RALEIGH, N.C. – A North Carolina state trooper who wanted to stop animals from climbing on his vehicles trapped his neighbor’s 5-month-old kitten and shot it to death.

Shawn C. Houston was charged in October with cruelty to animals and injury to real property, both misdemeanors, according to court records. The Highway Patrol dismissed him in January.

Houston, 39, declined to discuss his firing last week. But in an appeal of his dismissal filed May 10, the ex-trooper contends that he was treated unfairly and that he deserves his job back.

The court filing says he was bothered by something climbing on vehicles parked at his Granite Falls, N.C., home. He’d also glimpsed “an unknown animal” that jumped out at him after dark, according to his appeal.

Houston, who said he was concerned for the safety of his three young sons, baited a steel trap with ham and captured a small domestic cat. When Houston tried to remove the animal, which did not have tags, it scratched him, according to his appeal. Then he killed it.

“The petitioner did not know if the cat had rabies or any other disease,” the summary filed by Houston says. “The cat was hissing and growling at petitioner and petitioner shot the cat.”

Next-door neighbor Andrea Evans said the cat’s name was Rowdy. The kitten was a birthday present to her son.

Evans said Rowdy could be mischievous. But the trooper’s tale of a wild and scary beast doesn’t square with the demeanor of her family’s kitty, she said.

“He was never aggressive, even at the vet,” she said.

Rowdy slept inside at night but was let out to play in the mornings. When Rowdy didn’t come home, the Evans family trekked around the neighborhood to see whether anyone had seen him.

When she learned what Houston had done, Evans called the Alexander County Sheriff’s Department. A deputy responded and interviewed the off-duty trooper, before telling Evans there wasn’t much he could do.

The state Highway Patrol fired Houston on Jan. 22, according to state records.

Evans, her husband and children buried Rowdy on their property. To this day, she said, Houston has not apologized.