New theories surface in UPurr animal cruelty investigation; UMPD responds

A campus cat lays in the grass near the University of Miami's school of architechture on Oct. 4, 2023. Photo credit: Trevor Castleman

After a week of silence, the University of Miami Police Department (UMPD), has responded to The Miami Hurricane’s request for comment on the recent increase of cat injuries and deaths on UM’s Coral Gables Campus.

When reaching out to the police department, The Hurricane requested comment about potential leads on perpetrators, why response to UPurr’s immediate requests for security footage to be reviewed was delayed to the point of footage being “automatically erased” and how UMPD plans to move forward in the animal cruelty investigation initiated by UPurr.

“The University of Miami Police Department immediately assesses and investigates all reports it receives, including the incidents regarding the feral cats that were reported by members of the UPurr student organization,” said UMPD Chief David Rivero.

“No one has been ignored, and we continue to look into this matter utilizing all investigative means possible. If an individual is found responsible, arrests will be made.”

When referring to the necropsy report made in relation to the death of “Father Cat,” a brown male cat found dead in the Allen Hall courtyard on July 31, Chief Rivero stated the following:

“The necropsy report that has been referenced determined one of the animals died from blunt force trauma and that the cause of the injury was inconclusive and ‘could include vehicular, human or animal induced trauma,’” said Rivero.

No further comment was provided on behalf of the police department.

Since UPurr posted to its Instagram account two weeks ago of their investigation with UMPD and the Office of the State Attorney Animal Cruelty Unit, the delayed response from campus authorities has left the UM and greater Miami-Dade community questioning who may be the perpetrators of the cat injuries and deaths.

“Does anyone know what is going on at the University of Miami regarding the cats around the law school and Miller entrance?” said user Susan Lacy in a post within the public Facebook group Miami Beach Animal Advocates. “This week men with nets have been observed late at night trying to net the cats in that area.”

In response to Lacy, one user suggested that the suspected men were trapping ducks on behalf of the University to control the population.

One UPurr cat feeder, who requested to remain anonymous, discussed her recent interaction with the men referenced in the animal advocacy Facebook page.

“While waiting in the car near the law library, I was watching the cats in the parking lot,” the feeder said.

“From a hallway came a man with a large net. Once he saw the cats, he whistled for others to come for backup as he pointed to the cats. I feared these men were up to no good. I questioned them as to what they were doing and told them that it was illegal to trap the cats. The one admitted to knowing it was illegal.”

When told by the men that they were trapping ducks, the cat feeder questioned them further.

“There was not a single duck in sight,” they said.

“I asked him what he was doing with the ducks … He pointed to a service area and said they had a ‘place’ for them there. It seems they were possibly with a company, as they all had the same shirts on. And the same exact net. They were definitely agitated by my questioning.”

The University also revealed the administration is working alongside UPurr on a new policy to mitigate the violent actions against its feral cat population on campus. This policy, per a statement issued by UM Communications, is currently in development.

“The University of Miami has been working closely with UPurr members over the past year to develop a Campus Cat Policy and respond to any concerns regarding the cat population on campus,” the statement said.

“The policy was specifically written with the input of the Department of Environmental Health Safety in the Division of Facilities, Operations and Planning to protect community cats, as well as the human population on campus, by defining procedures for community cat feeding and care.”

Chief Assistant State Attorney Kathleen Hoague, the director of the state attorney’s animal cruelty unit, did respond to The Hurricane’s request for comment, speaking to the prosecution process should a perpetrator be identified.

“If these injuries and/or deaths have been intentionally inflicted by a person or persons, that person or persons can and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for Felony Animal Cruelty if we can prove who he or she is,” said Hoague.

“We will be reviewing the video evidence and/or any information from witnesses as well as other forms of medical and scientific evidence at our disposal. These are very serious criminal charges and the persons who commit animal cruelty are dangerous persons to not only animals, but to other persons.”

Since the animal injuries and deaths have been made known to the UM community, many students and UM affiliates have expressed their dissatisfaction with the UMPD’s lack of evidence and communication in the case.

“The University should be ashamed that all of this happened under their watch,” said one student in a comment under UPurr’s Instagram post explaining the investigation. “Where are the cameras? How can this many cats be hurt and there be no surveillance footage?”

As the investigation continues, students and UM community members alike are urging campus authorities to promptly provide more insight as to how severe the safety threat is and any leads found.

“This campus lacks a sense of diligence that this situation most definitely brings to light,” another user commented on UPurr’s Instagram post. “This is inexcusable and should never be happening anywhere, let alone on a college campus that claims to protect its students, residents and community. The Purricanes are a pillar of our community and their care and wellbeing is just as important as that of our students. This is absolutely heartbreaking on every account.”