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Ugly custody battle for cat that rose from the grave

BART the "Zombie Cat" became a worldwide sensation when he rose from the dead after being hit by a car and buried by his owner. But now he finds himself entangled in an ugly custody dispute.

His looks gone and his future uncertain, the most celebrated feline in Florida is in the middle of a custody battle raging between his original owner, Ellis Hutson of Tampa, and the local branch of the Humane Society that has nursed him back to health. Mr Hutson wants his moggy back. The Humane Society aren't giving him up.

Bart's brush with fame began last month when, five days after being hit by a car and buried by his owner, he awoke and clawed himself out.

It's not just that the Humane Society has spent precious time and money mending Bart - including removing his left eye - there is also the matter, it asserts, of the "circumstances leading up to his burial". The inference is that Mr Hutson may not be the perfect parent.

By contrast, Mr Hutson has contended that the Humane Society is trying to hold on to Bart because he has become a useful fundraising magnet.

The group has indeed taken care to fuel public interest in Bart's progress with a blog showing recovery pictures.  "We have good news!" says the caption on an image dated 6 February. "Check out that empty (food) dish to his right."

The latest news on the blog is less cheerful. The society is being "sued by Ellis Wayne Hutson for the custody of Bart the Cat", it declares. In turn, the society has been offered the pro bono services of a local law firm. If the humans carry on like this, Bart might wonder whether his Lazarus act was worth it.