Judge Sentences Cat to Life Indoors for Avon-Lady Ambush

A state judge spared the life of alleged neighbor-assaulter Lewis the cat on Tuesday, but ordered that he remain inside his owner's Fairfield home at all times.

"There are no exceptions. None," said Judge Patrick Carroll, who also granted accelerated rehabilitation to Lewis' owner, Ruth Cisero. That means her record will be expunged if she successfully completes two years of probation.

Cisero had faced a charge of reckless endangerment because neighbors complained that the cat's long claws and stealth have allowed it to attack at least a half-dozen people and ambush the Avon lady as she was getting out of her car.

Cisero had fought to keep Lewis alive and in Connecticut. She rejected a previous offer of accelerated rehabilitation if she agreed to euthanize Lewis.

Carroll said Lewis cannot leave the house, even if he gets out accidentally. He said the case is not about a cat, but about people having the right to live in safety in their neighborhoods.

The case drew national attention. Lewis has appeared in People magazine and his own page on the social networking site MySpace.com.

But Cisero said Tuesday she would prefer to have never had the attention.

"I never thought it would come to this," she said. "It's been an absolute nightmare. It's ruined my life."

The Best Friends Animal Society of Kanab, Utah, had also offered to take Lewis free of charge. The cat sanctuary can accommodate about 600 cats in climate-controlled bungalows and has specialists who know how to handle cats with behavior problems.

"If necessary to save the life of Lewis the cat, we agree to provide Lewis with a place to live out his life at our sanctuary," Russ Mead, Best Friends' general counsel, wrote in a letter to Carroll.

Eugene Riccio, Cisero's attorney, said Lewis enjoys life in southern New England and preferred to stay here.

Mead said Lewis would be no threat to the public in Utah because the sanctuary's closest neighbor is Denny's Wigwam, a curio shop about four miles away.

The owner of the shop, Victor Sandonato, said he has already been warned that Lewis might be moving to his neighborhood.

"I live with a cat just like Lewis, and I live with danger every time I go home at night," he said, adding, "I'm from South Jersey, so I don't take any crap from a cat."