SOUTH PORTLAND — Karen Rasmussen says her three cats, 10-year-old brothers she weaned since their birth, are part of her family.
So when all three were shot during the last year, it was a trying time that has her considering leaving her neighborhood.
Since moving to Meetinghouse Hill in November 2016, all three of Rasmussen’s pets have been shot: two with a pellet gun, and one with a .22-caliber firearm.
Rasmussen is a geneticist who with her husband also owns and operates the popular Taco Trio restaurant in Knightville. She said she fears those responsible for shooting her pets have been emboldened, but added she doesn’t believe her neighbors should be concerned because the shootings seem to be targeted.
Lt. Frank Clark, public information officer for the South Portland Police Department, confirmed the case is being investigated by Detective Jeff Levesque, and said at least two people were interviewed about the shootings. However, no suspects have been identified and no charges have been filed.
Clark said charges could include animal cruelty and a civil fine because it is illegal to discharge a gun in the city.
He said the city’s animal control officer initially investigated the case, but it was referred to the police because the .22-caliber gun was used in one of the shootings.
Rasmussen noted the neighborhood is densely populated, and a person could have been shot accidentally.
Clark said most cases of animal cruelty the department deals with are along the line of dogs being left in hot cars; cases similar to Rasmussen’s are rare. He said the case remains open and encouraged anyone with information to come forward.
The cats grew up on Munjoy Hill in Portland and have always been free to roam outdoors. But Rasmussen said the trio has learned how to open the storm doors in the house and wait for opportunities to sneak by her.
The first cat was shot last June; the latest shooting occurred two weeks ago.
The injuries to Tippy, Furball and Squeaker have cost Rasmussen $11,000 for surgeries and emergency and follow-up veterinarian appointments. Tippy lost a toe and Furball nearly lost his leg, where a metal rod had to be inserted to save the appendage; it took nearly six months to heal.
Veterinarian Kristine Hoyt of Cats on Call in Scarborough has been the primary care doctor for the three cats since 2007; she said Rasmussen is an ideal pet owner. Hoyt, who has been practicing for 30 years, said it’s very uncommon to treat animals that have been intentionally harmed.
She said one of her gravest concerns about the incidents is it is known by criminal profilers that people who harm animals typically escalate their behavior and eventually harm people.
Although the shootings remain under investigation, Rasmussen said she would be satisfied if the person or people responsible come forward to pay her pets’ medical costs.
South Portland resident Karen Rasmussen with her cat Furball, who was shot by someone using a .22-caliber gun.
Furball after surgery to fix his leg. A metal rod had to be placed in the leg to keep it intact.
Furball, Squeaker and Tippy have all been injured in shootings in South Portland.