Case Update: Changes in St Johns Co After Pet Killed Upon Impound

Readers may remember Tails, the Florida kitty who got lost and ended up at a rental car agency, having ridden there in the engine of one of the rented vehicles.  Staff wanted to get Tails reunited with his owner so they contacted the St Johns Co pound to pick up the cat.  But when the owner called the pound to reclaim Tails, she was told the night shift ACO had killed her pet upon impound.

The county investigated itself in the matter and changes have been put into place at the pound in order to prevent more oops-killings.  But there is no good news.

The night shift ACO, Chris Ellis, resigned his position after initially being placed on administrative leave.  He offered this explanation for killing Tails, whom he determined to be a feral, intact male cat:

“When I tried to pick it up, it started scratching and clawing at me. It didn’t have a collar, flea tags, microchips, or any sort of identification to let me know it belonged to someone,” he said. “It was an unfortunate accident, but I did what I was told to do. I followed protocol and procedure, and I did what I thought was right for the time.”

The problems with this story are many.  For starters, Tails was declawed so he wasn’t scratching anyone.  Tails was also neutered, which should be immediately apparent to any ACO.  Even in the absence of other identification (“flea tags”?), it should have been obvious from the declawing and neutering that Tails likely had an owner.  Furthermore, the staff at the car rental agency described cuddling and playing with Tails and making up a little bed for him while waiting for the ACO.  This sounds nothing like a feral cat interacting with strangers.

Discretion to kill feral cats impounded after hours was formerly left solely with the ACO.  St Johns Co will now hold off on killing feral cats impounded after hours until the next day, when a supervisor is there to sign off on the killing.  Paul Studivant, division manager for AC explains the change:

“This gives them (the feral animals) ample time to calm down, but if the officers can’t handle the animal safely, and it’s ear isn’t notched or if it isn’t microchipped, the ultimate will happen,” he said.

A period of hours riding in an AC truck and sitting in a pound is not “ample time to calm down” for any cat – feral or socialized.  In fact, it might result in the opposite, depending upon the circumstances and the individual animal.  Even worse, it sounds as if any cat who tries to scratch (even with declawed paws apparently) and has been ear tipped in order to signify he is part of a neutered/vaccinated maintained colony will be killed.  Oh wait – I mean, will be ultimated.

This is not how shelters are supposed to work with TNR colony caregivers and does nothing to humanely reduce the feral cat population over time.  It unfortunately provides incentive for anyone who doesn’t want to see feral cats killed in St Johns Co to avoid trapping/neutering/vaccinating them for fear of having them marked for swift killing if picked up the county.  Fail.  Ultimate fail, if you like.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

7 thoughts on “Case Update: Changes in St Johns Co After Pet Killed Upon Impound

  1. He can’t tell that a male cat is neutered and he thinks a declawed cat is “clawing” at him – how is he going to know if a cat is microchipped? Because, you know, that’s something that you actually have to check for. Like other stuff he’s apparently not checking for.

    Also, I’m confused – they want to put feral cats down immediately, but they say if the ear ISN’T notched, the “ultimate will happen”. So what are we doing with ear-tipped cats? Are they being killed for being feral or are they being released for being ear tipped?

    Sounds like we’ve got people who think that they’re well-meaning, but instead are blatantly incompetent at what they’re doing (a few hours is SURE to calm down a freaked out cat, sure). And incompetence has exactly the same results as cruelty – dead pets.

  2. Bottom line, if this ACO can’t tell the difference between an intact tom and a neutered cat, he’s got some serious issues in the first place. And then to say he was scratched by a declawed cat, this just goes to show that maybe this person ought to find another line of work, working with something already non-living. I don’t understand what their “policy” is about cats (friendly, unfriendly, feral, ear-tipped, not ear-tipped). Frankly, I fear the end result will be the same – dead.

    1. I too am confused about the policy. I re-read the article several times trying to make sense of it. I think I misread and/or misunderstood about the eartipping at the time I wrote the post but I am still not clear on the cat policies overall. They say at one point that animals will be taken to a vet for chip scanning then also that they scan pets themselves 3 times. In another part they mention having 2 experts to evaluate animals before killing but then they say if the staff has questions on evaluating animals they are to call a supervisor. So the experts are non-supervisory staff? The whole thing is clear as mud to me.

      1. I’m thinking it’s as clear as mud to them, too. Incompetence looks quite a lot like cruelty – and gets the same result.

      2. I was thinking, it may be clear as mud in part because written policy and actual-in-practice policy probably differ significantly, and they didn’t get their story straight.

  3. SJC and Putnam County – neighbors-share similar traits.
    iChat feral cats are to be killed. Period.

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