Oldham Cats Rescue launches petition following beheading of a cat in Middleton

Date published: 07 May 2024

A cat rescue centre based in Middleton is calling for a change in the law after one of its cats was killed “purposely, in a cold and cruel way.”

Oldham Cats Rescue – which moved to Middleton in 1998 after being founded in Oldham – has launched its petition after its ‘sweet and gentle’ resident cat, 13-year-old Poppy was ‘beheaded’ last month.

The tabby-and-white cat’s body was found close to the rescue’s Saxon Street home whilst her head has still not been found.

“No animal should have to endure what our sweet Poppy was subjected to. We are heartbroken beyond belief - traumatised, angry and shocked by such a horrific act of animal cruelty,” Oldham Cats said on the Change.org petition.

However, the charity says the police response was “hesitant and inadequate” after officers “declined to visit, look for evidence, talk to neighbours or review CCTV footage.”

Police have refuted this, saying that officers carried out an “extensive CCTV review and house-to-house enquiries soon after the incident was reported.”

A spokesperson for GMP added: “We also spoke to the person who found the cat to establish what had happened and to staff at the animal shelter.”

The charity, which rehomes around 270 cats each year, said that following a complaint to the chief constable, local police “contacted us after a week and said that they had been unaware of the crime.

“They explained that the initial response had been made by a central team, without involving the local force.

“We appreciate that police resources are limited and that, unfortunately, not all crimes can be solved. But this must be balanced against the importance of reassuring the local community that a serious effort will be made, within these constraints.”

The GMP spokesperson concluded: “We want to ensure everyone who reports an incident is satisfied with the service they receive from our officers, so we have revisited the shelter this week to talk to staff.

“Anyone with information should contact police quoting log 1405 of 21/03/24.”

Oldham Cats continued: “These crimes are on the increase. An RSPCA survey in 2023 highlighted a 23% increase in cat cruelty cases, year on year. The South London Animal Investigation Network logged 1,039 such cases in the period since 2015.

“And local incidents in the Greater Manchester area are reported to be on the rise in a number of nearby towns – at least six recorded incidents in recent weeks.

“It’s not even just an animal welfare issue. Allowing these incidents to continue, without effective intervention, misses the chance to identify perpetrators who obviously have serious psychological disorders and may progress to even worse crimes.”

Oldham Cats said it has been “overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, sympathy and practical help from people and businesses in the local area” which “only serves to emphasise that there is a real demand from the general public for genuine, focused and co-ordinated action to rectify this social evil.”

Now Oldham Cats is calling for the implementation of ‘Poppy’s Law’ – similar to Lucy’s Law for puppies and kittens – for cats to be awarded the same legal protection as dogs and other animals regarding collisions and intentional cruelty.

The cat rescue says that despite being recognised as a protected animal under the UK Animal Welfare Act 2006, cats are considered “personal property,” explaining: “We are appalled to learn that cats are treated differently under the law compared to other animals. This is a shocking revelation considering that they are protected animals.

“This is not only shocking but also undermines the intrinsic value and welfare of these beloved animals. Despite being recognised as protected animals, cats continue to be subjected to inadequate legal protection. The legal status of cats under the UK Animal Welfare Act 2006 is that of protected animals. UK law generally regards companion animals such as cats as personal property so that any damage or harm to a cat is legally the same as damage to any other piece of property.”

Oldham Cats continued: “Despite being required by law from June to be microchipped, it seems that our feline friends still do not enjoy the same rights as other animals.

“For example, unlike dogs, there is no obligation to report cats involved in road traffic accidents. These discrepancies in treatment are unjust and require urgent attention and action.”

The rescue added: “Despite existing laws aimed at protecting cats, it's evident that they are failing to adequately safeguard our cats. Loopholes and inconsistencies in legislation often result in lenient penalties for offenders, perpetuating a cycle of impunity. The lack of enforcement and resources allocated to enforce these laws further exacerbates the problem. Without robust and comprehensive measures in place, cats remain vulnerable and in danger.”

Poppy’s Law would also require local police to attend all such incidents, as well as making it a statutory responsibility for police commissioners to prioritise crimes involving the intentional killing and/or mutilation of domestic animals.

Chief constables would also be required to publish an annual report, highlighted these cases and the action taken, as well as review the effectiveness of communication between central and local policing teams.

Oldham Cats concluded: “For our beautiful Poppy, the call for equal rights for cats is not just a matter of compassion, but one of justice and fairness.

“Cats, as sentient beings, deserve to be recognised and protected under the law, ensuring they are afforded the same basic rights and considerations as any other member of our society.

“By signing this petition, you're not only advocating for the well-being of our feline companions, but you're also taking a stand for equality and empathy and justice for Poppy. Let us work together to create a world where every cat is valued, respected, and treated with the dignity they rightfully deserve.”

At the time of writing, the petition for Poppy’s Law has over 1,500 signatures, and can be signed here: www.change.org/p/implement-poppy-s-law-equal-rights-for-cats-as-for-other-animals

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