The euthanasia of an unidentified injured cat later discovered to be a family pet has prompted Pasco County Animal Services to change some of its euthanasia policies for severely injured animals found outside the county's shelter.
The cat, which was found and held in a garage in Wilderness Lake Preserve, was euthanized July 6 before being taken to the shelter after an officer said it appeared to be severely injured and could not find a micro chip or tag identifying the owner.
Afterward, a nearby neighbor claimed the cat as Peggy and said it limped because it had only three paws. County officials investigated and determined that the officer acted within county policy, which allowed for euthanasia of animals in the field if they were severely injured and officers cannot identify an owner.
However, the incident prompted officials to review their procedures and make the following changes:
• No animal will be euthanized outside the shelter.
• Officers will try to locate an owner in the area before taking an animal to the shelter.
• If the owner can't be found, the officer will take the animal to the shelter to be evaluated or to a nearby veterinarian.
• The remains of animals that are euthanized at the shelter will be held for seven days.
The county will try out the new policies for 90 days before evaluating them further and will train staffers on the changes
"We would also like to use this sad experience as a teaching moment to remind all pet owners to tag, microchip or tattoo their pet, to help ensure they can be reunited if they are separated," county spokesman Ed Caum said in a news release.
County officials also plan to invite all Pasco County veterinarians to a forum to discuss creating a network of emergency care for when injured strays are found. County officials say the shelter remains overcrowded and they hope to re-open the dog shelter, which was closed recently due to a parvovirus outbreak, on July 23.