Penelope the cat, who was allegedly beaten so badly she had to be euthanized. Submitted photo

By Shereen Siewert

A Wausau-area man accused of beating his girlfriend’s cat so brutally the animal lost an eye and had to be euthanized will face felony charges if a judge in the case allows prosecutors to amend the criminal complaint filed against him in August.

Andrew Gehr booking photo courtesy of the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department

Andrew Gehr, 30, faces a misdemeanor charge of animal mistreatment, prompting an outcry from his former girlfriend’s friends and family members, as well as some members of the community, who want Gehr to face felony charges and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The complaint and charge was filed Aug. 23. But three days later, Assistant District Attorney Jonathan E. Barnett filed a motion asking permission to amend the complaint and charge to a single count of mistreating animals – intentional or negligent violation causing disfigurement, under the same state statute. The new proposed charge is a class F felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

Circuit Judge Greg Strasser has not yet ruled on the motion.

As previously reported, court records show officers were called at about 8:25 a.m. Aug. 22 to a home on Robb Street in Schofield for a report of a family disturbance. When officers arrived, they discovered Gehr’s girlfriend’s pet cat, Penelope, in a shed in the backyard, her eye popped out of its socket and her nose and mouth encrusted with blood and dirt.

Police say Gehr, who was living at the home at the time, told his young daughter to go play downstairs before beating the cat and hiding her near-lifeless body in the shed of the couple’s shared home. Gehr’s girlfriend searched for Penelope for days – all while Gehr assisted in the “search” and acted as though he knew nothing.

After Penelope was found she was taken to a local vet, who determined her injuries were similar to those which resulted from being “kicked by a horse, being in a dog fight or hit by a car,” the complaint states. The cat was euthanized due to the extent of her injuries, which likely resulted in total blindness and loss of brain function, court documents state.

Gehr, who has a long criminal history including convictions for theft, possession of methamphetamine, forgery, obstruction and other charges, is jailed on a probation hold. If the charge is amended, the judge could set a new bond in the case.

A GoFundMe for Penelope’s owner can be found here.