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

By Shereen Siewert

A judge on Monday granted a prosecutor’s motion to seek felony charges for a Wausau man accused of beating his former girlfriend’s cat so brutally the animal lost an eye and was euthanized due to the extent of her injuries.

Andrew Gehr, 30, initially faced a misdemeanor charge of animal mistreatment in the case. That charge was met with fierce criticism from his former girlfriend’s friends, family members and other animal activists who insisted the allegations against Gehr rose to a felony level.

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, then took the cat, beat her within inches of her life and hid her near-lifeless body in the shed of their shared home. Gehr’s then-girlfriend searched for Penelope for days – all while Gehr assisted in the “search” and acted as though he knew nothing.

At the scene, police found blood and urine, along with the cat’s bedding, which was stained with blood and had been thrown in the trash, according to court documents.

Gehr was arrested and taken to the Marathon County Jail. Penelope 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.

Three days after the initial charge was filed, Marathon County Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Barnett filed a motion seeking to amend the complaint and charge to a single count of intentional or negligent animal mistreatment causing disfigurement, under the same state statute. The new proposed charge is a felony.

In October, as marchers surrounded the courthouse demonstrating their support for a felony charge, a judge declined to make a decision on the motion because a defense attorney was not in the courtroom at the time. But on Monday, Circuit Judge Greg Strasser granted the prosecution’s request. A new complaint will be filed shortly.

Gehr was originally set free on a $1,000 signature bond. That could change with the new charge, as he will be required to make a new initial appearance on March 23.