This cat didn't have nine lives

Another WCAS mistake?

On Saturday, May 7, two Rock River Times employees, Jeff Helberg and Charlene DeBrock, found a stray cat in the Harlem Boulevard-Cumberland area. They had been checking out a garage sale in the Churchill’s Grove neighborhood when they saw the cat drinking from a puddle in an alley. It was a female tabby cat with no collar. Someone in the crowd of garage salers said it was pregnant, but the two friends noted that it seemed thin. It was not declawed.

“We knew she needed food and water,” said Helberg. “We thought we should get her some professional help so she would have shelter, food and water. So we took her to Noah’s Ark.”

There was a sign on the door saying the place was full, but DeBrock and Helberg took the cat in anyway and asked the staff if they knew of anyone who could take the animal. “They said no. ‘You have to take her to Animal Control,’” Helberg recalled.

They took the cat to Winnebago County Animal Services and checked her in. DeBrock’s driver’s license was photocopied, and they had to fill out some paperwork, according to the WCAS procedures. The WCAS staff put the cat in a cardboard box and took it back to some cages.

They did not get the name of the person they spoke to at WCAS, but Helberg said: “We had at least a 5-minute conversation with a middle-aged white woman at the front desk. She was very professional and polite. She seemed authoritative and knowledgeable, and she assured us the cat would not be put to sleep for five days. We questioned her because we hoped to find a home for the cat within five days. I even remember saying, ‘So Thursday this cat’s alive, and Friday you put her to sleep. Is that right?’ The woman said, ‘Yes, that’s right.’

“Two days later, Monday, May 9, Charlene went to pick up the cat because she found a no-kill shelter in Freeport that would take it. But she was informed at WCAS that the cat had been put to sleep the previous day (Sunday, May 8), which was one day after we brought it in. Charlene was very angry and conveyed that to them.”

DeBrock submitted her statement as follows: “On Monday, when I returned to the shelter, I was shocked to find out that the soon to be mother cat was put down on Sunday. After hearing that news, I requested to speak to the director of the shelter, who was not in, so second-in-command was the kennel supervisor, who led me to a conference room to discuss the situation. At that time, I proceeded to tell her what had happened, and all she could say was that ‘she was sympathetic and sorry for the miscommunication at the front desk.’

“My last words to the kennel director were, ‘Had I been told accurate information, I would have NEVER turned the cat over to them.’ This pet owner will never adopt an animal from that facility again under any circumstances.”

From the May 18-24, 2005, issue

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