Quincy man grapples with kindness and cruelty

By Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 18, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- It has been a stressful couple of days for Austin Bell and his cat, Benji.

"I just don't understand, why," he told WCTV's Katie Kaplan.

It started on Saturday night when Benji did not come home. By daybreak on Sunday, Austin had followed his cat's cries to the storm drain in front of their home in Quincy. Austin could tell something was wrong with Benji's back legs. He worked for hours to coax the feline out of the drainage pipe with no luck, before his roommate made a desperate plea in the 'Tallahassee Pets' public Facebook group.

"One person after another kept coming. Cars were lined up the street," Bell said.

It was late morning when Havana volunteer firefighter Gary Harse arrived.

"I couldn't quite reach it because the cat was dead in the center of the road here in the pipe," he said. "That's where I came up with the idea, 'Let's just call the fire department back out here and use the hose.'"

The Quincy Fire Department sent a truck, and slowly but surely they carefully flushed Benji out the other side where Austin was waiting with open arms.

"The second he came to my hands, I felt immediate relief and I knew he trusted me and he knew he'd be safe," said Bell.

Benji's back legs were not working, so he was rushed to the emergency veterinarian where X-rays showed an unfathomable truth.

"They thought he got hit by a car, but once we took him to the vet, it turned out he actually got shot with a BB Gun and the BB is lodged in his spine," Bell said.

Austin is now left wondering why someone would be so cruel to a helpless animal but said he is comforted by the kindness of the strangers who would not give up. Benji was at home resting Monday night, the BB still lodged in his back and appears to be paralyzed from the waist down. Austin said he plans to follow up with the vet and a specialist on Benji's condition. In the meantime, they have been exploring alternative options- like wheelchairs for cats.

Austin said he filed a police report and has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical costs.

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