Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wendy, service cat to disabled vet, recovering after possible attack

From KVUE-TV in Austin, Texas:

Wendy the service cat is recovering well after her second surgery Sept. 23.

Wendy's owner, Jeff Ward, who is a disabled Iraq War veteran, says he found her Sept. 20 near his apartment -- both her pelvic bones were broken. Ward says Wendy goes with him on a leash and harness everywhere – restaurants, stores, even the gym. It’s because of that she is trained to use a toilet or go to the bathroom outside.

Sept. 20, Ward had let her outside to go the bathroom – something he says he does often. She usually stays outside for about an hour.

When that time had passed and Wendy had not returned, Ward says he and some friends went out to look for her. Ward says he found Wendy near another apartment and that she was no where near a roadway or the parking lot.

He does not believe she may have been hit by a car and says she was unable to move and doesn’t believe she could have crawled to her location.

Veterinarians have told Ward that Wendy’s injuries appear to be consistent with being stepped on or kicked.

Wendy helps Ward cope with severe post traumatic stress disorder.

She is trained and registered as Ward's service animal through the department of veterans affairs and is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ward says his doctor suggested he get a service cat about a year ago. Wendy was donated at 6 months old by the group “Paw Match” after she showed appropriate characteristics for the task.

Ward carries paperwork with him to verify Wendy’s training and status as his service cat with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ward says Wendy helps him by sensing when he is anxious or agitated. Wendy will calm Ward by rubbing up on him, distracting him from what may be triggering his emotions. He says Wendy also helps him in social situations where lots of people and loud noises would otherwise force him to leave.

Ward says he can then look to Wendy – if she is not alarmed, he knows his PTSD is what’s causing him to feel anxious and his surroundings are otherwise stable.

If Wendy is also startled and acting defensively, Ward knows it would be best to remove himself from that situation.

A police report has been filed for the incident; however, APD says it has not yet been assigned to an officer.

Wendy is now expected to recover from her injuries, however, if her injuries had been fatal, the person responsible could have faced felony charges since she is a service animal.

If police do find Wendy was purposely attacked, the person responsible could face misdemeanor charges. If the owner of a service or assistance animal attacks that animal, they could face a state jail felony charge.