Santa “Clawed”

Old Saint Nick says he was attacked by bobcat at pet store photo shoot

Jonathan Bebbington has posed as Santa to take pictures with plenty of pets before, but never an attacking bobcat. That is, until Sunday.

“It locked in. It even drew blood. It wouldn’t let go,” said Bebbington Tuesday outside the PetSmart store in Mays Landing, NJ. It’s the same store where Bebbington said an animal he believes was a 30 pound bobcat, repeatedly bit and scratched him while it was on his lap for a photograph Sunday morning.

“It hurt. It had a lot of power in its jaws,” he said.

Bebbington said the bobcat belonged to a woman who was walking it around the store on a harness, before bringing it to pose with him in his Santa suit. The animal did not become violent until it was on his lap, Bebbington said.

The bizarre incident unfolded during the photo shoot that benefited Penny Angels Beagle Rescue. “The [woman] was saying how she paid $1,500 to have this animal shipped in from Wyoming, said Christine Tartaro, a member of the rescue organization.

Tartaro said it’s believed the woman lives in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. However, she and the young bobcat left the store before anyone got her name. Organizers want to find her and take a look at the bobcat’s veterinary records.

“Without the record of the shots, I have to go through a series of rabies shots which are very painful,” Bebbington said.

It is not legal to have a bobcat as a pet in New Jersey, according to state wildlife officials. Violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 thousand dollars.

“Any kind of wild animal is just not a good idea for a pet, regardless of how nice it is. Eventually, it can snap,” said Vincent Sonetto of the Cape May County Park and Zoo.

PetSmart is paying Bebbington’s medical bills, a company spokeswoman said. Meanwhile, authorities are trying to track down the woman and her biting bobcat, which left Bebbington scarred for Christmas.

“I do not blame the animal. That’s natural. If you’re a pet owner, you have to be responsible,” he said.

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