Valley Oak SPCA Kills a Cat by Allowing It to Languish in the Heat in an Unattended Trap for Five Days at the Tulare County Courthouse
"Why that (no instructions to check trap) happened, I don't know."
-- Kelly Austin of the Valley Oak SPCA
It is widely known that around ninety-nine per cent of all cats trapped by Animal Control officers and shelters are killed either in-house or en route to holding facilities. It is considerably less known, however, that countless cats are left to die in traps due to the gross negligence of these officials.
That was the tragic fate that befell a gray cat in Visalia, California, last month after she was left to languish in one of the Valley Oak SPCA's traps for five days. (See photo above.)
It is believed that the unfortunate cat died from heat exhaustion although a lack of water accompanied by the stress brought on by her barbaric imprisonment no doubt contributed mightily to her demise. Even more shocking, the cat was trapped on the grounds of the Tulare County Courthouse at the request of the county's Resource Management Agency (RMA). (See photo below of the courthouse.)
Although the trap was set on July 22nd, the cat was not discovered until five days later on July 27th and even that was only because an unidentified county employee got tired of smelling its rotting carcass and went to investigate. Ostensibly, the trap had been set in order to catch a skunk.
In the recriminations that have followed the cat's death, Valley Oak and RMA have pointed accusatory fingers at each other. "The people who are requesting the traps are supposed to be the ones checking them," Valley Oak's Kelly Austin pontificated to the Visalia Times-Delta on July 29th. (See "Reasons Unclear Why Cat Died in SPCA Trap in Visalia.")
Nevertheless, Valley Oak's Animal Control officer is charged with instructing those renting traps on how often to check them. Under Valley Oak's ridiculously slack guidelines, traps are supposed to be checked every eight hours under normal conditions and once in the morning and every couple of hours thereafter during hot weather.
In this particular case, however, Valley Oak's Animal Control officer simply dropped off the trap at the courthouse and vamoosed without providing RMA with any guidelines on how often it was to be checked. "Why that happened, I don't know," Austin admitted to the Visalia Times-Delta in the article cited supra.
Worst still, after delivering the trap the unidentified Animal Control officer took July 23rd and July 24th off and claims that he was too busy to check it when he returned to work on July 25th. No explanation has been given as to why he did not check it on either July 26th or July 27th.
According to Tulare County spokesman Jed Chernabaeff, an unidentified representative of Valley Oak told RMA that the trap would be checked within a couple of hours and the following morning if necessary. Also, an unidentified county worker reportedly checked it on July 23rd and found it empty.
In what has to be the understatement of the year, Austin has vowed to review the agency's trapping policies in order to determine if changes are needed. If this cat's horrific death is not proof positive that changes are direly needed, the fact that many cats trapped by private citizens in snares provided by Valley Oak are being forced to needlessly suffer should be the clincher.
"Many cats have been brought in in a trap by members of the community, and they appear overheated," Austin freely admitted to the Visalia Times-Delta. Consequently, she obviously has known about this problem for a long time and yet has done absolutely nothing in order to correct it.
This cat's tragic death bears an eerie resemblance to events that transpired in Oxford, Massachusetts, during a heat wave four years ago. That was when forty-one-year-old Animal Control officer Michelle A. Mulverhill went on a bender and left four cats and a dog to die of thirst, hunger, and heat exhaustion at the Oxford Dog Kennel.
She last fed and watered the animals on July 31st and because of a glaring lack of administrative oversight their corpses were not discovered until August 15! Despite the animals' horrific deaths, the authorities in Oxford, like those at Valley Oak and in Tulare County, steadfastly refused to even admit that there was anything amiss with how they treat animals. (See Cat Defender post of August 31, 2006 entitled "Animal Control Officer Goes on a Drunken Binge and Leaves Four Cats and a Dog to Die of Thirst, Hunger, and Heat at Massachusetts Shelter.)
"What we want from Valley Oak SPCA is not excuses, but an owning up to the deed, taking responsibility to drastically change policy and procedures and, if necessary, making a commitment to hiring only people who actually think about the welfare of animals and not merely of their employment as 'just a job' from which they go home at the end of the day," Visalia resident Lois Norman wrote in a letter to the editors of the Visalia Times-Delta on August 3rd. (See "SPCA Needs to Do a Better Job.") "To say that this (incident) left many people horrified, disgusted and angry would be an understatement."
Coleman is on the right track but merely hiring better people is not the answer; a change needs to be made at the top. Austin clearly is just another do-nothing, incompetent bum subsisting on the public's dime who immediately should be fired along with the unidentified Animal Control officer.
Furthermore, it is just too bad that this poor cat did not leave behind an owner who would have been willing to have sued the pants off of both Valley Oak and Tulare County for their inhumane and criminal misconduct. Moreover, it is difficult to believe that Valley Oak's behavior in this case was an aberration as opposed to being part and parcel of its normal modus operandi.
Defenders of the status quo will argue that the cat's death was inconsequential since Valley Oak would have killed it sooner or later anyway. Two wrongs have never made a right, however, and the only morally correct course of action would be to ban the trapping of all cats for the twin purposes of extermination and removal. Even practitioners of TNR should be held legally accountable for the cats that they either injure or kill.
The setting of traps and subsequent abandonment of them also should be outlawed. Anyone or agency intent upon trapping an animal should be willing to stay with their snares twenty-four-hours a day. That is the only humane way in which an animal can be trapped.
On those rare occasions when animals must be trapped and relocated elsewhere, such procedures should be carried out without either the implantation of electronic monitors or the taking of blood, hair, and tissue samples. (See Cat Defender posts of April 17, 2006 and May 21, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Hal the Central Park Coyote Is Suffocated to Death by Wildlife Biologists Attempting to Tag Him" and "Macho B, America's Last Jaguar, Is Illegally Trapped, Radio-Collared, and Killed Off by Wildlife Biologists in Arizona.")
Photos: Comic Kitty of Zootoo (Valley Oak sign) and Government Technology of Folsom (Tulare County Courthouse).