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LAYTON — It's a real-life mystery shaping up in a Layton neighborhood.
Eight cats have vanished in less than two months' time. Neighbors fear the worst, while animal control officers aren't sure what to think.
It started in late May, when Daniel Chamberlain's cat, Theodore, disappeared. He was a pet who had been with him to comfort him in his darkest hours — after his father died two years ago.
"It makes me sad even now," Chamberlain said, looking at a video of Theodore on his phone. "He was my best friend — I couldn't possibly be closer to a human son."
Videos, pictures and memories are all he has now.
"I cried pretty much every night for the first long while," the 21-year-old Chamberlain said. "I miss him so much. I know he's in a better place now but I miss him more than anything."
Chamberlain's mom, Julie, suspects foul play — likely poisoning. After Theodore disappeared, seven other neighborhood cats also went missing. All lived within about 200 yards of each other.
One cat, Julie Chamberlain said, returned home extremely sick and ultimately died. Another's carcass was discovered in a yard.
"I just want them to realize what they've done, pick up any poison they've got lying around, and stop it," she said.
Davis County Animal Control director Clint Thacker questioned whether somebody actually poisoned the cats and suggested a number of other possibilities — that the cats may have been unintentionally poisoned, perhaps by antifreeze; that the cats contracted a disease that imitates poisoning; that they were killed by a predatory animal; or that they were simply trapped by a neighbor and taken to a shelter.
"It's a scary thing. You never want any animals to be poisoned," Thacker said. "It's definitely a possibility."
Thacker said he wasn't aware of the cases until news reports surfaced Monday. Chamberlain said she checked the county shelter multiple times. Thacker said if somebody did turn in the cats, the person would have been asked where and how they were caught.
The county, Thacker said, had not been asked to launch an investigation. It would likely involve going to the neighborhood to conduct interviews and establish a history in the event of more cases.
Thacker is now reminding all pet owners to tag or microchip their animals. At the very least, it is much faster to locate them if they wind up in a shelter. Daniel Chamberlain, meanwhile, can't be consoled.
"It just disgusts me that somebody's doing this," he said. "It's obvious somebody's doing this - 8 cats in a 5-week period — it's significant."