WSVN — There are two things Marlene Dow enjoys doing each day: working in her garden and caring for the neighborhood cats.

Marlene Dow: "We love cats. We have gotten them fixed, we've gotten them shots, and we feed them."

So it makes what happened Easter morning even more terrifying for her. Listen to a phone recording. The sound of a cat screaming woke Marlene's tenant.

Gabrielle: "The cat was inside of a bag and it was bound by wires. The paws were tied up together."

Gabrielle is so frightened of the men who had the cat, she asked us not to show her face, but that morning she pointed her camera at the two neighbors in their backyard.

Gabrielle: "They said whether they should kill the cat or hang the cat, so that's what alarmed me. I jumped right away and got my landlord."

Now, Marlene was aware of what her neighbors do, saying she had seen them performing Santería rituals before.

Marlene Dow: "And I said, 'Look, I don't understand your religion but, you know, you're sacrificing chickens,' because they were. I said, 'Would you please clean them up?'"

Marlene didn't complain about the Santería rituals until Gabriel called and told her a cat was being sacrificied. Marlene ran over while calling her son, who recorded the encounter.

Marlene Dow: "And one of them was sitting on a chair and he had the cat in his lap. The cat was bound with wire and was crying, and I said to them, 'Let the cat go!'"

As you listen to the recording, the man tells Marlene he could sacrifice the cat because he bought it. Marlene is furious, making her hard to understand.

Marlene Dow: "You bought the cat from somebody who stole three cats in this neighborhood, which belong to us. For [expletive] rituals! It's illegal to kill the [expletive] cat."

The man did what she asked.

Marlene Dow: "I said, 'Drop it.' They unwrapped the wire around the cats' legs, the cat ran along my fence."

Marlene had thought the black and white cat that looked like this was her cat. It was not, but clearly it was someone's pet.

Marlene Dow: "And I called it. It came right up to me and I picked it up in my arms, and its heart was just racing. The cat was terrified."

The police were called, and Marlene and her tenant both say they were told, as long as the animal was sacrificed humanely, there was nothing that could be done.

Marlene Dow: "I was stunned. I was absolutely shocked and horrified that they can do this to a cat, to a pet."

Fortunately, Marlene saved the cat, but she says she can't get the thought of what could have happened to the animal out of her head.

Marlene Dow: "We were just all traumatized by it. Seeing that cat bound with wire just made me sick. My tenant had tears in her eyes. It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen, and the animal just crying out. It was so terrified. Sorry, it bothers me."

Well, Howard, in a Santería or any religious animal sacrifice, can you kill a cat?

Howard Finkelstein: "The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed animal sacrifices of livestock such as goats and chickens, as long as it is done humanely and for religious purposes. The court has not ruled on whether a cat could be sacrificed, so the answer is not clear, but certainly tying it up with wire is cruel, and therefore illegal."

Reporter: "Can we just put a microphone? You can explain what you guys were doing.

Man: "Sure. Why not?"

We then got in touch with the man who Marlene says had the cat tied up.

Reporter: "Were you guys going to kill the cat?"

Man: "No, we were not."

He told us they only tied the cat up so they could "cleanse themselves" through the Santería ritual.

Man: "We have to get the cat and tie him up so it won't bite us. We pass the cat's body throughout our body from head to toe, and that takes off all the bad vibes, all the bad influences."

He added the cat would then have been let go. Marlene says the law needs to be more clear to stop this kind of ritual.

Marlene Dow: "I think bounding it, having it bound like that with wire, is torture. The cat was terrified."

While Howard says it's illegal to tie up an animal like the cat was tied, the police probably have to see it to do anything about it. As for whether it's legal to sacrifice a cat in a religious ritual, a judge will have to rule on that, and let's hope no one does that to a cat so it gets to a courtroom. That's better for everybody, and the cats.

A problem got you tied up? Need someone to scratch and claw for you? Contact us. We have a simple ritual. You give us the problem, we try to give you the solution.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Contact Help Me Howard:

Email: (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.comMiami-Dade: 305-953-WSVNBroward: 954-761-WSVN

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