Cat to flee Florida for anonymity
Czar’s life is spared in a deal that sends him to Virginia. The woman and boy who were bitten by him last month will finish their series of rabies shots.
By SHADI RAHIMI
Published June 7, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG — Czar, the striped cat who bit a woman and a boy last month, will avoid a fatal rabies test by moving out of town.
Under a settlement with Pinellas County that involves the two victims, the case against Czar will be dropped once he moves to Virginia to spend his remaining nine lives with a relative of his owner, Jo Ellen Janas.
Janas, a Snell Isle resident, had refused to hand over her cat to the county for rabies testing. Czar faced the kitty death sentence after he bit two neighbors on May 20.
The county is no longer pursuing the rabies test, which required killing Czar first, because Melissa Russell, 78, and the family of Cole Fisher, 6, have signed acknowledgments that they will continue rabies treatment.
They also have waived the requirement that Czar be tested for rabies.
“It isn’t that I didn’t want the cat to be tested, it’s just that I wanted an end to this,” Russell said. “It looked like it could go on and on, and we were satisfied if it were sent out of the area.”
Russell has two more shots left in her treatment, a round of shots administered over 28 days, which she said have caused her discomfort including nausea and headaches.
Fisher’s family could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The county wanted to test Czar for rabies because officials believed he was part wild — a breed of exotic Bengal cat created by crossing a domestic cat with an Asian leopard cat.
Czar had received a rabies vaccine, but no rabies vaccines are approved for hybrids or wild animals.
Janas had insisted Czar was a domestic cat, and last week said she was seeking a DNA test to prove it.
The county’s request for an injunction to force Janas to turn over Czar will be dismissed once the pending settlement is finalized, said Janas’ attorney, Russel Cheatham.
“We still don’t know if Czar is a Bengal or not. The settlement leaves that determination up in the air mainly because the victims decided to go ahead and undergo the rabies treatment,” Cheatham said.
The assistant county attorney involved in the case, Michelle Wallace, declined to comment Wednesday until the case is settled.
Czar was adopted by the Janas family for their son, Alexander, about a decade ago, Cheatham said.
The cat was staying at the family’s home on Brightwaters Boulevard while Alexander attended college in Virginia. He recently graduated and moved back to St. Petersburg.
Now, his cat will be sent to live on a farm with a relative in Virginia.
The family is not disclosing the relative’s name because the case has received so much media attention in the past week, including from a radio station in Virginia, Cheatham said.
[Last modified June 7, 2006, 21:55:38]
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