Uproar over SPCA killing cat

Sonix with his red blanket.

The public outcry over the shocking death of a pedigree Maine Coon cat at the hands of two SPCA staff members is “completely understandable”, the organisation says.

The fall-out from Hout Bay resident Elise de Beer’s Facebook post on Monday October 31, in which she described how her family’s beloved cat, Sonix, had been taken to the SPCA by a neighbour and euthanised less than 48 hours later, has been nothing less than staggering.

The post is closing in on almost 1000 shares while comments damning the actions of the SPCA continue to pour in, both on Hout Bay social network groups and the Cape of Good Hope SPCA Facebook page.

In the post, Ms De Beer explained how Sonix was killed on Sunday morning, October 30, by the SPCA. She described how a neighbour, who, it’s emerged, is a well-known Cape Town vet, had taken the Maine Coon to the SPCA on the afternoon of Friday October 28, as it had been “trespassing into his home and eating his cat’s food and confronting their cats”.

Less than 48 hours later, Sonix was dead.

“SPCA killed him a day and a half later, on Sunday, without scanning him! My cat is a pedigree, registered Maine Coon who is well groomed. He was micro-chipped. SPCA claimed he was deemed ‘feral’. They say they don’t scan cats they deem ‘feral’, and they don’t wait the usual five days before putting them down (and they don’t even do it the normal humane way if they’re ‘hostile’),” she wrote.

A heartbroken Ms De Beer questioned why the SPCA advocated chipping pets, but the staff did not bother to check Sonix. In light of her own tragedy, sheadvised pet owners to collar or even tattoo their animals.

Speaking to the Sentinel this week, Ms De Beer said she had been horrified to learn that the two SPCA staff members were not even qualified vets.

“How can procedures like this be undertaken by lay people who essentially are playing God at the SPCA?” she said. “It’s not normal.”

She said her family was waiting for the outcome of the SPCA investigation to find out exactly what happened. “We need to find out how this could be allowed, and who was enabling these staff members to kill Sonix.”

Ms De Beer at this stage preferred not to comment about the man who had taken Sonix to the SPCA.

However, she said the impact of the Maine Coon’s death on the family had been monumental.

“Sonix was actually my 10-year-old daughter’s cat, and obviously she is not taking it well. Sonix was named after a skateboarding sponsor by my 19-year-old son. He was an absolute legend. He was crazy about his red blanket. He was such a vocal cat, and would definitely let you know when he wanted his red blankie. We’ve lost a beautiful animal.”

SPCA spokeswoman Belinda Abraham acknowledged that there had been a “distressing breach of SPCA protocols and operating procedures” which had resulted in Sonix’s death.

“Staff members have since been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation. The internal investigation is being conducted by our Animal Care Centre Manager. It is unacceptable that protocols were not followed and that this resulted in the loss of a family’s much-loved pet,” she said.

Ms Abraham confirmed that Sonix had been brought to the SPCA by a well-known veterinarian in a humane cat trap, which had been rented from the SPCA.

Asked how the SPCA would determine whether a cat was feral, she said generally the animals would not allow handling by humans and would have to be trapped in order to be presented for care.

“The SPCA extends our deepest regret and sincerest apology to the De Beer family. We will ensure that our investigation is thorough and that no stone is left unturned in determining the facts of this matter. We will ensure that this incident is never repeated. For something like this to have happened, even once, is, in our opinion, inexcusable.”

However, despite the SPCA acknowledging it was at fault, not everybody is willing to accept the apology.

“Sorry, SPCA, but I don’t blame the owners for being angry,” Colleen Cross wrote on the organisation’s Facebook page.

“I don’t quite honestly know what I would do if I was in their position now. It is pretty horrifying to think that if your pet should unfortunately land up at the SPCA for whatever reason, it doesn’t even have a week before you kill it. I seriously think you should take a relook at your policies. I do appreciate that your jobs are not easy and you make tough decisions every day but this was a bad one. Doesn’t matter how you look at it.”

Achmat Gambo did not mince his words in his Facebook post. “It seem the SPCA is only making excuses and not taking responsibility for what happened… yes two people are suspended, but I beg to ask the question, how come they were so comfortable making a decision like that so quick and on their own? Is it because it was allowed to be made before and the SPCA got away with it?” Ms De Beer said her family had been overwhelmed by the messages of support she had received from the public. “People have been sending chocolates and one person even left a teddy bear for my daughter at our gate. Our family wants to thank everyone for their kindness.”