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Rabid bobcat killed after attacking pet dog, hiding in Preston home

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Preston — State police say officials from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection shot and killed a bobcat this past week after it attacked a Preston family’s pet dog and then ran and hid in their home.

The bobcat later tested positive for rabies, state police Trooper Armando Bettini said by phone Saturday, forcing victims Karin and Matt Davis, as well as their dog, Gabe, and cat, Cooper, to all receive rounds of rabies vaccinations.

Just before 8 p.m. Wednesday, Karin Davis recounted by phone Saturday, she was in her kitchen washing dishes when she heard a commotion on her back patio, which she described as “a screeching, growling and a crash at the same time.”

When she looked to see what was happening, she said Gabe was “entangled” in its leash line with a bobcat who appeared to be attacking the dog. “I ran toward the dog to unleash him and pull his collar to get him inside,” she said. “I was screaming bloody murder. I was screaming, 'Bobcat, bobcat, get a gun.'”

Davis said that after she ran toward her dog to save him, the bobcat at first backed away. But then while she was trying to pull her dog inside to safety, the bobcat “sprinted” past the two and ran inside the house through the open back door.

Davis said she immediately closed the door to contain the bobcat before realizing to her horror her neighbor and husband, Matt, had run inside the house in an attempt to help her after hearing her scream. “I heard my neighbor screaming," she said, explaining the cat had hopped onto the kitchen counter and then started running through the house. "The bobcat was hissing at him."

Trooper Bettini said once he and three other state troopers arrived at the home about 8 p.m., they began searching for the bobcat and found it hiding in the basement.

Bettini said he and the other troopers were in the basement with flashlights when he caught the reflection of the bobcat’s eye after shining his beam onto it. “I was fortunate enough to see the reflection of its eye before the other troopers got too close to it,” he said. “I happened to shine my light to a corner and it was on a shelving unit. And the (other troopers) were walking toward that direction and I told them to stop and back up.”

He said troopers then secured the basement and waited for DEEP officers to arrive.

When the officers went back into the basement to again approach the cat, Bettini said it had changed location and was clinging to the side of a punching bag hanging in the basement, where it was then killed with a .22 rifle. Its body was removed to test for rabies, which came back positive the next day.

DEEP spokesperson Lee Sawyer did not immediately respond to calls for comment Saturday.

Bettini said though the bobcat was not exhibiting a strange gait nor foaming at the mouth — typical symptoms of an advanced-stage rabies infection — he said healthy bobcats do not attack pets or come near homes.

“It wasn’t too afraid of us, which is an indicator (of rabies) and generally speaking, bobcats are timid animals and will run from human interaction and dogs. And this one was not,” he said. “We couldn’t roll the dice with it having direct contact with the dog, it had to get tested (for rabies) and unfortunately for us, that meant we had to put it down.”

Bettini estimated the cat weighed about 25 to 35 pounds. “It was a big cat. It was a large one,” he said. “Just about as big as they get.”

“Had it not had direct contact with the family pet, we would have tried to trap it and release it,” Bettini said. But “the behavior of it attacking a dog was out of sorts. ... If we released it, there was a chance that it would attack another domestic animal.”

Davis said her dog, Gabe, has been walking fine and has “been all right” since the incident, despite initially being a bit shaken up. “He was traumatized the day after,” she said. “It took him quite a few hours to come around, but he’s been much better since.”

She said Gabe was treated for teeth and claw puncture wounds on his back and chest at the Norwichtown Veterinary Hospital and that the family is now tending to them, making sure they do not become infected. She said Gabe also is taking antibiotics. He is expected to fully recover.

Davis added that because Gabe is overweight, the extra fat surrounding his chest ended up saving his life, preventing the bobcat’s tooth from reaching his heart. “So it’s good that I have a fat dog,” she said, laughing. “It's whatever silver lining we can find at this point.”

She added that now the ordeal is over, "we are happy it came into the house and that it was caught and we know no other animal can get hurt. It’s been crazy, though, and I don’t wish this on anyone.”

m.biekert@theday.com

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