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‘Bella’ case brings changes at Castaic shelter

Claims of cat’s wrongful euthanization leads to new practices for county animal control

Posted: December 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Bella the cat Bella the cat
Bella the cat

Changes have been made to the way the Castaic Animal Shelter handles some cases following a look into the death of a cat who some claimed was wrongly euthanized earlier this year, according to officials.

Specifically, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control better identifies sick animals and more closely monitors them, a spokeswoman said.

“These (new) practices include cage identification cards for special-needs animals, increased communication between animal care and veterinary care, retraining of animal care staff to identify indicators of possible medical concern and improved record-keeping using the care center database,” wrote Karen Stepp, manager of the Castaic Shelter, in an email.

Stepp also said the shelter has established additional ways to partner with the community to help animals get adopted, including notifying adoption partners when an animal with behavioral or medical needs comes to the shelter.

“In addition to adoption partners, community volunteers have come forward and allowed us to expand our foster program to allow for special-needs animals to receive care outside of the shelter environment,” Stepp wrote. “We are very grateful for these partnerships.”

“We are deeply committed to maintaining a humane and healthy environment for the animals in our care and work diligently to correct any practices that do not promote such an environment,” reads a letter from Marcia Mayeda, director of the county Department of Animal Care and Control.

The changes follow the case of a cat named Bella, who was euthanized Feb. 23 after spending two weeks at the Castaic Animal Shelter.

Bella was ill by the time she came to the shelter, according to officials. She reportedly bit and attacked shelter workers.

The feline’s euthanization prompted some volunteers with cat rescue organizations to demand the county look into the case, saying Bella had been improperly euthanized.

One spokeswoman for a rescue organization said she was on her way to pick up Bella when the animal was put down.

Evelina Villa, a spokeswoman with the department, told The Signal in February that the cat was euthanized after animal rescue groups failed to meet adoption deadlines.

Because of her biting and other behavior Bella was designated “rescue-only,” so only recognized animal-rescue groups could adopt her from the shelter, according to Villa.

A rescue organization contacted the shelter about adopting Bella, but its members never followed through by arriving at the shelter to collect the animal, Villa said.

The volunteer who had been on her way to pick up the cat said she called the shelter to hold Bella for her.


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