A Florida family is devastated after what should have been the miracle story of a missing cat who was rescued from a car engine and reunited with his family turned to one of needless tragedy.
Chelsea Santoro’s 4 year old pet cat Tails got out of the house last Monday morning and disappeared. Unbeknownst to his family, he’d climbed up under the hood of a neighbor’s rental car, then was discovered by the rental company when the car was returned. He was taken to the shelter in good faith, and was immediately killed upon intake.
Chelsea says Tails was killed in a place where he should have been safe, and she told St. Augustine-Jacksonville area media outlets that Saint John’s County Animal Control made no attempt to find her before putting him down.
“I just couldn’t believe it could be true and it could be my cat that they were talking about,” Chelsea said.
She added that it should’ve been a miracle story, “Of how he survived in the engine and ended up a little more than 10 miles from our house and was just fine.”
Chelsea had spent the day searching for Tails and had put posters up in her St. Augustine neighborhood in hopes of finding her cat.
When Chelsea learned that Tails had gone for a ride to the Bozard Ford car dealership and had been safely rescued by the caring staff there she was ecstatic.
“They told me stories about how they were cuddling with him, and playing with him, and how they made him a little bed [at the rental company].”
Sadly, as it turns out, the St. Augustine car company had already turned the cat over to animal control before they tracked Tails back to his family.
Chelsea learned of Tails’ fate when she contacted St. Johns Animal Control in anticipation of a happy reunion.
“He was put down as soon as he arrived at the shelter. He didn’t even spend a night there,” Chelsea said, crying.
She says shelter staff should have been able to tell he was someone’s pet.
“I was horrified when I found out,” Chelsea said. “It just made no sense at all because he was perfectly safe and it was supposed to be a miracle story that he survived a trip in the engine and then was reunited with his owner. There’s just no reason for this type of outcome.”
She says her children were deeply attached to Tails and one of her sons is having trouble accepting that he is gone.
When approached by First Coast News, St. Johns County Communications Manager Michael Ryan acknowledged that Tails should not have been killed and the animal control staffer was to blame for the pet’s needless death, saying:
“Our initial inquiry into this incident indicates that the County’s policies and procedures were not followed, and there was no justification for the actions that occurred. The issue is currently under investigation and the employee in question has been placed on administrative leave. Appropriate measures will be taken to prevent this from occurring again. The loss of a pet under any circumstances is tragic and our condolences are extended to the family. St. Johns County Pet Center staff will continue working daily to reunite pets with their families and facilitate adoptions for animals that need homes.”
Chelsea says she hopes her loss will bring awareness that people should help one another to ensure that missing pets are quickly found and returned home so something like this doesn’t happen again.