MANATEE -- About a dozen Village of the Arts residents met Wednesday night to brainstorm solutions to a sudden increase in deaths of neighborhood cats.
Wendy Colbert, who believes her cat was killed with rat poison when it escaped from her screened porch Friday, opened her home for the meeting that was also attended by two Bradenton police officers.
"I thought there were maybe six or seven, now we're talking 10 cats," Colbert said as neighbors discussed the number of missing and dead cats over the past month or two. "We need to come together, find out why this is happening and how we can stop it."
Crime Prevention Officer Kimberly Camacho advised that their first priority should be securing the cats.
"Keep them inside. If they are feral, catch them and move them to another place where they are safe," Camacho said. "I am not an anti-animal person, but I have to go by what the law is."
Camacho explained officers must prove a crime was committed and that there was intent to pursue a criminal case.
The officers then advised the community to begin a neighborhood watch program as an effort to decrease any criminal or suspicious activity in the village.
Understanding that they must have physical evidence before anyone faces charges related to the case, residents concluded they would start raising funds that could be
appropriated to hire a civil attorney, private investigator or have necropsies completed.
Sandy French, who operates a business from her home in the Village, believes Colbert's cat was run over by a vehicle and is upset that a friend of hers is being persecuted.
"They're assuming this woman did it, and they're going to stone her in the streets, basically," French said. "There isn't a legal foot to stand on. We have important things down here that need to be dealt with that are wrong. This is ridiculous."
Anyone interested in further discussing the issue is asked to RSVP to the next Village Connectors meeting at 7 p.m. on March 12 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.