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On Monday, animal control officers responded to a complaint of suspicious activity at a Colorado Springs, Colo., mobile home park. Their investigations revealed three dead cats in plastic bags, along with two canisters of ether, in a dumpster.

When questioned by Colorado Springs police, park maintenance employee David Leisge admitted that he trapped half a dozen cats and suffocated them in an effort to put a stop to a growing stray cat problem.

But the means he apparently used — placing the cats in a plastic bag into which he sprayed solvent ether — could lead to serious charges and even a prison term.

Ether was once used as a surgical anesthetic. It is found in products such as car starter fluid and some cleaning products.

Although Leisge says the method he used is humane because the cats simply go to sleep and then suffocate, Theres no question that they suffered, says Joe Stafford of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.

Leisge says he learned the method from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. However, it was recommended for dealing with unwanted animals like raccoons and skunks and was never meant to be used on domestic animals.

Park resident Janice Whittington’s Fluffy was one of the cats they found dumped in the garbage sparking the investigation into Leisge.

Whittington says Fluffy was wearing a collar and tag, and there was no way he could have been mistaken for a stray.

“Fluffy was only six months old. He was a domestic cat, he wasn’t feral,” she says, fighting back tears. “He was my pet, he was my granddaughter’s pet, and this guy killed him.”

Leisge says, “I’m kind of in a rock and a hard place in that the residents have a perfectly good reason to complain to the park about the unwelcome animals,” but he says he’s also sympathetic to the animal lovers.

I find it hard to believe that anyone would think that is OK, says Stafford.

The Humane Society launched a trap-neuter-return program last year in order to help solve the problem of feral cat overpopulation.

Since then, it has vaccinated and spayed or neutered 945 feral cats, including 27 from the mobile home park where the killings took place, according to figures from the Humane Society.

The humane society says that while the effects of cat overpopulation are frustrating, people who take matters into their own hands by killing the cats are committing a crime.

Leisge was arrested Tuesday on a felony aggravated animal cruelty charge.

[Sources: Colorado Springs Gazette and NewsFirst 5]