Alley Cat Allies is closely monitoring a Kentucky State Police investigation into the killing of several community, sometimes referred to as feral, cats in the city of Fulton in August—and the case of a Fulton police officer who is alleged to have fatally shot at least one cat with a high-powered pellet gun.
Animal cruelty sparks widespread outrage but all too often does not result in legal consequences. It is particularly disturbing when the brutality is perpetrated by someone whose duty it is to serve and protect.
Police Officer Juan Guzman was reportedly caught on film shooting the defenseless cat by a security camera of a local business. The business owner turned the footage over to the Fulton Police Department, which passed it higher up the chain to the state police.
Another local business owner and cat caregiver says some of the community cats he cares for were among those killed. Other residents also say their cats have gone missing or are dead.
According to personal accounts, some of the cats did not die immediately and suffered from their injuries.
Guzman was off duty during the alleged killing so was not found by the City of Fulton to have violated law enforcement procedures and was not terminated “at this time.” However, the city and City Manager Mike Gunn still punished him within the context of his position through a “Last Chance Agreement.” The agreement states that Guzman’s actions were “conduct unbecoming a police officer.”
Guzman was placed on unpaid leave between September 16 and October 15 as a result. Now he has returned to duty, but under a year-long probation period.
The agreement dictates that if Guzman “engages in any misconduct…during said probationary period, he will be terminated…” And if he “is ultimately charged with a felony, regardless of the punishment, or convicted of a misdemeanor wherein he must serve jail time for his conduct…he will be subject to immediate termination with no right to a hearing…”
Meanwhile, the state police investigation into the cats’ deaths is still underway.
Alley Cat Allies advocates for those who perpetrate animal cruelty to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. When the act of cruelty involves a public servant like a police officer, they should be terminated immediately.
However, the action the City of Fulton has taken is notable when animal abusers, and especially police officers, are so often let off the hook entirely. All 50 states have felony animal cruelty provisions, yet many cruelty cases aren’t even investigated, let alone prosecuted.
Research has found a clear connection between violence against animals and violence against people—often referred to as “The Link”. By taking animal cruelty seriously and penalizing offenders, we set foundations for ethical and humane treatment that extends to whole communities, and all of society.
Alley Cat Allies continues to monitor the ongoing investigation and advocate so anyone found to have harmed or killed cats, whether they are stray, feral, or owned, will be held accountable in criminal court.