Tennessee man accused of throwing kitten into fire pit

PORTLAND, Tenn. — A Tennessee man is accused of throwing a kitten into a fire pit, causing the animal’s death earlier this week.

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Richard Lee Russell, 39, of Portland, was arrested and charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, according to Sumner County Sheriff’s Office online booking records.

According to the Portland Police Department, officers and animal control officials received a call about a kitten burned and “in poor health as a result,” WTVF reported.

The kitten died from its injuries Tuesday morning, WKRN-TV reported.

According to True Rescue, a nonprofit organization in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, the cat had been thrown into a fire pit in a vacant area of the city, WZTV reported.

Police learned Russell previously had custody of the kitten, according to the television station. Police determined that the young feline was tossed into the pit on Saturday and that Russell failed to provide the animal with any medical attention for two days.

True Rescue, which named the kitten Phoenix, said in a Facebook post that it was “devastated” to report on the kitten’s death.

“His tiny body was just unable to fight off the horrible burns he was dealing with, plus the smoke inhalation,” the organization wrote. “We’ve all been through just a rollercoaster of emotions -- anger, hate, disgust, pity, relief, sadness, love and now complete devastation. This tiny kitten, Phoenix, stood for everything we fight against on a daily basis, and he took the hardest hit for it. He took a hit that no animal should ever have to take.”

Russell was arrested Friday, WZTV reported. His bail was set at $25,000, according to online booking records.