Two Ocean Cable Group employees who allegedly dragged a cat from the bumper of a truck were cleared of cruelty because the cat was dead to begin with, officials told AP Friday.
Robert Hewitt Jr., 28, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., and Joseph M. Newton Jr., 25, of Galloway Township, N.J., were charged after Ken Brown -- an Atlantic City, N.J., police sergeant on his way to work -- saw the animal Dec. 22.
Brown -- who was in Absecon, N.J., at the time -- alerted authorities and the trucks were stopped a short time later, AP said.
According to Brown, the adult cat was tied by its neck with four feet of cable wire to an Ocean truck driven by Hewitt, who was also charged inhumane treatment of an animal. Newton was following him in another company truck, officials told AP.
Newton and Hewitt were charged with animal cruelty. But an autopsy on the nearly unrecognizable corpse showed no signs of hemorrhage or reddening around the cat's neck, where the wire had been tied to attach it to the truck, AP said.
"While this was a despicable act, New Jersey law expressly states that an animal must have been alive when it was tortured in order to lodge animal-cruelty charges," Atlantic County prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz told AP. "The dragging of a dead animal is not prohibited by the animal-cruelty statute."
Hewitt will face a disorderly-persons charge in municipal court for the stunt, Blitz added.