Rogue hunters shoot pet cat in north Canterbury

Beloved pet cat Tom died after being found with a gunshot wound. Photo: Supplied
Beloved pet cat Tom died after being found with a gunshot wound. Photo: Supplied
An elderly couple in north Canterbury fear for their safety in their own home after their pet cat was killed by a seemingly rogue hunter.

They believe the cat, Tom, was shot on their property, near the Okuku River with the incident only occurring a week after the region’s cat-killing competition.

While the tournament ended the previous weekend and an organiser says it’s unrelated, the family are concerned hunters have continued the practice.

Tome was found late Thursday night covered in blood, suffering from a gunshot to his shoulder blade that shattered the bone.

Daughter, Tanya Seletkoff said her mother Natalie came into the laundry to check on her pet when she noticed blood all over furniture and carpet.

Tom was rushed to an Oxford vet where it was confirmed he’d been shot by a firearm that used bullets larger than a 22 calibre rifle.

Tests were done on Friday morning, however, it was eventually determined there was nothing that could be done to save the life of the beloved pet.

Vets told the family to contact the police given the nature of the bullet found in the cat.

"The size and nature of the entry and exit wounds...lead me to believe...either a calibre larger than .22 Rimfire was used [a .22 Magnum CF] or it was not a hollow point bullet [used in most pest control ammunition]," the vet wrote in a statement.

Tom suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder blade that shattered the bone and ultimately killed...
Tom suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder blade that shattered the bone and ultimately killed him.
Seletkoff told the New Zealand Herald their property is in rural bush on the riverside of Okuku River and difficult to access without "a decent vehicle".

Despite the rural nature of the home, Seletkoff said the home is well-visible from the riverside.

"[Tom] never went further than the trees, he was a very family cat - so they would have known he lived there.

"My parents have seen spotlights coming from the trees, so people are obviously going out there to hunt."

Spotlight hunting is prohibited by law by the Department of Conservation, but the family believe the couple’s property was trespassed in an attempt to hunt game.

North Canterbury has already had the spotlight put on its hunting culture over recent months with the coverage of its cat-killing competition.

The local hunting tournament initially pulled a category that required children younger than 13 to shoot feral cats - before reinstating the category and keeping it exclusive to adults.

Hunters needed to be at least 10km from any residential or lifestyle blocks and communicate with farmers and their neighbouring properties when hunting to ensure boundaries and permission are respected.

Okuku was outside the competition’s boundaries. However, while the competition ended last weekend, Seletkoff has suspicions the hunting of feral cats in the region has continued.

One of the hunting competition’s organisers, Matt Bailey, believes the incident was isolated.

"It’s unfortunate if someone went out and shot a domestic cat, hence we had the rules to prevent that," he said.

"I’d say this had nothing to do with the competition. We don’t condone that behaviour - if people are hunting cats around people’s houses, that’s not what we’re about. We’re out in the wilderness to be fair, on the back of farms."

Seletkoff will often go camping with her 2-year-old in the same patch of bush during the summer - she now fears doing so would put their lives in danger.

"I take my 2-year-old for walks, she stays there a lot - what if it’s one of us shot? Or my parents next? If they don’t care where they’re shooting, it terrifies everybody," she said.

"That type of bullet would kill my 2-year-old instantly."

The parents lost their dog Fluffy during a walk near the Okuku River back in May when the pet was mauled to death by two larger dogs.

Seletkoff raised the latest issue with local police, who classified the incident as firearms-related given the seriousness of the bullet used.

Seletkoff’s parents on the riverside of Okuku River, she told the Herald their property is well...
Seletkoff’s parents on the riverside of Okuku River, she told the Herald their property is well-buried in the bush and difficult to access without "a decent vehicle”.
Multiple police units were spotted by the family patrolling Riverside Rd on Saturday night, Seletkoff said she’s been told the incident is still being investigated.

"I hope something gets done about this, the chances of finding who did this are pretty low but people need to understand there’s a house here with kids," she said.

The SPCA’s scientific officer, Alison Vaughan, said the agency was saddened to learn of the shooting incident.

"We oppose the shooting of any animals for sport or where it is done inhumanely or solely as entertainment for people," she told the Herald.

She also noted there can be legal consequences for doing so outside of strict regulations, with potential action to come from the Ministry for Primary Industries, the SPCA or the police.

Killing an animal inhumanely or causing distress, pain or suffering through injury can be a breach of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Cats, in particular, are at greater risk of injury and disease. Vaughan encouraged cat owners to keep their cats safe and happy within the home through the use of cat-proof fencing, catios or enriched indoor living.

"It is important to remember companion cats are much-loved members of many New Zealand families," she said.

"Shooting someone’s pet could cause profound grief and emotional distress.

 - Nathan Morton