Justice for Bella, Young Cat Deliberately Killed at Shelter Despite Rescuers’ Pleas

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By Karen Harrison Binette


On Saturday, 2/23, a beautiful, sweet cat named Bella was killed…

Animal lovers are being urged in an online campaign to write emails and letters and make phone calls to the mayor of Santa Clarita, CA, along with animal care and control officials, in response to Bella’s deliberate killing at a shelter even though a rescuer was on the way to get her.

Bella was a young owner surrender described by her former family as a sweet cat they were giving up because of allergies. She was turned in to the Castaic animal shelter, part of the LA County Animal Care and Control system, on February 9. She was killed on the orders of a shelter sergeant last Saturday afternoon, February 23, even though a nearby rescuer called and pleaded that she be allowed to live for the amount of time it would take to drive to the shelter and get her.

Adrienne Hagen, co-founder of Cat Connection in Encino, tried to save Bella and told the Los Angeles Daily News “I’m terribly sad, disappointed. There’s something wrong with an agency that would kill an animal when people are begging them not to – saying they have a home.”

The Daily News also spoke with Evelina Villa, spokeswoman for the county shelter system, who asserted that rescuers were given plenty of time to get Bella before she was killed, saying “After working with them, giving them extensions twice, it wasn’t working with us. It’s always, we’ll come tomorrow, we’ll come tomorrow. The cat was sick [purportedly with an upper respiratory infection]. We needed the space. We put her down for public safety.”

Bella had lashed out, but rescuers attribute her behavior to the strangeness of being deprived of her home and left at the shelter, along with her going into heat in the strange environment. They feel Bella’s lapse in behavior should not have doomed her, since she was scheduled to be removed from the shelter by a responsible party.

Cat Connection and others are pointing a finger at shelter sergeant Omar Pinto as the man responsible for Bella’s death, though after reading Evelina Villa’s statement, with its seemingly contemptuous attitude toward rescuers, the disappointment and outrage may become more generalized against the shelter system.

Bella’s killing may constitute a violation of the Hayden Law, which requires shelters to allow 501(c)(3) animal rescue and adoption groups to pull animals and forbids shelter to kill animals if a rescue agrees to take them.

The PetConnect.US Facebook page has become the central point for the campaign to inform animal lovers on the incident and to remember Bella by speaking out about the injustice of her death. Julie from PetConnect gave us permission to reprint material from the page to help spread the word on Bella and the campaign to speak out so that other might not meet the same fate.

PetConnect.US wrote:

On Saturday, 2/23, a beautiful, sweet cat named Bella was killed at Castaic Shelter with a rescue on the way. It’s believed her killing was an abuse of power by the shelter sergeant, Omar Pinto. A couple of us put together a timeline for Bella’s shelter stay and untimely death. MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD! At the end are contact names and email addresses. Please send letters to everyone on the list. Include Bella’s photo if possible. DO IT FOR BELLA. The more complaints the shelter receives the greater the likelihood there will be change. I hope Bella didn’t die in vain. SHARING IS VERY IMPORTANT TO OUR MISSION TO BRING CHANGE TO CASTAIC SHELTER. Please hit the share button…it only takes a moment and the increased exposure is invaluable.

Impound No: A4542088
Impound Date: 2/9/2013
Sex: Female
Primary Breed: DOMESTIC SH
Age: 2 Years, 0 Months
Location: CASTAIC
Cage No.: X301

Castaic Shelter – Phone: 661-257-3191, Address: 31044 Charlie Canyon Rd., Castaic, CA 91384

PTS: 2/23/13

Bella was deliberately killed by Castaic Shelter at 5pm on Saturday, 2/23/13 with a rescue on the way. Several shelter volunteers interacted with Bella over the 3 days she was available for adoption, saying she was a friendly, sweet cat. There is video of a volunteer with Bella. Bella was abandoned by her owners who claimed they were allergic. They described her as a friendly cat that got along with small children and dogs. Bella went into heat after she arrived at the shelter. Anyone who knows cats knows that a female in heat can be unpredictable due to discomfort. Sadly, someone, left unattended by shelter staff, interacted and perhaps taunted this kitten. The events that landed Bella in quarantine are unclear. There is speculation that Bella bit someone performing court-ordered community service. Policy states that these people are not allowed to interact with animals at the shelter without a staff member or volunteer present.


Once news spread of Bella’s urgent situation, people frantically began to network to save the cat, now labeled Rescue Only. Several people called the shelter to express interest in Bella and were told that she would be killed at 5pm on Sat. 2/23 unless rescued prior to that time.

On Saturday, 2/23/13, at 3:40pm Cat Connection, an approved rescue puller, contacted the shelter to say they would pick up Bella. Cat Connection was told Bella would be held until they could get to Castaic Shelter at 10 am Sunday, 2/24/13. An hour later, at 4:40pm, 20 minutes before the shelter closed, Cat Connection received a call from shelter staff that at the instruction of Omar Pinto Bella would be killed on schedule at 5pm. Cat Connection responded that she was leaving from Tarzana immediately to pick up Bella. She said she would be there by 5:30 and the shelter reiterated that Bella would be killed at 5pm. Why would Omar Pinto order the murder of a cat he knew had a rescue on the way?

In addition to Cat Connection, two other cat rescues contacted the shelter on behalf of Bella.

When asked about Bella’s bite, Pinto’s explanations were inconsistent and changed several times. A volunteer inquired and was told it may have been just a scratch, but Bella was put in quarantine anyway. Pinto claims there is a bite report, but without any witnesses to the bite, how accurate can we assume that report to be?

So, despite knowing a rescue was on the way, Bella, only a year old, was killed.

Please contact the following people on behalf of Bella…if you feel you want to make a phone call, please call Marcia Mayeda rather than the Castaic Shelter:

Marcia Mayeda, Director L.A. County Shelters
[email protected]

Derek Brown, Deputy Director, North County Operations
[email protected]

Michael Antonovich, Supervisor
Santa Clarita Valley
23920 Valencia Blvd., Suite 265
Santa Clarita, CA 91355
(661) 287-3657
Rosalind Wayman, Field Deputy
[email protected]

Bob Keller, Mayor
[email protected]

[email protected]
[email protected]


Note: Several people who wrote to the officials listed above sent Bella’s photo with their messages.

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0 thoughts on “Justice for Bella, Young Cat Deliberately Killed at Shelter Despite Rescuers’ Pleas”

  1. This sargeant should be fired. If you are mean and WANT to see an animal die YOU DON”T BELONG IN ANY RESCUE OR SHELTER JOB.

  2. This is the second cat this month! Kodak died in Baton Rouge even though 2 rescues were working to get him out- the shelter even confirmed the rescue would be taking him.

  3. I wrote my letter to all of the e-mail addresses above. I requested Omar Pinto be terminated immediately. This abuse of power must be stopped a.s.a.p.! The all should be ashamed to have Bella’s blood on their hands. I hope everyone who reads this article takes 10 minutes to write to this people how this is wrong and Omar Pinto should be fired!! I am so upset and disgusted by Omar Pinto’s vicious, cruel and extremely unprofessional behavior, it makes my head want to explode!!! Knowing there was a rescue plan in place is unforgivable. HAYDEN’S LAW was put in place to protect the animals, so this would not happen!! Hopefully something legally will happen to all the disgraceful people involved this extremely sad situation, that did not have to happen.

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