Oakdale man charged with arson, animal cruelty after cats die in house fire

An Oakdale man has been charged with arson and animal cruelty after allegedly setting fire to his home with a dozen cats inside.

Joshua Lloyd Buhl (Courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

Joshua Lloyd Buhl, 42, was reportedly under the influence of methamphetamine when he intentionally started Sunday night’s fire, which killed at least five cats, according to charges filed against him Tuesday in Washington County District Court.

Police were called to the 1100 block of Granada Avenue about 11:15 p.m. after neighbors reported the house on fire. Officers saw Buhl standing outside his home holding a lighter. He told authorities, “I started the fire,” the charges state, and he made mention of narcotics in his pocket. When he began behaving erratically, officers took him into custody.

After firefighters put out the flames, they reported the entire main level had extensive smoke damage and that the living room was the primary burn area. They spotted several dead cats and a gas can, and noted the front door was barricaded shut.

Four or five cats that survived were surrendered to animal control.

During an execution of a search warrant the following day, five cats were found dead.

In an interview with police, Buhl said he used gas and cardboard to start the fire and that he did it to “get law enforcement’s attention,” the charges state. He said there were about 12 cats living in the home and that he did not consider they would die in the fire.

Buhl said he believed hackers were “out to get him” and that someone had stolen his identity, the charges read. He reported feeling under the influence of methamphetamine.

Recovery efforts for additional cats are ongoing and additional charges may be forthcoming, according to the Washington County attorney’s office.

Buhl faces one count of first-degree arson and five counts of felony animal cruelty. He made a first court appearance on the charges Tuesday, when bail was set at $100,000. He remains jailed.

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