The owner of a cat named Porkchop has a beef with the Mobile County Animal Shelter after workers there euthanized the animal within minutes of its receipt in January and then tried to cover it up. The incident spawned a lawsuit filed in Mobile County Circuit Court Nov. 19.
According to the timeline, Porkchop slipped out of plaintiff Kaitlyn Hughes’ apartment on a Thursday afternoon and was quickly captured by a neighbor upstairs, who took it to the shelter at 3:55 p.m. Records from the shelter indicate 20 minutes later, as the shelter was preparing to close for the day, Porkchop was euthanized.
Hughes’ attorney, Eaton Barnard, said his client returned home that evening and began a frantic search for the cat. Friday morning, she went to the shelter, where she was advised to look for her cat amongst the others detained, but came up empty-handed.
Hughes returned to her neighborhood to continue the search, where she eventually contacted the neighbor, who told her about taking Porkchop to the shelter the day before.“She got excited and hot-footed it back over there and was told eventually after looking some more that the cat was brought in a trap the day before and was acting wild so it was euthanized,” Barnard said. “But we have a statement and pictures from the neighbor showing that the cat rode to the shelter in his lap and was acting like a normal, domesticated pet.
“The simple fact of the matter is it was close to closing time and [the workers] didn’t want to fool with it,” he said. “So 15 minutes later, Porkchop was dead.”
Barnard said the workers offered Hughes another cat in Porkchop’s place.
The lawsuit names Mobile County and three employees, Andrew Stubbs, Carmelo Miranda and Donna Jones as defendants, claiming the employees violated a shelter policy placing a five-day hold on animals between the time they are received and when they are euthanized. There are a total of four counts including outrage, conversion, conspiracy and negligent supervision. Hughes is asking for a jury trial to consider compensatory and punitive damages.
“[The shelter] has a five-day stray hold policy for this very reason, if somebody lost a pet,” Barnard said. “It’s certainly not a 30-minute stray hold policy.”
Barnard admitted Porkchop was not wearing a collar or other identifying marks, but said shelter workers should have known it was domesticated by evaluating its temperament and noticing a neutering scar.
“There is no mistaking a truly feral animal,” he said. “They go absolutely wild and you can’t touch them or hold them or carry them into a shelter. Anybody with any experience at all knows the difference. The neighbor took it to the shelter thinking it would be found or adopted. That’s why they call it a shelter and not a death camp.”
Earlier this year, local animal rescue group SouthBARK filed a separate suit against the animal shelter, seeking and injunction to freeze its euthanasia program, among other things. The bulk of that lawsuit was dismissed, although a federal court judge upheld SouthBARK’s complaints the county violated its free speech rights and claims of defamation. Litigation on those charges is ongoing, according to records.
More than 7,000 animals were brought to the Mobile County Animal Shelter in 2012, according to a spokesperson. Of those, only 2,800 were adopted.
Barnard said although his client is seeking damages, he hopes the Porkchop lawsuit results in more substantive ramifications.
“We hope this will make a difference and effect some change in the shelter and get people in charge out there who really care about the animals more than what time they close,” he said.
Initial attempts to contact County attorney Jay Ross for comment were unsuccessful.