UPurr leads animal cruelty investigation after 6 cat injuries, 9 deaths over past year on campus

"Oscar" was found with a fractured pelvis and is currently up for adoption through UPurr. Photo courtesy of Brooke Harrison.

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Over the span of a single year, ABM employees and students have found 15 of UM’s beloved feral cats dead or maimed throughout the Coral Gables campus.

In an Instagram post recently uploaded by UPurr, the student organization that facilitates the care and adoption of cats on UM’s property, the group’s executive board shared that they filed an animal cruelty investigation on April 19, 2023 with the UM Police Department (UMPD) and later with the Office of the State Attorney Animal Cruelty Unit.

Supplemental documentation of each cat affected on-campus was also included in the post, with the first record logged on Jan. 22, 2022 and the most recent record logged on August 29 of this year. Six cats total were found injured with paw lacerations and fractures, and nine were found dead or later euthanized due to severe injury.

Screenshot of UPurr's logged records of recovered dead cats obtained by The Miami Hurricane. Photo Credit: Caroline Val
Screenshot of UPurr’s logged records of recovered dead cats obtained by The Miami Hurricane. Photo Credit: Caroline Val

All were found near the Whitten Learning Center and Panhellenic suites, Mahoney-Pearson Residential College, the School of Law and Allen Hall.

“Our cat feeders, some of whom have been working with us for four or five years, have almost never found an injured or dead animal, let alone so many in one year,” said Brooke Harrison, president of UPurr.

“We know which cats there are on our campus, and we monitor the cats to make sure they’re okay. These past few months, with all of these deaths, it just doesn’t add up. It’s an alarming amount.”

According to Harrison, requests to review campus security footage were made to UMPD immediately after feeders or ABM employees reported a cat injury or death to UPurr. UMPD did not respond to these requests until several weeks later, telling Harrison that the security footage is “automatically erased after 28 days.”

“It disgusts me how hard we have to fight to be taken seriously,” Taylor Greenspan, UPurr treasurer, said. “The evidence we have presented is undeniable. I was told multiple times throughout this investigation that someone would follow up over the phone. They never returned my calls.”

A black cat was found in the utility road near greenhouses. Photo Courtesy of Brooke Harrison
A black cat was found dead in the utility road near greenhouses. Photo courtesy of Brooke Harrison

As reported by The Miami Hurricane in 2020, UMPD commented on the use of reviewing security footage and surveillance, stating that the University’s 1,338 cameras record 24/7 and can be reviewed for forensic or security purposes.

“There’s only six or seven cameras that we’re monitoring at any one given time, but all cameras can record. So if something bad were to happen, we can go back and forensically look at video footage to see if we could possibly identify what happened and who committed the crime,” Chief UMPD Officer David Rivero said to The Hurricane in 2020.

“The policy is that only UM police employees can look at the video footage. If anyone wants video footage of an incident, they have to submit a request. It has to go through proper channels. We just don’t willy-nilly hand over footage or a camera to anybody that asks for it.”

One of the most recent incidents, as reported by UPurr’s Instagram, includes the death of Father Cat, a brown male cat found by ABM janitors in the Allen Hall courtyard on July 31 at 7 a.m. He was last seen by UPurr feeders on July 30.

According to the documentation provided by UPurr, the feline’s body was first sent to the Miami Lakes Veterinary Clinic for a necropsy, an autopsy performed on animals, on the same day. The clinic’s veterinary expert recommended the necropsy be done at the University of Florida, where forensic pathologist Dr. Adam Stern could review the cause of death.

On August 3, the UF report revealed the cause of death to be blunt force trauma.

“[These cats] were not found in parking lots. They were not hit by cars,” Greenspan said. “They were found in the middle of campus. They were murdered.”

"Father Cat" found by facility employees in the Allen Hall courtyard on July 31 at 7 a.m. Photo Courtesy of Brooke Harrison.
“Father Cat” found by facility employees in the Allen Hall courtyard on July 31 at 7 a.m. Photo courtesy of Brooke Harrison.

With the trend of incidents currently under investigation, UPurr is encouraging those with details about potential motives to contact them immediately. Many of the injured animals are also up for adoption through UPurr.

“People should keep their eyes out and report to us if they see any suspicious activity,” said Harrison. “I know some people don’t even give the cats a second glance, but I hope that these occurrences will make people give it a look and make sure that the cats are okay.”

A similar incident took place at Florida International University (FIU) in 2020, in which it was discovered that the university was funding the extermination of its feral cat population by contacting a third-party to take the animals to a local shelter.

In contrast, the violent nature of the animals’ deaths and injuries at UM has prompted significant concern among students and UPurr’s organization, with some citing the incidents as a threat to student and community safety.

“How can we overlook the possibility that whoever is hurting the cats isn’t a danger to students as well?” said Greenspan. “If someone’s dog, or other small animals were found brutally killed on campus, they would have solved it by now. I guarantee it.”

For those with additional information about the incidents, contact UPurr (upurrclub@gmail.com), the Office of the State Attorney Animal Cruelty Unit or UMPD.

The Miami Hurricane has contacted the state attorney’s office and UMPD Chief Officer David Rivero for comment. This is a developing story, The Hurricane will continue to provide updates.