A Glen Cove family is coping with an incident that could have been a tragedy. On June 1, while out roaming the neighborhood, a beloved family pet — a cat named Gracie — was shot with a pellet gun, and her back legs were left paralyzed. Police are still searching for the shooter.
The cat was “crying in pain” when a woman heard her outside her home on Taft Place, according to Glen Cove police. The woman saw that the cat was unable to walk and contacted her neighbor, veterinarian Dr. Mara DiGrazia-Weigand, who took Gracie to her practice in New Hyde Park.
DiGrazia-Weigand discovered two gunshot wounds, initially believed to be from .22 caliber bullets. Gracie has a implanted microchip, so authorities were able to track down her family the next day.
According to the cat’s owners, D.J. and Christina Hunnicutt, Gracie is a friendly cat that regularly wanders the neighborhood near their Sherwood Road home. In fact, she’s no typical outdoor cat, D.J. said, because she follows them on the walks they take with their three children and two dogs.
When the Hunnicutts adopted Gracie five years ago, D.J. said, they lived in an apartment in Sea Cliff and she was strictly an indoor cat. They moved to Glen Cove about three years ago, and D.J. bought a leash and began taking Gracie outside. Eventually, they didn’t need the leash, and trusted her to follow them, or to go out on her own and find her way home.
But on June 1, she never made it home.
“It’s extremely upsetting,” Christina said. “It’s very frightening to think this happened in our neighborhood.”
“Thankfully it wasn’t a .22 caliber bullet, because that likely would have killed her,” D.J. said. “But because they’re pellets and not bullets, they can’t be traced by the police.”
X-rays taken during Gracie’s emergency veterinarian visit show two pellets, police said, one in her spine and the other in her abdomen.
Though the cost was high, the family immediately decided to have Gracie undergo surgery on June 3. Posts on the Glen Cove Neighbors Facebook page were quickly shared, with the hope of finding the shooter. Christina’s cousin Nathaniel Booth created a GoFundMe account to help the family, and support poured in. In less than a week, the effort raised more than $18,000 to cover Gracie’s medical expenses.
She is now recovering at Long Island Animal Hospital in Plainview, and the Hunnicutts hope she’ll come home on Saturday. “She’s good — she’s stable,” D.J. said, though he added that he had received contradictory reports from doctors on whether there was muscle movement in Gracie’s back legs. She has a long road of physical therapy and acupuncture treatments ahead of her, but D.J. said he hoped he would eventually be able to take her out for walks again, even if she’s on wheels.
“The neighbors will want to see her,” he said. “They used to always come out and take pictures and videos of her walking with us.”
D.J., who was born and raised in Glen Cove, owns DJH Painting and Powerwashing. Christina grew up in Sea Cliff, and they have a 3-year-old son and 6-month-old twins. The support they’ve received from the community, D.J. said, is “unbelievable.” Neighbors have dropped off food and money, and the GoFundMe raised more than they needed.
“We couldn’t have asked for more,” he said. “It was surprising to see this much support for an animal, especially a cat, but a lot of people knew her and a lot of people really care. It’s been very overwhelming.”
Any money left over, he said, will be donated to charity.
The Glen Cove Police Department has requested the community’s help in identifying the person who shot Gracie, and said the incident most likely occurred on June 1 between 7 and 7:20 p.m. on Taft Place or Sherwood Road in Glen Cove. Tips can be called in anonymously to the department at (516) 676-1002, or shared online at email@example.com or on the department’s Facebook page. Additionally, the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter. Call (516) THE-SPCA.
“We know Gracie will never be the same cat, but we hope we can still give her a full life, filled with strolls around the neighborhood and lots of love,” D.J. posted on Facebook. “With any money left over we would like to donate it to a local animal/cat rescue. It is truly amazing to see how everyone came together for our little Gracie.”