ONTARIO — An alert passerby who made a call on Wednesday when he saw something unusual is likely the reason five kittens are alive today.

According to Ontario Police Ordinance Officer Dallas Brockett, the person who reported it was former ordinance officer Billy Carter.

Carter was driving on Northwest Fourth headed toward Yturri Boulevard just after 10:30 a.m. when he saw a white plastic grocery sack moving like it had an animal in it, Brockett said. The former ordinance officer called dispatch and when Brockett arrived, he said bystanders helped him as he untied a bag that had “a handful of kittens” in it.

Brockett said the kittens were drenched and he wasn’t sure if it was because they had been in a ditch or from the heat, but added that they were panting very heavily when he took them out of the bag.

He took them straight to the Ontario Animal Hospital where Dr. Lindsay Norman took them in and coordinated with the Ontario Feral Cat Project on finding homes.

The cats are doing well this morning, according to Ontario Feral Cat Project volunteer Amy Kee. Another volunteer picked the kittens up from the hospital on Wednesday afternoon, she said, and foster parents are currently being sought.

Already, the kittens have an anonymous sponsor, who is paying for their care while at the volunteer’s home.

With her sponsorship of $100 per kitten, she got to name them, Kee said.

“She has named them Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo and Larry!”

In addition, she’ll get weekly pictures of the kittens until they are adopted or go to PetSmart in Meridian to find their forever families.

The kittens were “very traumatized” when they arrived at the animal hospital, Kee said, adding that they are only 2- to 3-weeks old so they have to be fed by syringe.

“This was a horrific act on these kitties, to be dumped along a highway in a grocery bag that was tied off, thankfully they were found in time, much longer and they wouldn’t have made it, they were suffocating,” she said.

Criminal charges

Whether police will ever find who tied up those kittens in a grocery bag and left them on the side of the road is unknown. And even if they did find them, the charges would likely be minimal.

Animal abandonment, which is the charge for a person leaving a domestic animal at a location without care, is a class B misdemeanor, Brockett said, carrying a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to six months in jail.

If the abandonment led to death, he said, it would increase that charge to animal neglect in the first degree, a class A misdemeanor. The only way it would escalate to a felony charge, Brockett said, is if it were more than 10 animals, or the crime was committed in the presence of a minor.

Facebook posts on the Ontario Police Department and Ontario Feral Cat Project pages were made in hopes that someone might step up and report the person who abandoned the kittens.

“The hardest part is locating who did it,” Brockett said.

He encouraged people who see something out of the ordinary to report it.

“If something feels off — I know a lot of people don’t want to be complainers — but they can feel free to call dispatch at least so we can document and report it,” he said.

Having witnesses and people be on the lookout is really important, Brockett said.

Asked how he felt about potentially never finding out who was responsible, he said, “It’s frustrating. Especially trying to catch the people who do this because you’re passionate about animals and the job.”

Outfalls of abandonment

This kind of cruel case hasn’t been a repeat problem, Brockett said. However, animal abandonment is something he’s seen more cases of lately.

The majority comes from tenants who get evicted that leave their animals behind, and sometimes dogs just “show up at Anicare, having been dropped off without any rhyme or reason,” he said.

In the City of Ontario, residents are not required to fix their animals as part of the licensing process for dogs.

However, “we encourage it,” Brockett said, adding that is the reason the city works closely with Ontario Feral Cat Project and Anicare, which are volunteer-driven nonprofits.

“They are two really great organizations like that, that work their tails off — no pun intended — to try to combat this issue.”

The problem however is overcrowding at both facilities.

“Anicare keeps getting full and Ontario Feral Cat Project is maxed out,” Brockett said.

Brockett and Kee both stressed the importance of getting animals fixed.

Kee said a great resource for low-cost spaying/neutering can be found online at https://www.boiseid.net.

Still however, there is hope found in the people who keep stepping up to help out.

“Even with those evil people that walk this earth … there are lots of amazing people too!! We are always so thankful for those amazing people that are willing to help and rally when bad things happen,” Kee wrote in an email. “Our community and beyond has once again been amazing.”

Leslie Thompson is the editor at The Argus Observer. She can be reached at (541) 823-4818 or by emailing lesliet@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com.

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