Teenager accused of abusing cat after sharing video on social media

Katie Lisnik, executive director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, holds Harlow Wednesday afternoon at the shelter in Lewiston where he is recovering from a recent beating. He miraculously recovers, but unfortunately his left eye was so badly damaged that it will have to be removed. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — A local teenager, accused of tossing a cat by its tail before tackling it to the ground, has been charged with criminal animal cruelty.

Harlow was injured when he was swung by the tail and crashed to the ground in Lewiston last week. Mark LaFlamme/Sun Diary

The 17-year-old has been charged with aggravated animal cruelty after a video of him swinging the cat went viral on social media. In the video, shot November 4 on Knox Street, the cat is swung several times by its tail before being thrown onto the sidewalk.

The abuse of the cat, reported by several people who watched the video, was investigated by Lewiston police and animal control officer Wendell Strout. Because the suspect is considered a minor, authorities might release some details about the case against him.

Despite the violence of the attack, the cat survived. A citizen brought him to the emergency animal clinic where he was treated primarily for head injuries sustained in a slamming to the ground.

The cat was then transferred to the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society on Strawberry Avenue where he quickly became a staff favorite. Shelter workers have tentatively named the cat Harlow and at least one shelter worker hopes to adopt him.

The cat is a male that would be less than a year old. He is black with white on his legs and around his neck. Shelter manager Katie Lisnik said the cat would likely lose an eye due to head trauma, but the animal responded very well to affection and did not seem shy around people.

“He loves cuddling,” Lisnik said. “He just wants to be on top of you.”

The cat was napping in a carrier box on Wednesday and didn’t seem intimidated when a stranger leaned in to snap a photo. He yawned, stretched and rolled into a ball to take a nap.

Harlow suffered no fractures when he was knocked to the ground, Lisnik said, surprising those who saw the video. On Thursday, the animal will undergo further surgery on an eye that was damaged in the attack.

At the Humane Society, Lisnik said cases of egregious abuse like the one that injured Harlow are not common.

“Which makes it all the more shocking when it happens,” she said. “But I think Mainers on the whole are incredibly compassionate with dogs, cats and other pets.”

Lisnik said she spoke with Mayor Carl Sheline and others about the case. The general sentiment, she said, is gratitude that the Strout and Lewiston police were able to locate the suspect and charge him appropriately.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the video of the abused cat was still online on several Facebook pages. On every page, the video was followed by dozens of angry comments from people demanding justice for the cat now known as Harlow.

“I wouldn’t recommend anyone to watch this,” a local woman said of the video. “It’s disgusting.”

“It gives me a stomach ache,” said another.

According to Lisnik, aside from the eye issue, Harlow is expected to make a full recovery.

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