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Baltimore's abused Mittens named ASPCA's Cat of the Year

By Jill Rosen

The Baltimore Sun

6:30 AM EDT, October 20, 2011

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Baltimore's animal advocates cheered this week to learn that a sweet cat that was horribly burned this year, then became a symbol for change, has been named the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal's Cat of the Year.

The ASPCA bestowed the honor on Mittens, a tabby with a white ruff who even after being set on fire in January, wouldn't abandon the kittens she wasnursing.

Two teens are charged with trapping the nursing mother cat, pouring lighter fluid over her and then lighting a match. Even after sustaining burns over 70 percent of her body, burns that singed off her ears and melted away swaths of her fur, Mittens didn't run away -- she turned back into the home where her alleged abusers were, because that's where her kittens were, too.

After being treated at the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), Mittens has spent the last year recovering, living happily in a foster home with Cindy Wright, learning what it's liked to be treated with loving hands -- and how tasty deli meat can be.

Meanwhile animal rights lobbyists took her story to Maryland's General Assembly where it inspired politicians to toughen animal protection laws.

Upon hearing the news of Mittens' big award, Darlene Harris Sanders, the legislative representative for BARCS cheered on Facebook. 

"My god-daughter kitty, Mittens just received a national award for her courage and her influence in helping get a record number of laws," she wrote.

Meanwhile Caroline Griffin, who chairs the city's Anti-Animal Abuse Commission, won the ASPCA's Presidential Service Award, given for distinguished service on behalf of animals.

"Caroline Griffin, who previously had a private law practice, devoted her life to advocating for changes in Baltimore's policies and procedures to better protect animals and prosecute their abusers," the ASPCA wrote. "Her leadership of the Mayor's Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force led to heightened media and public awareness of animal issues and an unprecedented level of cooperation between groups. She has helped to create a dramatic change in the way the citizens and officials of Baltimore view our duties to protect animals."