The New York Police Department is investigating two incidents of cats being abandoned inside sealed buckets in the city’s SoHo neighborhood.
So far, there have been “two buckets and both were sealed,” Tiffany Lacey, executive director of nonprofit animal shelter Animal Haven, told HuffPost in an email. “Each one had a cat in them and both cats are safely at Animal Haven now. They were left to go out with the trash and were only found because they seemed suspicious.”
Animal Haven staff discovered the first bucket, containing a cat now named Sage, near the shelter’s back door in November. Had the staff member not noticed Sage’s eye peeking out of the top, the bucket could have easily ended up thrown in the trash compactor, the group wrote on Instagram at the time.
But it wasn’t a one-off incident. On Thursday, a staff member noticed a similar bucket on the corner of the building’s street on Thursday. The second bucket, too, turned out to have a cat inside, alive but in “poor shape,” the organization wrote.
Lacey said security camera footage shows what appears to be the same man leaving the cats both times, and that the two buckets were the same kind. A NYPD spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost that police are investigating, but did not provide further information.
It’s unclear whether the man is intending for the animal shelter to find the buckets.
“He’s leaving them in places that would be hard to find easily,” said Lacey. “They are blending in to the trash. This last one was set next to the city street trash on our corner ― not even really near our building.”
Sealing the cats in the buckets could have amounted to a death sentence if no one had found them.
“The buckets snap shut tight,” she said. “You can’t just pop [them] open. We had to use pliers. There is no way a cat could escape.”
Despite the ordeal, Sage is now doing “really well.” The second cat is “still scared and has some skin irritations or injuries,” and is awaiting a more extensive evaluation from a vet.
Lacey emphasized that anyone who needs to surrender a pet should “always call or reach out” to animal shelters or rescue groups, not dump animals on the street.
“If we can’t help directly, we have resources and other locations to safely surrender pets,” she said.