MIDDLETOWN — A heartbroken family is joining outraged animal activists after a municipal animal control officer came onto their yard to confiscate their disabled pet cat that had been mistaken for an injured stray. The cat was then quickly killed by an animal hospital with a contract to perform animal control services.

According to the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, Middletown's animal control picked up a cat that had been spotted by a resident dragging itself through the grass. After unsuccessfully knocking on several doors in order to identify the cat's possible owners, the animal was brought to the hospital where a veterinarian assumed the cat was feral.

"Given the information we had, the animal control officer and our veterinarian assessed the cat to be in pain and had a spinal abnormality, and therefore made a difficult decision," the hospital said in a written statement. The hospital said Mush was not microchipped.

Anthony Mago, the owner of Mush, blasted the animal control officer and said the vet should know the difference between a feral and a well-groomed cat with a disability. Mago told Patch of Middletown that Mush was born with a spinal deformity that causes the tail end of his back to sag.

"People shouldn’t have to worry about any pet, especially disabled, sun bathing in their own yard without being stolen by a criminal animal control officer and murdered by a irresponsible criminal vet. No x-rays or exams done. Killed within hours. No mandatory 7-day hold," Mago said in a written statement.

Mago said money will not bring Mush back and has created up a GoFundMe page to support the animal activist group Reformers - Advocates for Animal Shelter Change in New Jersey.

"The remainder of the money will be used on additional recourses to help get to the bottom of this tragedy and to expose/punish those who are involved. Our family is extremely hurt by the actions took by these 'professionals' with our family member Mush," Mago said.

Middletown Administrator Anthony Mercantante defended the actions of the animal control officer to Patch of Middletown and said she followed proper procedure trying to find Mush's owners. Mercantante told Patch the officer legally can go onto property when there is an injured animal.

The administrator also laid blame on Mush's owners for not microchipping the cat or licensing him with the township.

Mercantante was not available to comment on Tuesday afternoon; Mago did not return a message from New Jersey 101.5.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ