Residents of a Bluffton neighborhood who say a neighbor's pit bull has been killing their cats for years believe a fine levied against the dog's owner Tuesday is long overdue.
The pit bull's owner, however, wants to know why cats in The Farm at Buckwalter Place are not required to be leashed, too.
Wendell Brantley of Gardners Circle, owner of pit bull Bronx, appeared in Bluffton Municipal Court to answer for charges that he let his dog run free Feb. 12 and that the dog killed a neighbor's cat in front of witnesses.
A handful of other residents of The Farm who say Bronx has also killed their cats showed up, as well.
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On Feb. 12, Bronx shook a cat owned by Victor Nunez in the front yard of Mark Kreuzwieser, testified Bluffton police Officer John DeStasio.
Kreuzwieser said he witnessed the deadly attack after he heard a child screaming outside.
"I opened the door and observed the pit bull shaking the cat violently," he told Judge Clifford Bush.
Brantley confirmed the account. Then on cross examination, he asked DeStasio, "Was the cat on a leash?"
DeStasio said it wasn't and answered "Yes," when Brantley asked if leash laws apply to cats.
"My dog gets out once in a blue moon, but their cats are out every day," Brantley said after the hearing. "I feel sorry for the cat's owner, but we both broke the law."
Bush fined Brantley the state minimum for violating the leash law, which amounted to about $255.
Neighbors allege as many as 15 cats have been shaken to death by Bronx, but the Feb. 12 incident is the first they've been able to document, resident Debbie Szpanka said.
Szpanka said she has lost two of her cats and three cats she had been fostering.
"We all know this has been going on for a long time," she said.
Reports relating to Bronx filed with Beaufort County Animal Control and the Bluffton Police Department date to 2009.
On one occasion in July 2010, neighbor Timothy Tuten reported that Bronx had killed his "Miss Kitty," who was lying in his driveway. He said Tuesday he also suffered injuries to his hand and wrist trying to free the cat from the dog's jaws.
Police warned Brantley to muzzle the dog and allow only adults to walk him, or repeat incidents would result in the animal being declared dangerous, according to the report.
Brantley said he has owned Bronx for 10 years and that Miss Kitty and the cat killed Feb. 12 are the only two cats he has killed. Tuesday was the first time he has been charged.
Brantley said that because of neighbors' complaints, he has given the dog to a relative.
Cat owner Nunez said he hopes that's true.
"Next time, we don't want it to be a child," Nunez said.
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.