Abandoned kitten leads to animal cruelty-related charges for Town of Merrill man

By Jeremy Ratliff

LINCOLN COUNTY – A 25-year old Merrill man now faces animal cruelty-related charges as well a misdemeanor charge of obstructing an officer, related to a Jan. 23 incident in the Town of Pine River, involving the abandonment of a six-month old kitten.

According to a criminal complaint filed with the Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office, on the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 23, a Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy responded to an animal complaint in the Town of Pine River. Upon arrival, the deputy spoke with the reporting party who advised a vehicle had recently stopped on the roadway, the male driver opened the driver’s side door of the vehicle, leaned out of the vehicle momentarily before closing the door and driving away.

When the vehicle had driven away, the witness was able to see a cat in the middle of the road.

The witnesses noted the registration number on the vehicle’s license plate and when the cat had remained on the road for over an hour, the witness contacted the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

The witness accompanied the investigating deputy in an attempt to locate the cat. While walking to the last known location of the cat, the deputy reported hearing a cat vocalizing from a nearby wooded area. The pair followed the sound and eventually located a kitten curled up beside a tree in an area with approximately two feet of snow. The deputy noted the snow depth was past his knees when he located the kitten and the temperature was approximately 28 degrees.

The kitten was then transported to the Lincoln County Humane Society, where staff estimated the kitten to be approximately six months old.

Anthony Barker

Upon further investigation, it was learned the vehicle matching the registration number noted by the witness of the incident, was being operated by 25-year old Anthony Barker. Upon contact with Barker, he initially stated the cat was a stray and kept coming back to his porch. He became sick of the cat defecating on his porch so he decided to drive out to the country and dropped it by a farm. When asked if the cat was his, he denied ownership. However, when the deputy offered to confirm that with a family member, Barker then admitted to being the kitten’s owner. He advised he had the cat for a while but decided he didn’t want another cat so he got rid of it. When asked, Barker acknowledged being aware he could have dropped the cat off at the Lincoln County Humane Society free of charge, but stated he was too embarrassed to take the kitten to LCHS.

Barker was later transported to the Lincoln County jail, where he was booked and released on $350 cash bond.

Barker was officially charged on Tuesday, Feb. 11, facing misdemeanor charges of intentionally mistreating an animal, intentionally abandoning an animal and obstructing an officer.

As part of a social media post regarding the incident on Jan. 23, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office stated the kitten had been named Hope in the wake of the incident.

“The kitten, who has since been named Hope, was not harmed, because of that the charges are misdemeanors under Wisconsin state law. Please do not abandon a helpless animal, multiple resources are available to any animal in need and it is against the law,” the post said.

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