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Pet owners’ fears as cats found in Wichelstowe canal
9:00am Saturday 23rd March 2013 in News
Buy this photo » From left, Wichelstowe residents by the canal. From left, Allison Brook, vet Lynne Gaskarth, Alison Marshall, Paul Hartigan, Jim Brook, Jane Carter and Kathy Smith
ANIMAL lovers in Wichelstowe are concerned someone is dumping their cats in the canal outside their homes.
Residents living near the canal say about 18 cats have gone missing or have been found dead in as many months, but police say they have only had reports of five being found in the canal and they are not treating the deaths as suspicious.
Paul Hartigan, 44, is the latest person to find his pet in the water and he believes his pregnant tabby cat’s death was not an accident.
“It seems to be an individual or more than one person actually getting the cats.
“She went out about 4am and we found her right outside our house floating in the canal,” he said.
“She looked like she had been strangled and held under water.
“We have got other cats and suddenly they are all petrified. Something is frightening them.”
The cat, called Socks, was the second of Paul’s cats to be found dead in the canal.
“In January three cats were dragged dead from the canal in one day. There is some sicko killing the cats as there are way too many to be accidents,” he said.
“People are worried around here. It’s a weird situation as no one can put their finger on what is going on.”
Emma Vicat, 24, who has lived in Wichelstowe for oa year, said her five-month-old black and white kitten Alfie went missing in January.
A week later, she received a call from a council worker to say Alfie had been found in the canal, with another cat.
“Alfie was one of the first cats it happened to, he went missing on New Year’s Day,” she said. “We received a call from a man from the council who is called out when animals are killed on roads to ask if our cat was missing.
“They found him lying next to somebody else’s cat. They thought it was suspicious that the cats were lying together in the canal.
“It happened to our friends who live two doors away about a week later and their cat was just left outside their house which is horrible.
“We have no idea what is going on – it is a busy footpath but nobody seems to see anyone or hear anything.
“We reported it to the police and they casked us some questions about it.
“Alfie was only a baby, he only ever used to go in to people’s gardens in the area, but he was friendly and would always go up to people.”
Allison Brook, who has been living in Wichelstowe for about a year, said her neighbours had been affected.
“If there is somebody doing this, they need to be caught,” she said.
Staff at Drove Veterinary Hospital are now trying to get permission to perform post-mortems if there are future victims and are offering to have a look at cats found in the canal free of charge to find out how they died.
Lynne Gaskarth, a vet at Drove, said: “Nobody knows what is happening. We are advising residents who find cats in the canal to report it to us or the police.
“The cats may have fallen in but cats don’t generally jump into water.”
Residents are setting up CCTV cameras in a bid to find out what is happening.
A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “We are aware of reports that five cats have died in the canal since December.
“We have got no evidence those cats have died because of any foul play.
“If anybody has any any information for us they can call our neighbourhood policing team on 101.
“We have no reason at all to think these are anything other than tragic accidents.”