Hoosiers call for tougher animal cruelty punishment after cat is burned alive

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ind. -- The story of a cat tied up and burned alive is renewing calls for tougher animal cruelty penalties in central Indiana.

Noah Riley, 19, of Crawfordsville turned himself into police Friday, admitting to pouring gasoline on the cat and setting her on fire. The cat, named Phoenix for surviving the flames, succumbed to her injuries on Sunday.

Riley is charged with a felony and a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty and could spend a maximum of three and a half years behind bars along with thousands of dollars in fines.

The Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County said he deserves the maximum punishment, but Hoosiers should fight for stronger animal cruelty laws.

“He does need to be held accountable for his actions and he does need to be punished," said Director Misha Anderson. “We’re not just going to sweep it under the rug."

They've teamed up with the Scaggs & Largent Screenprinting and Signs store in downtown Crawfordsville to create t-shirts that read #TeamPhoenix on them. Anderson and other supporters plan to wear them and rally at the courthouse the day Riley is sentenced.

"I think it's being very well-known to our prosecutor that this is not okay and we're not going to sit back and watch this just be a slap on the wrist."

Anderson wants others to speak up in their communities too and be the voice for those who can't tell their own story. She wants people to push for tougher penalties for crimes against animals.

"You go to your legislators. You make your voice heard. And try to get them to be as strict as possible," said Anderson. "We are going to be their voice and we’re going to make sure that you’re held accountable."

Donations totaling $15,000 poured in from around the world to help the shelter pay for the cat's medical bills. The money leftover combined with the proceeds from the #TeamPhoenix t-shirts will be used to pay to treat other sick animals at the shelter.

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