“We are all devastated, Sam was a family member,” pet owner and mother of two Moa Lilja told The Local.
Lilja’s ordeal unfolded recently on what had been a normal Monday in her tranquil village of Gössäter, a small township not far from the southern shores of Lake Vänern.
Before heading off to work, Lilja let out her pet cats Sam and Sonja just as she did every morning.
But the day took a sinister turn later that day when she received a call from a concerned neighbour who told Lilja she had spotted a man carrying a rifle wandering around the neighbourhood.
According to the neighbour, the gun-toting man was shooting stray cats in the area. The caller added that she hadn’t seen Sam, prompting Lilja to fear the worst.
“I got worried because Sam always stayed around the house. He never strayed from the area,” she said.
By the time Lilja arrived home at the end of the workday she had learned from her neighbour that Sam was among the cats killed by the hunter and dumped in a wooded area nearby.
The grisly discovery was made by the concerned neighbour, who was able to identify Sam by the tag on his ear.
When Lilja got home, she gathered her family together and tried to explain to her children what happened.
“Of course they were torn up about it and cried a lot,” she said.
“We made a box for Sam and the children drew pictures to put inside it.”
Lija’s sadness soon gave way to anger, however, when she later learned that the man who shot Sam was acting without authorization from local municipal officials.
While the hunter had told the concerned neighbour that he had a permit allowing him to eliminate or put down unwanted animals, the permit wasn’t valid for her neighbourhood.
In addition, Lilja explained, the man had undertaken his cat-hunting expedition, not at the behest of city officials, but following a request from a relative who was fed up with stray cats in her back garden.
Outraged by the gunman’s recklessness, Lilja’s husband called and confronted the man.
“What’s done is done,” was the reply he received.
The hunter’s subsequent apology and offer to buy the family a new cat did little to assuage the frustration of Lilja and her family.
“You can’t simply replace him, he wasn’t some ragged cat off the street; he was ours,” she said.
Karl-Arne Hennersten of Götene municipality told The Local that the man who killed Sam is not among the eight hunters in the area called upon to take care of rogue animals.
Local police told Sveriges Radio (SR) that the hunter’s actions likely violated the law.
“As far as I’m aware, the hunter wasn’t authorized by the municipality to shoot the cats in the middle of the street,” Anders Johansson of the Skara police told SR.
The family has since reported the incident to police and plan on seeking damages for their pain and suffering.
Meanwhile, Sam now lies in a freezer in the family’s garage awaiting burial.
Lilja hopes the tragedy will prompt the municipality review their procedures for dealing with stray cats.
“This could all have been avoided so easily,” she said.
“To lure unknowing animals into the arms of trigger-happy men is absurd. There needs to be a change.”