Utah police are investigating allegations that employees at a factory near Lehi have been beating and poisoning feral cats.
Initial reports of the alleged abuse came in on August 18 after a Facebook post with photos and videos of the cats went viral, police said.
The factory –The Utah Refractories Corp. – keeps large quantities of specialty sand to produce bricks that are used in glass melting tanks. Over the years, a large number of feral cats have started using the sand as a litter box.
"(Utah Refractories) has a legitimate interest in ridding their property of these cats," Utah County Sheriff's spokesperson Sgt. Spencer Cannon said. "The allegation is the way they're doing that ... is abusive or cruel to these cats."
The original report came from a person who claimed on Facebook that an employee of the factory had told him about the abuse. The employee reportedly spoke to the factory's management after he witnessed other employees beating the cats.
The person claimed that the cats were being poisoned, shot with pellets, beaten and kicked to death.
The Facebook post also includes a video of a cat shaking and trembling, as if it had been poisoned.
According to the post, the employee was threatened with termination if he did not stop "cat problems". He states that he was given permission to trap and remove the cats in a compassionate way. The employee also claimed that the management helped him remove 18 cats, but there were more feral cats on the premises.
"We have evidence so far that leads us to believe that there's a pretty good likelihood that some abuse may be occurring," Cannon said. "The next thing we need to do is determine who is responsible for that — either ordering it or actually doing it — and what the nature of it actually is."
Many people have sent the video of the cat to the Utah County Sheriff's Facebook page, Cannon said.
According to Cannon, the cat's behavior was similar to that of a human who is affected by a nerve agent chemical. He says it is also possible that the cat may have been sick.
"It was very disturbing to me, it kind of made me sick to my stomach because (the cat) appeared to be suffering," Cannon said, reports KSL.com.
"So we need to try and verify where that (video) was actually taken. For all we know that could have been in south Texas or northern Montana, but we want to verify that ... this video was taken on this property."
An investigation is currently in progress.