Thanks to a combined effort by an apartment complex property manager, a Warwick Animal Control officer, the Warwick Animal Hospital and Purrs and Paws, a Warwick-based animal groomer and training facility, what could have been a tragic story involving an abandoned cat ended on a happier note.
Donna Vessella, a 60-year-old woman who resides in Bayside Country Club Apartments on Warner Brook Drive, was arrested by Warwick Police Officer Brian Holleran Tuesday on charges of unnecessary cruelty to animals and abandonment of infirm animals.
According to police reports, Vessella admitted to Animal Control Officer (ACO) Heather Razza that she had put her Persian cat in a box by the side of a dumpster in the apartment’s parking lot because the cat was matted and ill and she did not want to get in trouble for the cat’s condition. Vessella said that she was working long hours and thought the cat, which she had bought from a breeder in Warwick, could take care of itself.
After the cat became matted and sick, she said that she attempted to care for it but did not know how to take care of its coat. She did not contact anyone for help and did not contact a veterinarian when the cat contracted an eye ailment. After being charged, Vessella was released on a District Court summons.
According to police reports, the property manager of Bayside Apartments reported to Animal Control on Feb. 2 that a cat had been abandoned in a box outside of the apartment complex. The cat appeared to be barely alive.
The cat’s tail appeared to be purple in color and was cold to the touch. Its physical condition was a three out of nine on the Tufts Animal Care and Condition scale. Its condition was described by this scale as “extremely matted hair coat, prevents normal motion, interferes with vision, perineal areas irritated from soiling with trapped urine and feces…Hair coat essentially a single mat…Foreign material trapped in matted hair…Nails extremely overgrown into circles, may be penetrating pads, causing abnormal position of feet and make normal walking very difficult or uncomfortable.”
When ACO Razza examined the cat, she saw that its eyes were crusted shut, with green pus oozing from them. There was also urine and feces embedded in its fur, and a strong smell of cat urine was coming from the box. The cat was frozen by its fur to the side of the box and was unable to move either of its back legs. The temperature at the time was 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
Razza then picked up the box and transported it in her truck to Warwick Animal Hospital. The hospital examined the cat and then contacted a local groomer for assistance in shaving the fur. Razza then brought the cat to the groomer, where they shaved the matting from the cat.
“He was in rough condition when he came in here,” said Kelsey Lima, who works with her mother, Kim Parlato, owner of Purrs and Paws, Feline and Canine Training Facility located at 272 Pettaconsett Ave. in Warwick.
Lima said that, due to the amount of matted fur that had built up, she and her co-worker, Stephanie Fisher, who spent the better part of three hours Friday night shaving and trimming the cat, couldn’t even tell what gender it was at first. After shaving, the cat turned out to be a male.
“He literally purred the whole entire time we were working on him,” Lima said. “You would think after what he went through he would have been fighting and trying to eat us, but instead he was just like, ‘Thanks for helping me.’ It was so sad.”
The cat was transported back to Warwick Animal Hospital from Purrs and Paws for further care.
(With reports from Ethan Hartley)