Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke
Franklin, the cat that lived at Pet Express in Lynn, was stolen from outside the store.
BY GAYLA CAWLEY
LYNN — Pet Express is coping with a catnapping.
Rob Mellace, owner of Pet Express, said their black cat, Franklin, who lives at the store, was snatched by two men on Friday.
Franklin was stolen when he was sitting outside the front door of the store at about 7 p.m., a timeframe that was established by surveillance cameras.
At about closing time, Mellace noticed that the cat disappeared, which he said was not unusual since the feline has a tendency to wander the parking lot.
But when Mellace and other store employees came to work on Saturday, Franklin was still gone. They examined the surveillance footage that showed the men putting the cat in their car. The cameras also identified the license plate of the car, which Mellace and other store owners were able to relay to police.
“This is devastating for our employees and devastating for us,” he said.
Lynn Police Lt. Rick Donnelly said police ran the license plate of the vehicle and one person, a 28-year-old man from Danvers, admitted he snatched the cat. He said the man told police that the cat scratched him on the way home, so he let Franklin go out of his car, abandoning him.
“He came to the station, told the truth and wants to avoid criminal charges,” Donnelly said.
The Danvers man told police he is trying to find the cat and return him to his owners.
Mellace said Franklin was a stray cat that came into his life about a year ago. He said he and other store employees have been trying to rehabilitate the former dumpster cat.
Franklin is black, about five years old, and has an ear chopped, a distinguishing feature, because of a catch and release feral cat program, where the animals are neutered and their ears are tagged so they won’t be captured again, according to Mellace.
Franklin initially started hanging around the store’s previous location on the Lynnway and followed store owners to its current location about 1,000 feet away on Commercial Street. Since then, he’s become a permanent fixture of the store, where his pictures are displayed and he often entertains visitors. He even has his own Facebook page: Franklin Pet Express Boston.
“Franklin chose us,” he said.
Mellace said he hasn’t met the man who admitted to taking his cat, but was told by police that Franklin was abandoned on Alley Street.
But he is not sure the story is true, saying that Franklin would have been able to find his way back to the store. He believes the cat may have not been abandoned in Lynn at all.
“This is a very street smart cat,” he said. “He’s lived outside the majority of his life. He’s very savvy and very loud. If he said they got scratched, that sounds just like Franklin. He’s still in the rehabilitation phase and not very trusting of people.”
Mellace was told by police that the Danvers man, who police did not identify, couldn’t provide a reason why he took the cat. Police gave the man an opportunity to return the cat by Monday to avoid charges.
But Mellace said there is still no sign of Franklin and he met with Lynn officers on Tuesday about pressing charges.
He said a reward is being offered for Franklin’s safe return, but would not disclose the amount for fear of other black cats being stolen.
If found, Franklin might be shy and tough to approach.
“We just don’t understand what would give anyone the right to take him,” Mellace said.
Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.