Hamptons Police officers were called to a Groundhog Day event at a local library last Friday after the animal standing in as a groundhog escaped from its handlers and caused injury and damage.
Event organizers at the Napeague Branch Library called police at 10:35 a.m., and reported that the “groundhog” involved in their first annual Groundhog Day celebration had gotten loose. Police say they arrived at the library at around 10:45 a.m. to witness a scene of chaos and destruction, and to find that the animal was not yet contained.
“One of the problems was that they weren’t using an actual groundhog,” Hamptons Police spokesman Larry Hirsch says. “They had costumed a cat.”
The feline in question was a large tomcat, according to Hirsch, and it was apparently none too pleased to be dressed up like a groundhog. “If you’ve ever tried to dress up your cat, you know they usually don’t take kindly to it,” Hirsch observes.
On top of this aggravation, Hirsch explains the cat had been confined to a carrier in advance of the celebration, and was therefore in a state of distress and anger. “Once you add noise and excitement from the young children who attended the event, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. This cat was pissed.”
The event’s organizers say the “groundhog” made its escape almost as soon as the carrier was opened, badly clawing its owner and several children—who had gathered to watch and who tried to help restrain the animal—in the process. It then proceeded to rampage throughout the children’s room of the library as several people gave chase. In multiple attempts to climb bookshelves and evade capture, the cat knocked piles of carefully sorted books to the library floor, creating an additional hazard for those trying to catch it.
“In retrospect, they should have just let the cat find a hidey hole,” Hirsch says. “Because in the process of trying to corner it, they knocked over display cases and made a huge mess.”
One well-meaning attendee thought he was making headway when he approached the crouched animal while making kissy sounds, but the man was severely bloodied when he moved in to grab the terrorized cat.
As police took control, Hirsch reports, they followed standard protocol for such situations. “We just left him alone, quieted things down, got the kids out of there, and put out a bowl of food. In 15 minutes, tops, he was sidling up, rubbing our legs and purring, and then he ate up his food,” Hirsch says. “Next, he found a little patch of sunlight near the picture books, curled up in a ball and went to sleep.”