BERMUDA – A former SPCA inspector has demanded answers after her pet cat was taken from her yard and put down.
Deborah Masters explained that the cat was not sick when she last saw it but it was suffering from respiratory distress when it was taken by animal charity SPCA to a veterinarian after it was captured at Shelly Hall which is located in Hamilton Parish.
Ms. went on to say said that more needed to be done to investigate complaints of “abandoned” cats before capturing them.
She then added: “A change has to come and I hope that my poor cat didn’t die in vain.
“She didn’t deserve to be picked up from her yard by strangers and euthanised.”
However, Shauna Sylvester, who is executive director of the SPCA, explained that efforts were made to find out if the cat had an owner and that everyone involved in the incident acted in the best interests of the animal.
She went on to say: “It was an upsetting incident but I feel our hands were tied.
“Everyone involved was doing the right thing for the animal, but we are going to check every link in the chain to see if there was anything that could have been done differently.”
Ms. Masters adopted the cat, whose name was Miss Kitty, after its previous owner — a former tenant — abandoned her.
Ms. Masters went on to say that she did not live at Shelly Hall, but owned a condominium there and visited daily with food and water for the cat.
She stated: “I was there every day, rain or shine.
“She had food and water bowls there. Everybody knew me and everybody knew the cat lived there.
“She was always semi-feral. She was so scared when I took her in. It took me a while to get her to trust humans.”
Ms. Masters also said she had gone for a swim on Sunday, August 13 and when she returned she discovered that the cat had gone.
“I came to give her food and she was nowhere to be seen. She has never been missing or gone anywhere.”
Ms. Masters was informed just one week later that the SPCA had received a call from someone in the Shelly Hall area about a “sick and abandoned” cat.
She then told Miss Kitty had been collected, taken to Endsmeet Animal Hospital, and later on – put down.
Ms. Masters goes on to say: “She was not sick when I saw her. She was not abandoned because she belongs to me. How could none of them ask questions and get to the truth before they put the cat to sleep?”
Veterinarian Jennifer Fullerton explained that there were discussions about whether the cat had an owner at all when it was brought to Endsmeet Animal Hospital — but the animal’s condition complicated matters.
“There was talking back and forth with the SPCA for a few hours. They said they had done some investigation as to where the cat came from, but I was quite concerned because it had been picked up from a residential area.”
“The problem was that the cat was in respiratory distress, it was old and, because it was feral, it could not be handled without sedation.
“It appeared that the condition was not a fixable condition. It’s not an easy thing when any animal is in respiratory distress and you can’t fix it.”
Ms. Fullerton went on to say that there was some debate about delaying the decision on whether to put Miss Kitty to sleep for a day or two to see if an owner could be found.
However, she stated that the animal was suffering and that putting it down was the most humane option.
Ms. Masters said she could not fault the actions of the veterinarians, however, said that not enough was done to check if the complaint about the cat had been accurate before the cat was captured.
She went on to add: “When people make a complaint, you are meant to ask questions and get to the bottom of it.
“The process is when someone calls the SPCA, you take that person’s name. You go out in person and you talk to people, you take pictures if necessary. You take notes. You find out who owns the animal.
“People provide false information all the time. You have got to make sure you are 100 per cent correct, and if you are going on to private property you have to be double sure.”
Ms. Masters noted that she knew from her experience as a former investigator that the SPCA receive false reports, recalling one incident in which a reported “sick and abandoned” cat was found to be a clearly happy and extremely healthy house cat.
Ms. Masters accepted that Miss Kitty did not wear a collar and had not actually been microchipped — largely due to her semi-feral nature.
She explains: “It was hard to get people close to her to do it. I am sorry I didn’t take the cat, hold her still and get someone to do it but she was there for eight years. She didn’t wander off.”
Ms. Sylvester stated that the SPCA had investigated if the cat had an owner and visited several units at Shelly Hall and were told by tenants the cat had been abandoned.
She went on to say: “I only found out in the last few days that Ms Masters owned the cat. It was quite a shock, and we are quite upset about it.
“It was a very unfortunate, isolated incident.”
Ms. Sylvester added that the animal was because it appeared to be in pain and was having breathing difficulties.
“We have a great, rehoming programme in which we try to rehome as many animals as possible.
“Because we understood this to be an abandoned animal, that was our hope. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
What a terrible and sad situation.