Police are still searching for a scraggly drifter who in early November nabbed a tabby cat from Aloha Pet and Bird Hospital and who came back last week and smashed the plate-glass window to the cat adoption room with a hammer.
The stolen cat, a tom named Flounder, was found eight days later roaming the streets in Indian Harbour Beach and that story had a happy ending as Flounder recently found a good home, but the perpetrator was never caught. After the Flounder incident, Aloha Adoptions, a nonprofit animal rescue and rehoming organization which operates out of the Aloha animal hospital, installed security cameras and changed the lock code on the “cat room,” a bright, cheery room filled with kitty condos and cat toys where adoptable cats mingle with potential new families.
The man, who was described by witnesses as tall and gaunt with long, unkempt dirty-blonde hair and a brown beard and mustache, had stuffed Flounder in a duffel bag and raced out with him, and according to front desk manager Nina Schrage, that’s what he hoped to do again last Tuesday night. Around 7:15 p.m. she said, the suspect came in and tried to get into the cat room. She explained that they’d changed the code, because of him.
“Then I said something about our cat and he got upset,” Schrage said, explaining that the man said that a living, breathing animal can’t be owned. Agitated, he left and came back with a hammer. From outside the cat room window, according to witnesses, he put his hand in a bag and smashed the window with the hammer – presumably in an attempt to “free” the five or six cats in the cat room at the time.
Schrage said she shouted for the staff to lock the doors and that the whole incident was very upsetting, not only for the cats in the cat room, but for clients at the hospital with their pets, including two children.
Police responded and with a K-9 went looking for the suspect, who at the time was wearing a gray hoodie and “multi-colored yoga pants” but the tracking was unsuccessful. The suspect is rumored to be homeless and living on the beach between Indian Harbour Beach and Indialantic.
Aloha staff said the same man has been involved in other efforts to free animals, including trying to unhook dogs from their leashes at the Canova Beach dog park, cutting fishing lines while people were surf fishing and even dumping a live-bait bucket.
“I think his intentions are probably pure, but he’s not thinking it all through,” Schrage said. “He’s definitely mentally unstable.” But she never thought he would be violent, she added.
Now she’s afraid of what else the suspect might do to anyone he thought was imprisoning and animal.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, the Melbourne Police Department, which is the lead agency on the case as Aloha Adoptions is located in the sliver of the barrier island within the City of Melbourne, said they have no suspect and have made no arrest.
Fortunately this time, Aloha has several eyewitnesses who can identify the suspect, plus the video camera footage.
Once he is caught, the man would likely face felony charges, as the window that was smashed was valued at $1,200, making the second crime much more serious, in the eyes of the law anyway, than the cat-snatching in November.
Anyone having information about the suspect’s whereabouts should call the Melbourne Police Department’s non-emergency line at 321-608-6731 and refer to Case#17-85198.