Texas Couple Files Lawsuit Against Pest Control Company for Trapping and Gassing Their Cat, Butty
"He'd just been such a survivor. It was rotten it had to end that way."
-- Shelley Bolek
Animal Control and shelters kill so many cats, dogs, and other animals each year that it would not be inaccurate to refer to them as Murder & Slaughter Incorporated. Even though most people are largely cognizant of their heinous crimes, they choose to ignore them.
The same cannot be said for private pest control companies whose crimes against animals go largely unreported. In March of this year, ABC Pest and Lawn of Houston trapped and killed Patrick Boland and Shelley Bolek's cat, Butty, outside their home in nearby League City. (See photo above.)
Butty was apparently caught in a trap that ABC had set for raccoons underneath a neighbor's townhouse. In fact, an employee of the company later admitted to Boland that he had trapped and gassed the cat.
Company president Raleigh Jenkins was quick to contradict his subordinate's description of events. Arguing that his firm has never gassed cats or dogs, he claims that Butty was taken back to Houston in order that he could be turned over to a shelter but that he somehow escaped in the parking lot and is now gone forever.
Boland, quite understandably, does not believe a word of Jenkins' outlandish story and has filed a lawsuit against the company. Under Texas's draconian animal rights laws, he can only sue for the value of the cat and the authorities place little or no value on cats. He is likewise foreclosed from suing for the emotional stress brought on by the senseless and uncalled for killing of his cat.
"It's going to cost more to sue them than he's going to collect," his attorney, Neil Baron, told The Galveston County Daily News on April 26th. (See "Pet Cat's Death Leads to Rule Change.") "I think his point is to say that people don't have a right to dispose of animals like this."
Although the suit certainly will not bring back Butty, it may help to save the lives of other cats and dogs. Based upon the number of companion animals that have disappeared without a trace in League City, Butty's demise does not appear to be an isolated case.
This troubling case also focuses attention on just what a racket pest control has become of late. Unlike Animal Control, which is funded by the taxpayers and is therefore politically accountable to some extent, pest control companies are hired by private individuals and are therefore virtually unaccountable to anyone.
"These agencies are coming in here and charging per animal that they catch," Sara Dailey of Animal Control in League City explained to The Galveston County Daily News. "It's kind of easy money."
With that being the case, few pest control employees are going to think twice about snuffing out the lives of companion animals.
For her part, Dailey recommends that residents use nonlethal methods in order to discourage wild animals from frequenting their properties. Specifically, she suggests that they try installing outside lights, motion-activated lawn sprinklers, and use apple cider vinegar as a deterrent.
Butty's death has not been totally in vain in that City Council has passed a new ordinance that requires pest control companies and anyone else who traps animals to use only traps issued by the city. More importantly, all trapped animals must be turned over to Animal Control.
That is a step in the right direction but the onus is now on the city to enforce these new regulations. It should go even further and outlaw the killing of all animals by both public officials and private individuals.
New homes and sanctuaries should be found for cats and dogs while wild animals should be relocated to the countryside. This is the only sure-fire way to end once and for all time the tragic and senseless killing of domestic animals. (See Cat Defender post of June 5, 2007 entitled "RSPCA's Unlawful Seizure and Senseless Killing of Mork Leaves His Sister, Mindy, Brokenhearted and His Caretakers Devastated.")
Butty's murder is particularly tragic in that he had overcome so much during his brief life. He arrived at Boland and Bolek's residence seven years ago so injured that he could barely either stand up or eat on his own.
They generously provided him with veterinary care and he soon recovered. Because of his tendency to use his head as a battering ram in order to clear obstacles from his path, they named him Butty. He went on to become an indispensable part of their lives and he even got along well with the couple's Labrador.
Although he lived indoors, he was occasionally allowed outside but he seldom strayed far from home. Unfortunately for him, the trap set next door was just far enough away to cost him his life.
Although he was not wearing a collar, it is unclear whether that would have made any difference to the indiscriminate murderers at ABC Pest and Lawn. Nonetheless, all cats should wear collars. Even indoor cats can be inadvertently let out and wind up in traps.
As for Boland and Bolek, the pain continues. "We called him the miracle cat," Boland recalled. "He survived being homeless and feral; learned to eat lizards and live in the woods or under buildings."
Bolek put it succinctly when she said, "He'd just been such a survivor. It was rotten it had to end that way."
Photo: The Galveston County Daily News.