STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — Rocky, a missing 3-year-old bobcat hybrid, returned home this weekend only to be taken away from his owner, Ginny Fine, pending a court date Friday.
“I found him in the woods this weekend and brought him home,” Fine said of the animal, which is mostly bobcat but also has domestic feline in his lineage. “This morning, I went to Stafford Police Department to do the right thing and tell them he was home and was staying with me until my court date on Friday.”
Police said, however, that the 38-pound animal, which also escaped from Fine’s Beach Haven West home in October, was removed from Fine’s home Monday afternoon and transported to Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township.
Fine said there’s a possibility she could lose her pet for good. Police said the hybrid animal does not require anything more than a cat license in the township.
Rocky got out of the home March 25 after he was wrestling with the family dog and slipped out of a sliding-glass door, Fine said.
Traps were set in the neighborhood for the declawed feline in the hours after the escape, and residents were told to be careful.
Stafford police Capt. Thomas Dellane said officers searched for the missing animal, but were unable to find him.
“If I was being chased by the cops, I’d run, too,” Fine said.
In October, Rocky escaped through the front door of the home by using his feet to open the door handle, Fine said.
After that escape, in addition to a $500 fine and summons, an agreement was reached between Fine and the township in case the animal ran away again.
A copy of the Oct. 18 agreement involving Fine, Animal Control Officer Kelly Karch and Animal Control Department Supervisor Lt. James Vaughn, obtained by The Press of Atlantic City, states: “Any subsequent running at large, biting, or attacking, on or off the owner’s property will cause the hybrid feline to be immediately seized and a hearing requested, with no option of agreement.”
But Fine said she was told Friday by township animal control officers and Vaughn that Rocky would be permitted to stay at his home until Friday’s court date.
“I would have never gone over there today. I would have stayed in contempt of court,” Fine said. “I was just trying to do the right thing to let them know he was home and safe. I had reassurances last week that he wasn’t going to be taken from me.”
“There was an agreement, but the cat never hurt anybody. He didn’t do anything to anyone. It was my understanding since he was missing that he could stay with me at least until Friday,” she said.
Dellane said that arrangement was never agreed upon, and Vaughn would not have the authority to override a judge’s order.
The agreement from October also dictated that within 10 days, Fine would build an enclosure at her home surrounded by a fence “to prevent a potentially dangerous hybrid feline from escaping, by climbing, jumping or digging.”
Fine said Monday that she has not yet built a new pen to contain Rocky because she cannot afford to.
“The kind of pen they want to be built costs over $1,000. I’m a single mom and I can barely make ends meet.”
The pen that Fine is required to replace is attached to her home, and Rocky is able to use the area to access the outdoors during nice weather.
Fine said she cried Monday afternoon as Rocky was removed from the house.
“He’s very affectionate with me. He purrs and rubs on me. He sleeps with me, and he’s not a wild animal, and he’s very bonded to my other house cat,” she said of the animal that was brought to New Jersey from Montana.
“I think people are scared. They don’t know he’s not your average house cat,” she said.
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