STAFFORD Who’s Rocky’s daddy? The answer to that question may never be known.
And, for that reason, the 38-pound feline suspected of being purebred bobcat can go home.
That was Municipal Court Judge Damian Murray’s surprise ruling Friday, as Rocky’s owner, Ginny Fine, waited to hear the results of a DNA test on the 3-year-old feline that has become a local cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre.
A judge in Stafford Township rules that DNA testing does not prove that her pet is bobcat, so Ginny Fine will get to take ‘Rocky’ home. STAFF VIDEO BY THOMAS P. COSTELLO
Rocky’s lineage was pivotal to whether he could go home: If the DNA test revealed the animal was purebred bobcat, Fine would not be entitled to get him back, unless she qualified for and obtained a special permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. But, if Rocky turned out to be a hybrid of bobcat and Maine coon, as Fine has represented, she would be allowed to get him back.
In a stunner that could have been equated to an animal version of the Maury Povich Show, Murray revealed the results of a mitochondrial DNA analysis performed on Rocky’s blood at the Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.
“The mother was determined to be a bobcat,” Murray said, noting that the DNA test revealed Rocky’s mother was 98 percent lynx rufus, or bobcat.
Mitochnodrial DNA is inherited exclusively from the mother, so the DNA test revealed nothing about Rocky’s father.
The test could not determine who Rocky’s father was, and the breeder from which Fine obtained Rocky was not required to keep records of the animal’s lineage, Murray said.
“The bottom line is, Rocky goes home,” Murray said.
The ruling caught Fine off guard.
“I’m shocked,” Fine said outside the courtroom, after the proceeding. “I don’t even know what to say. I was not expecting that.”
Fine said she was ecstatic, despite having just pleaded guilty to letting the animal get loose and being fined $1,000.
She said her housecats, Elsie and Checkers, will be happy to see Rocky, who has been declawed.
“They miss him terribly,” Fine said. “Elsie has been walking around the house, looking in all the rooms for him.”
Still at the zoo
Fine said she hopes to pick up Rocky on Monday from the Associated Humane Societies’ Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey, where the big cat has been kept since April 7. Animal control officers brought Rocky there a day after the feline finally was lured back home upon being on the loose for 12 days, beginning March 25.
Murray, in ruling that Rocky could go home to Fine, ordered that the feline be kept in an enclosure that will periodically be inspected by the Division of Fish and Wildlife of the Department of Environmental Protection.
“It is something I don’t have a problem doing, if I can have the cat back,” Fine told the judge.
Outside the courtroom, she said the enclosure has already been constructed with funds donated by people who wanted to see Rocky go home.
The judge fined Fine $1,000 for letting the animal get loose for a second time, in violation of an agreement she made with the township in October to erect an enclosure for Rocky, after the big cat previously got loose.
“We would not be going through this had you built a secure enclosure,” Murray said.
In imposing the fine, Murray said the hunt for Rocky incurred manpower expenses for police officers who were “all over this town, hunting through the woods” for Rocky.
The judge also ordered Fine to pay $216 in restitution to the Stafford Veterinary Hospital to reimburse it for tranquilizer medication used during the attempt to capture Rocky the second time the cat got loose.
Fine was last in court on April 11, when Murray signed an order for Rocky’s blood to be drawn for the DNA. Murray ordered the test after officials with the Division of Fish and Wildlife brought him their suspicions about the business in Montana from which Fine obtained Rocky, which advertises the sale of purebred bobcats.
Blood was drawn from Rocky on April 16 and sent to the Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory.
Murray said on April 11 that if it turned out Rocky was purebred bobcat, Fine would not be entitled to get it back unless she obtained a special permit from the DEP.
The DEP issues those permits only for zoos, animal exhibitors, for scientific purposes or to agencies that own animals for advertising, acting or theatrical appearances, according to DEP spokesman Bob Considine.
Murray said Rocky could be subject to seizure in the future if its father’s lineage can be determined to be bobcat.
Meanwhile, Animal Control Officer Kelly Karch said the enclosure that was built for Rocky will be inspected Monday, and if it passes inspection, Rocky can go home then.