment from the Bitterroot Valley Calvary Chapel about the incident, but no one has responded to our inquiries.
The Hamilton Police Department released a statement about the incident which reads in part:
“This incident has brought out a lot of emotion for those involved and others in the community. While the use of live traps to control nuisance animals within the City of Hamilton are not prohibited, as long as they are used in a way that is not cruel or inhumane, this incident underscores the need to ensure that the public knows that the best course of action is to work with the Humane Society or a participating veterinarian to determine what to do with the animals once they are captured. These organizations can help ensure that the captured animal is not someone’s pet, and in the case of feral cats they can assist with ensuring that the animals get spayed and neutered.”
Reporting by Melissa Rafferty for MTN News