House(cat) arrest for pet predator

Associated Press, 10/02/97 11:17

SOMERS, N.Y. (AP) - A pet bobcat with a little too much affection for a neighbor's rabbit has been placed under a kind of house-cat-arrest while a court decides whether he can stay with his owner.

The 31-pound cat, named Paws, is the sole companion of Richard Homan of Somers and is something of an attraction at Homan's bait and tackle shop in Mahopac, where children stop by to pet him.

But Paws ran into trouble last week after he apparently bolted through an open door and was spotted by a neighbor girl ``hanging on the side of the rabbit cage.''

``I was like crying because I thought it was going to eat my dad,'' said 11-year-old Mattie Miller.

Dad, and bunny, escaped harm. Harlan Miller trapped the cat and the state Department of Environmental Conservation took custody. Homan, saying he was worried the bobcat would die without him, won a temporary court order to keep the DEC from releasing Paws to the wild.

``I depend on him as my companion,'' Homan said Wednesday. ``I can't bear the thought of Paws not being with me.''

He said he bought the cat - then a kitten - from a Montana game farm 14 months ago. But DEC spokeswoman Ellen Stoutenbergh said, ``You can't possess wildlife in New York without a permit.''

On Wednesday, lawyers reached an agreement to have Paws reunited with Homan until an Oct. 27 hearing. Homan may not even open his doors unless Paws is confined inside.

Which seemed fine with Homan, who nuzzled his purring pet at the reunion.

``I don't treat him as a wild animal,'' he said. ``He's a pet. The only difference between him and a house cat is he's 20 pounds bigger.''

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