Cathy Forrester of Bakersfield, Calif., assumed that when she had her cat microchipped, he would be easily returned to her if he escaped. But that’s not what happened when he got out of his house a week and a half ago.
When Pumpkin went missing, Forrester did all the right things: she put up signs, searched the neighborhood, and went to the SPCA and the Kern County Animal Shelter to see if he’d ended up there.
“Pumpkin is like a child to me and my husband. He is like a brother to my two daughters,” Forrester said.
When she visited the shelter looking for him, “I went through their [cat areas] and several sections there,” Forrester said. But she never saw her cat.
This would be an ordinary missing-cat story, except for one important twist: last Thursday, Pumpkin had been caught in a humane trap and taken to the Kern County Animal Shelter. But instead of scanning the cat for a microchip, they locked him away in a cage reserved for feral cats.
Although the shelter’s policy is to scan every animal that enters the facility, the degree to which the policy is actually enforced depends on the animal’s temperament.
“If the animal is friendly and social we immediately scan the animal for microchip,” shelter supervisor Sally Breyer said.
When Pumpkin came in, having been trapped and taken to an unfamiliar place full of strange smells and noises, “he was very fearful, very agitated. He was exhibiting signs of a feral cat just from being so stressed,” Bryer said.
Fortunately for Pumpkin, Forrester made a request that saved his life. She asked to be taken to the community cat cages behind the shelter’s facility.
After walking around and inspecting each cage carefully, she heard Pumpkin’s distinct meow. She insisted that the shelter worker take the cat out of the cage and scan it for a microchip.
“When he got close to Pumpkin, [the scanner] instantly put up his number,” Forrester said.
The Kern County Animal Shelter has been the center of controversy for some time now, with accusations of alleged unnecessary killings and the recent firing of a shelter manager who, according to her supporters, pursued her goal of turning the shelter into a no-kill facility too aggressively.
According to a May 21, 2011, article in the Bakersfield Californian, “Kern County has struggled for nearly a decade to transition from a catch-and-kill organization to a humane agency that advocates for responsible pet ownership, licensing and helping lost and unwanted animals find people who want them.”
The controversy grew when Kern County Animal Control manager Kim Mullins was fired last month after a 6-month probationary period. Mullins says she believes she was let go because she was working too aggressively to make that change and because she blew the whistle on unlawful activities by Bakersfield City Animal Control officials.
Mullins went public with allegations that Bakersfield City Animal Control was killing animals before they even got to the shelter. She also said that animals at the shelter were being killed before their mandated holding period had expired.
Amid all the controversy around the shelter, Forrester is glad she managed to get her cat back — but upset that she had to endure this unnecessary stress in the first place.
“We’ve had sleepless nights. But thank God I got him back,” Forrester said.
She also had to pay $105 to bail Pumpkin out of “kitty jail.” But the shelter says that because they didn’t scan him when he was brought in, they will waive a portion of that fee.
“While we do not know exactly what the accepted practices are at the Kern County animal control shelter facility we strongly suspect that Pumpkin is lucky to have gotten out of there alive and returned to his family,” said a writer from the Life With Cats website.
Below is the video from the KBAK-TV story on Pumpkin and the Kern County Animal Shelter:
If you can’t see the video, go here.