Shelter Cat Dead Because Of A Lie

By Elisa Black-Taylor

Shelter cat Bella

On July 25th, 2013, a beautiful 6-year-old calico named Bella (shelter ID-HCAS #1556521) was surrendered unlawfully to Hillsborough County (Florida) Animal Services by the daughter of the actual owners without their knowledge. The owner’s name is being withheld for privacy reasons. Many animal lovers now go so far as to issue death threats against people who harm animals.

Bella was surrendered to the shelter and the person turning her in lied. The daughter of Bella’s owner told the shelter staff that she was the owner, and Bella is dead in part because of this. The owner had no knowledge her daughter was a traitor until it was too late. In 43 hours, less than two days, Bella was euthanized.

Bella was killed in less than two days, even though there were empty cages at the shelter. Bella was a much-loved cat whose life was unexpectedly ended due to shelter policy and a lie. She’s dead because of a deceitful relative, as well as bad shelter politics.

A lot of people are misinformed, and believe their precious cat has a good chance of being adopted when turned into the shelter as an owner surrender. Doesn’t turning in your cat and telling the truth about it being yours make a better impression than saying you “found” it? Wrong!

What’s ironic is that strays are given anywhere from 3-5 days for an owner to show up and claim their lost cat. An owner turn-in may be euthanized at any time, because turning a cat in to a shelter forfeits your rights as the owner.

Unfortunately, the kill rate for cats is as high as 70% at the Hillsborough shelter between owner surrenders and stray cats. Young cats are killed, as are old cats, beautiful cats and well mannered cats. There’s no discrimination when time is up for a cat, either from a lack of space or because time has simply run out.


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One topic that needs to be addressed is how the rightful owner of a pet is determined by a shelter, and to be sure the person surrendering a pet is indeed the legal owner. Although this happened at Hillsborough, it could happen anywhere with a cat or a dog. Pet owners are afraid of what would happen, should their pet wander and be turned in as a stray. There’s something much worse than being an unwanted pet, and that’s being turned in under the guise of ownership.

A petition has been set up here, where cat lovers are determined to have new policies put in place to prevent this from ever happening again. This would, of course affect dogs as well, should these changes ever go into effect. The petition addresses Hillsborough Animal Care Services and County Commissioners in Tampa, Florida.

1. Demand verification: Owner Surrenders are not to be accepted until the surrendering individual(s) shows proof of ownership of the cat(s) by receipts of county tag registration, micro-chip proof or copies of veterinarian invoices for treatment/care of said animal in their name.

2. Give them a fair chance at life: Owner Surrenders and strays should receive the same MINIMUM five-day holding period, and no animals should be killed when empty cages are available. Owner Surrenders as well as strays must take turns in the cages at the front of the building, where they can be seen and adopted. No empty cages in the front adoption areas when there are animals that need homes in back, out of view of potential adopters.

3. Remove counterproductive policies that cost lives: Restore after-hours holds for rescues–this helped prevent unnecessary euthanasia. Eliminate the two cat adoption limits. It is not the prerogative of HCAS to dictate how many animals an individual may adopt. That issue is handled by the city or county in which the adopting person resides.

HCAS, if you truly wish to achieve your target of 70% live outcomes instead of the current 70% kill rate for cats, we are confident that you agree and will implement these changes immediately. County Commissioners, please assist HCAS with adequate support for the shelter.

A Facebook group has been set up to honor Bella for those of you who wish to learn more about her story.

What do you think should have to be shown as proof of ownership when turning in a pet as an owner surrender? I’ve recently come across a few cases of rightful owner disputes over stray pets being found and kept, and I’m also getting feedback from friends who have heard of this happening in their area. Have any of the readers here heard of similar cases?

Elisa

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Shelter Cat Dead Because Of A Lie — 24 Comments

  1. Oh poor Bella – she is sitting in her litter tray because she is scared – this makes me want to cry. This is awful. The daughter didn’t like the cat? Poor little Bella – I can’t believe this – its just so so horrible. Look at her sitting in the cage there, betrayed, waiting to die. I’m not suprised about the death threats. It gets to be too much to handle. You just end up wanting to forcefully make the perpitrators sorry for what they did since they won’t ever understand by listening.

  2. Poor Bella!
    So many people relinquishing their cats to Shelters makes me very angry, they just walk away and leave the cats to their fate.
    There are not many valid excuses for getting rid of a cat, the people who do should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
    Why get a cat in the first place if it’s not going to be a lifetime commitment!

  3. My disgust of shelters is well-known.
    Bella was just another casualty. R.I.P., Sweetie!
    I will look at the petition, but a lot of my shelter frustration comes from the fact that nothing seems to make an impact on how these places run.
    In America, the AMA (American Medical Association) governs the practice of medicine, from tonsillectomies to code of ethics. They are strong and revered. No city council or county commission have their hands in their pot.
    To me, the AVMA should be the strong governing body over animal rights and services. County commission should only play a small part related to financing because shelters are county funded. The AVMA needs to do more than provide guidelines. They need to make RULES and enforce them. They need to get of their “wimp pots” and do the job.
    Public outcry over shelter practices presented to county commissioners most likely won’t do a lot of good. They have too many constraints. Would they close a facility? NO! Would they fire staff? Maybe. But, then you have to wonder what sadists will replace them. Do they have the expertise to make any policy changes regarding animal welfare? NO!
    I believe that any strong animal advocate needs to be badgering the AVMA.

    • I’ve zero faith in the AVMA, they made it quite plain that they had no intention of stopping vets declawing little kittens even though their policy is it should be only as a last resort, it’s the same old cry about cats being declawed ‘It keeps them in their homes’
      Even though they know full well it doesn’t!
      They stopped replying to any emails from UK ‘anti declaw troops’
      They are pointless and useless about the cruelty of declawing and I don’t think they will care about shelter cats at all either.

        • As I recall the AVMA has no power to stop declawing. They are just a front for the profession. If they decreed that vets must stop declawing none of them would listen. The AVMA board would just be sacked and the new lot would approve declawing.

      • I hate the thought of compromising with the AVMA. But, to tell the truth and at this point, I might say, “OK, I will set the declawing issue aside FOR NOW if YOU STOP THE KILLING! STOP THE KILLING!!!

        • Yes, the most important aspect by far in the entire world of cats in the USA is the mass killing of cats at shelters. That has to be stopped and there is not a sign of it happening.

        • Too many people now know the truth about declawing and no one should give up on trying to get it stopped. We have new members every day in our anti declaw groups and articles written and people educating about it. Some are vets who have declawed in the past but stopped, some are vets who have never/would never declaw. Some are vet techs fired for telling the truth, some who couldn’t stand seeing cats mutilated day after day and left their jobs.
          The movement is growing!
          It must not be about choosing between stopping killing or stopping declawing, we must fight to stop both.
          As Michael says, the AVMA are just a powerless front for the veterinary profession anyway, not worth bothering to involve! It wouldn’t be either stop declawing or stop killing to them because they just don’t care about cats at all.

  4. The daughter who did this is a callous monster. How could she do it? Yet a lot of people do, do it. They don’t have a connection with their cat or, I am sure, animals in general to be able to empathise and feel what the cat feels.

  5. The AVMA also disgusts me too! They are a useless bunch of A**holes who do absolutely nothing for the animals allegedly in their charge. I would even say the entire AVMA body should be replaced! Poor Bella. As far as I’m concerned, cats as wonderful as Bella should’ve been transferred to a no-kill shelter if Hillsborough didn’t want to bother trying to adopt it out. I’m truly sick of Florida in its entirety (no disrespect to animals lovers living there, please). The story never addresses the reason why the daughter gave up the cat in the first place. There’s more to this story than any of us know.

  6. this little bitch who had her families cat murdered needs to pay for her cruelty she needs to be locked away in a little cell for the rest of her life it makes me so angry that people can do what they want to animals and get away with it these people need the same done to them what they do to these precious babies

    • Well said. Her actions were in effect the actions of a cat killer. That should be a crime. She has disguised it by letting a shelter do the dirty work. Even then they killed the cat too soon. Some shelters seem to eager to kill cats rather than do the more difficult but moral thing, do some checks and then find the owner.

    • You at so right Pauline! Bella should never have been at that shelter, that cold hearted bitch who put her there should pay!
      I hope Karma catches up with her.

  7. The daughter is gulilty of a crime, theft of “property”!!! At the very least. If the real owner can, the daughter can be prosecuted.

    • I think the same way. The daughter has stolen her parent’s cat. That is theft, as you say. And it was 70% or more certain the cat would be euthanised. She is arguably in breach of one of the animal welfare laws. It seems odd that there has not been more focus on her. The shelter held the cat for too short a time too but they would wriggle out of it. I wonder what the daughter said to the shelter people when she turned up with the cat?

  8. I am reminded of a memorable scene from the Hindi film “MERA NAAM JOKER(My name is Joker)”, produced and acted by one of India’s most prominent Cine star/Director/Producer Mr Raj.Kapoor. In the scene a unlicensed road-side performing dog owned by the “Joker” and his co-female star is captured by the Municipal authorities and loaded in a van.Actor Raj.Kapoor who plays the role of a joker sees his co- animal star being carted to its death.In those years, till the late 1990’s stray dogs would be electrocuted to death in “Animal Shelters” in India unless claimed by their owner. Raj.Kapoor informs the actual owner of the dog, his co-star actress Padmini, a street circus performer about the fate of her dog and advises her that they should go to the municipality to claim their “Co=star Dog Circus performer”.The answer from the lady shocks the “Joker”.She say’s, “Why worry, he was just a ordinary dog”!This story of a abandoned dog’s fate in a movie is true for most pets in any society or Country.Most pet owners see their pets as disposable commodities which can be disposed at the slightest pretext or nuisance.

    • Interesting comment, Rudolph. The Indian perspective always interests me.

      …till the late 1990′s stray dogs would be electrocuted to death in “Animal Shelters” in India unless claimed by their owner..

      How was this done? In the same way criminals in America were electrocuted to death in the electric chair? I suppose it has to be like that.

      How many people think like us? We treat pets as a true companion, not just as “only a dog” or “only a cat” (disposable).

      Is the world changing for the better?

      • Michael i have never ever witnessed the execution of “Stray Dogs” at the Dog pounds in Mumbai although i did visit one during my youth.I do have a theoretical knowledge that the dogs were chained and a bolt of current passed through the chain.Akin to the b”Electric Chair” for human criminals.Sadly, today in 2013 although execution of stray dogs has been abolished in India the abandonment of expensive pets is a reality in Mumbai.Expensive pedigree breeds like Great Danes, St Bernards and Labradors have been abandoned at the local animal hospital or found on Mumbai’s streets, something unbelievable just a decade ago.In recent years ,owning pets in city’s has become a status symbol with many pet owners not realizing that “MONEY” alone is not the qualification for owning a pet ! I presume if the pet become problematic,gets sick with expensive medical costs or the owners just get bored of the animal then it is a case for abandonment..This is a fact of life in Mumbai for some abandoned pets that finally wind up at the “animal hospital” or a animal shelter.

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