LIBERTY, MO. A Liberty man was charged Tuesday with animal cruelty for allegedly burning a 7-week-old kitten on a barbecue grill as several other people stood and watched.
Charles C. Benoit, 24, is charged in Clay County Circuit Court with one count of animal abuse, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both. He was arrested and held at the county jail on $10,000 bond.
A witness pulled the scorched tabby from the hot coals, but it was severely injured and had to be euthanized, police said.
"I called him Lucky because I thought I got him out of there just in time," Sherry Scott, who burned her hand grabbing the kitten, said Monday.
Scott and Benoit are residents of an apartment complex where the incident occurred Friday night.
Misdemeanor animal cruelty charges filed by Liberty police were withdrawn Monday so that Clay County prosecutors could decide whether to file felony charges against anyone in the group, Police Lt. Mark Misenhelter said.
Scott said that at about 8 p.m. Friday she saw a group of 10 or 12 people at the barbecue grill in the courtyard of the Jefferson Park apartment complex.
"They kept saying, 'Meow, meow,' and they were poking at it with a stick," she said.
Scott asked what they were cooking, and they said it was a cat. She said the group taunted her, daring her to rescue the cat.
The group scattered when Scott threatened to call police, she said, and she pulled the kitten from where it had been shoved into the coals at the back of the grill. Its tail, whiskers, fur, eyes and throat were scorched.
Scott said she and other residents stayed up Friday night trying to nurse the kitten with an eye dropper of milk.
Animal control officers took the tiny animal Saturday and determined that because of its respiratory injuries and inability to swallow food, it had to be euthanized.
Scott, who has two small dogs, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she had received threatening phone calls since she rescued the kitten. One caller told her she would "end up in the river."