The lawyer for the teen accused of shooting a cat in the head 17 times with a pellet gun says the court and public are overreacting.

A 19-year-old Sarnia, Ont., man faces two counts of animal cruelty after the injured cat was found on Feb. 2 in the Brights Grove area.

'There are daily cases of abused children around our cities and streets … who don’t garner the same sympathy or care.'- Phillip Millar, suspect's lawyer

The cat lost an eye and a vet was able to remove all but one of the pellets from its head.

Lawyer Phillip Millar said his client spent five days in jail before being released on “conditions that a murderer gets.”

The accused has a curfew and two sureties — and can’t leave home without being accompanied by at least one of them.

Joe the Cat Update

Joe, a cat shot 17 times in the head with a pellet gun, lost an eye due to the incident. (Courtesy Sarnia and District Humane Society)

“It seems extremely severe and a reaction to public outcry. The system has to be fair,” Millar said.

An online petition calling for “the maximum penalty available under current laws for animal cruelty plus a lifetime ban on pet ownership” has more than 9,700 signatures.

A second similar petition has fewer than 200 signatures. The most recent post on the Sarnia and District Humane Society Facebook page has nearly 500 comments.

Millar said his client’s name and address have been published and that he’s received death threats. During previous court appearances, demonstrators gathered outside the Sarnia courthouse and called for tougher animal cruelty laws.

Millar called the public outcry and severe bail conditions “a disturbing situation.”

“Nobody would dare say it’s not tragic, the mistreatment of animals. We all love animals. It’s in cases like these people take to the streets over a cat,” Millar said. “There are daily cases of abused children around our cities and streets … who don’t garner the same sympathy or care.

"It’s acceptable to be shocked by the mistreatment of animals. This appears to be a mistreatment of animals, but we don’t know who did it yet.”

A second man, 20, was arrested Wednesday and was to be charged with two animal cruelty offences, Sarnia police said in a media release.

Millar said the evidence against his client, who has no previous criminal record, is “limited.” He also said police have not found a pellet gun.

“My client says as vociferously as possible that he didn’t do it,” Millar said. “You have a 19-year-old with no criminal record who spent five days in jail and has not been convicted of anything. That should be equally offensive to our citizens.”

CBC News has received no response to an email and phone call to Sarnia police.

“I ask people to be cautious in what they’re posting and advocating for until we know what really happened,” Millar said.

Becky Knight, investigating officer for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said she had nothing to say about Millar's comments while the investigation is ongoing.

The vet who performed the surgery on the cat said there is a court order preventing her from speaking to the media.