County Defends Cat ‘Massacre’ In West OC

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WEST OCEAN CITY — Several family cats in a quiet West Ocean City neighborhood were recently trapped and later euthanized in a situation one resident characterized as a “massacre,” but county officials this week stood by policy and procedures.

Last week, several cat owners along bucolic Waterview Drive began to notice their family cats, most of which were either adults or elderly and allowed to roam their yards, were missing. After several inquiries and failed attempts to locate the missing animals, the pet owners discovered one of their neighbors had set traps to catch feral cats in the area and that county Animal Control officers had been called to collect the animals.

According to county officials, Animal Control made attempts to determine if the cats were family pets and owned by residents on the street. At least three of the trapped cats, including those owned as family pets, were euthanized a short time later after showing signs of wounds and exhibiting aggressive behavior. According to county officials, policy and procedures were followed closely, but the victims believe the neighbor was wrong to set the traps in the first place and Animal Control acted too quickly to euthanize the animals that were clearly family pets.

Waterview Drive resident Tara Zimmerman said this week her 12-year-old cat went missing and they looked all over the neighborhood for her. The cat spent much of its time indoors, but went out in the yard for a couple of hours each day and typically stayed close to home. Zimmerman said if traps were set in the neighborhood and baited with food, it was likely her cat was drawn in.

“Of course, if they put food in there to lure them in she’s going to be curious,” she said. “Our cat stayed close to home and rarely left the yard, but if they tried to trap her, she was going to get lured in.”

When she contacted neighbor Matt Odachowski, he said his 16-year-old cat had been missing for seven days. At that point, Zimmerman circulated a flyer offering a $100 reward for information about the missing cats. A neighbor contacted her and told her another neighbor had set traps.

Several cats were rounded up, including family pets, and some were later euthanized, including the cats owned by Zimmerman and Odachowski. Zimmerman said she was told Animal Control made an attempt to locate the owners, but didn’t believe an earnest effort to find the cats’ owners were ever undertaken.

“Obviously, they didn’t make much of an effort to contact any of the owners,” she said. “There are only 15 houses on the street and people either owned the cats or knew who they belonged to. These were family pets and most of them were older and tame and wouldn’t hurt anybody or anything. Our cat would just lay in the sun most of the time.”

Odachowski said he was out of town on business for a few days and got a call from his distressed wife about the family’s cat missing. He said the elderly cat had no front claws, barely any teeth and struggled to walk, leading him to believe something had attacked it. When Odachowski got a message from Zimmerman about her cat also missing, he began to consider something or somebody might be attacking family pets in the neighborhood.

Odachowski said he later found out one of the neighbors on the street had been trapping cats and that Animal Control had picked them up.

“I could not believe that a neighbor with approximately 15 houses in the entire Waterview Drive neighborhood could do this without letting the entire neighborhood know,” he said. “I had to find out the truth so I confronted him as he drove down the road. He stopped and we exchanged a few choice words. As a matter of fact, I think I invented a few new ones after he admitted doing so.”

With the origin of the mystery solved, the neighbors turned their focus on the Animal Control to find out the disposition of their pets. Odachowski said Animal Control confirmed the trapping had been going on for a while and that four cats were caught in the neighborhood. Animal Control told another neighbor seven cats had been taken. Odachowski said he personally knew of five missing, so he assumed the seven number he had been told was correct. Odachowski said Animal Control told him one cat was trapped on a Friday and euthanized on a Tuesday.

“That is only four days, including the weekend when they are closed,” he said. “I was then told another cat belonging to a neighbor up the street was actually put down immediately because it was out of control. How can these pets have been taken from a small neighborhood without everyone being notified the trapping was taking place and why were they killed so quickly?”

Odachowski said the entire situation was preventable with some common sense and a modicum of decency.

“The entire event is horrendous,” he said. “From the neighbor that didn’t have the decency to let anyone know that we was going to do this to the Animal Control. There should be some sort of notice given, either a sign put up at the beginning of the neighborhood, notes on doors or even mailed. I believe their policy is to hold the animals 10 days. Well, they did not follow their own policy. This should not be allowed to happen to others and policies and procedures need to be either changed or just followed. All of these pets should not have to die in vain.”

Zimmerman agreed a review of the county’s policy was necessary if only to prevent a similar incident.

“It’s too late for our cats, but if anything good comes out of this, maybe in the future they can let everyone know when they are setting traps and rounding up cats so pet owners can be sure to keep their cats inside. No family should have to go through this,” she said.

After being contacted by a reporter, County Commission President Bud Church said he asked County Administrator Gerry Mason to look into the situation and Mason came back with a report on what had happened on Waterview Drive. According to Mason’s report, Animal Control informed him three cats had been trapped in the neighborhood. The complaining property owner allegedly told the Animal Control field officer on the scene the three cats were feral and not owned by anybody, according to Church. Church said he was informed one of the trapped cats had been taken around the neighborhood to see if it was owned and neighbors responded they didn’t recognize the animal.

Church said Mason said two of the three trapped cats had wounds. According to the Animal Control report acquired by Mason, one of the cats was put down because it was exhibiting aggressive behavior and five days had passed. Another cat, an orange one, was put down immediately because of its wounds and its aggressive behavior. The remaining cat was put down after it exhibited aggressive behavior and damaged the tongs used to remove it from the trap. According to Church, via Mason, none of the cats had collars or any other identification. Church said he was informed with regard to the Odachowski cat, no contact had been made with Animal Control for at least seven days.

Church said that was all he knew about the situation on Waterview Drive, but said he learned through the process just how bad the feral cat problem was in the county.

“I was told Animal Control typically handles as many as 1,200 to 1,300 feral cat cases,” he said. “We have a severe problem in the county with cats and I was shocked when I heard that number.”

The Worcester County Code has a vast section on animal control, impoundment and euthanization, including language that appears to specifically address the Waterview Drive incident. For example, the county code specifically addresses owner notification efforts.

“Any dog or cat which is impounded under the provisions of this subtitle and has not otherwise been disposed of within 15 days after being impounded subject to the provisions hereof may be disposed of in any legal humane way by the Animal Control Warden,” the code reads. “No dog or cat which is licensed hereunder and identifiable as such, except in cases of blatantly vicious animals, shall be destroyed until the Animal Control Warden has made at least two attempts, one of which shall be written, to contact the owner to advise the owner of the impoundment of the animal.”

The county code also includes language prohibiting pet owners to allow their animals to run freely and addresses the 10-day rule mentioned by the victims.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to permit a dog, cat or other animal owned or harbored by him to run at large,” the code reads. “Any such animal running at large may be apprehended by the Animal Control Warden or other designated officer and may be impounded in the animal pound. Any animal so impounded shall be held at the animal pound not less than 10 days unless sooner redeemed by the owner. Any animal presenting symptoms of infectious or communicable disease constituting a health threat to other animals in the pound may be euthanized prior to the expiration of the holding period.”

22 comments on “County Defends Cat ‘Massacre’ In West OC

  1. It is quite obvious the report from the County Animal Control is heavily politically edited. There is absolutely now way several house cats were misidentified as feral by either the Animal Control or the S*O*B neighbor. I certainly hope the affected neighbors consider suing him into the ground for everything they can think of. In time I am sure his name will make it into the social media and it would be my fondest wish he owns or operates a local business so we may all boycott it.

  2. Sounds like the comments above regarding the Codes are people that are worried about their jobs and not caring about someones family pet. What a shame!!!!!

  3. John, read a little more carefully next time. Don’t omit the most important part of the sentence “thanks to some bored and concerned citizen”. So you rather have your cat unjustifiably killed by Animal Control than have it killed by a wild animal? Sure sounds like it. The point most of these people are trying to make is that would have taken a MINUSCULE amount of effort to find the owners.

  4. If you own a cat or dog u must have them licensed and collared…I do care how long u have let them run free or how long u have lived somewhere…if they are going on someone elses property and spraying or getting in there house they have the right to call someone to come onto there own property and catch them …if the cats were caught it’s because they did not stay in there own yards….just becasue they are cats does not give them the right to run free and not be collared and licensed. I wouldnt want some cat spraying all over my yard or house… Know one is above the law…shame on you for putting up that sign..your neighbors did nothing wrong…If the shoe was on the other foot you would have done the same thing!

  5. It’s a peaceful neighborhood and house cats tend to stay near the their vicinity of their home. I rather see the cat die of a being attacked by a wild animal, than get snagged up by Animal Control thanks to some bored and “concerned” citizen with way too much time on their hands. Cats want to be outside, and around each other. They’re not stupid and can take care of themselves regardless of whether or not they have front claws. That’s why people let them out unsupervised. As far as I’m concerned, Animal Control should have seriously questioned the validity of this “neighbor” and they should have knocked on some doors and made some real confrontation with the home owners about this problem. Not hard.

  6. I can’t believe the comments above
    If you say you are a cat person. Why would you agree that the Animal Control has the right to euthinize a family pet, with out trying to contact the famlies, I would expect the County would have more respect for residents of the County since they actully pay their salaries. I live in the West OC area and we have family cats walking around all the time. I bet if this cat killer person ever noticed her probably never had any mice or snakes, HMMMMM. This man is a cold hearted killer and God only knows what he would do to a child he that child accidentally came onto his proberty
    Look out Waterview Dr residents for this neighbor without a heart!!!!

  7. Let’s just talk about decency and common courtesy; if you have neighbors, they may have cats, and a good neighbor would inform his neighbor that he will be trapping cats. This would avoid a host of problems. I own cats, but I’m aware many people don’t like them [and some sickos hate them]. Neighbors must make the effort to work together, or life turns ugly very fast.

  8. Lucky he wasn’t my neighbor or he’d have a much larger problem than cat murderer painted on a stone.

  9. Really!!! Did u just say you would rather your animal die by being attacked by a wild amimal! Then be picked up by animal control… I don’t care who you are or where you live you don’t have the right for your cat to be on someone else’s property, and yes sir I do love my cat. that is why I don’t let him run wherever he wants… I really cant believe you said you would rather your cat die by being attacked..goes to show the mentality of this conversation…Did anyone think about rabies…or yes your kids running around outside with these cats that might have rabies? Since there were no tags on them, there is no way to know if they have had there rabies shots, which by law they should have had a collar an tag on. Oh and by the way if they did have a collar or tag we would not be having this conversation because animal control would have contacted the owners though the number on the tag. I know you all are mad and you really have no one to blame but yourselves … It is shameful how you all are attacking this man who was doing nothing but wanting these cats off his property.

  10. I think people are missing the point for this article. No, the cats didnt have collars or tags ON them but that doesnt mean they werent proiperly cared for and had their shots. A lot of people tat let their cats outside do not put collars on them for fear of tem getting stuck on something. And whos to say they didn have a breakaway collar on that came off before they were trapped. The cats may have no wandered onto this mans property but if you set a trap and put food in it you can bet they will get curious. Peopl are badgering the cat owners need to take a good look at themselves and look at the real problem here which is a man who called animal control because he knew they euthanize and not worcester county because they dont, and had these cats dileberatly trapped and harmed for no reason. And the cats rarely left their yards in the first place. It is a VERY small neighborhoo and everything could hav been prevented if the problem was brought to other peoples attention before it got out of hand. Come on people!!

  11. Really Dave Grover did you just threaten this man …I’ll reiterate to my last statement about the mentality of this conversation… I know we live in a world of..ITS NOT MY FAULT…It’s your fault! It’s no ones fault but there own! Stop blaming others for something they should have done… If you dont want your animals picked up…KEEP THEM ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY …KEEP A COLLAR ON THEM WITH PROOF OF RABIES SHOTS..SIMPLE AS THAT!

  12. You know, the owners, and I use that term loosely, don’t have much reason to complain. Sorry the cats have been euthanized, but y’all didn’t bother to adhere to the county code – and who would allow a cat that has no claws, barely any teeth, and can barely walk to be outside unsupervised? Seriously? If cat owners really love and care for their pets, they keep them indoors or supervise them outdoors. Period. You don’t let them roam, which is disrespectful to your neighbors, dangerous for your pets, and so unfair to the wild animals that cats, even well-fed ones, kill. Keep the code. Learn from this when you acquire your next pet.

  13. DOG OWNERS BEWARE If the so called Animal Control Officers can not handle “aggressive” cats or follow their own rules NO DOG OR ANIMAL IS SAFE We taxpayers pay for these people and this is what we get!!

  14. Don’t let your child stray from your hand into this cold hearted persons yard because if he is so cold hearted to do this to defenseless animals god only knows what he would do to a child that wondered into his yard maybe lure him/her back with some laced candy?!?!? God doesn’t walk with EVIL people nor does he open the gate for them .. Shame on your sick, pathetic man..SHAME ON YOU!!

  15. This is all foolish! You all knew the law…stop blaming this man for something he had the right to do.. The cats were on his property and he had the right to stop them. An to say the cats were rarely out of there yards is just stupid..cats run thats what they do…the only way you were going to stop that was to keep them inside…I know these dont blame me comments are coming from the neighbors…But your wrong…any way you try to word it or blame someone else…You’re wrong…should have had them tagged or chipped! and as I said before…we wouldnt even be having this conversation! and to say animal control should have tried to find these owners is just ridiculous! If you own a animal it is your responsibility to know where it is at ALL times! If my cat wasn’t around when it was time for dinner i would wonder where she was..how many times did these cats not come home for dinner before you wondered where they were!

  16. There is currently a feral cat that lives close to my home (I have other cats as well, all indoors all the time). I had her spayed, shots & tipped (TNR). I have a place for her to sleep & since I feed her, I guess she is ‘legally’ mine. The problem is that I cannot even touch her. I’ve been feeding her for over 2 years. I would hate to think that she could be picked up & euthanized just because of her ‘anti-social’ behavior! Who’s to say that just because she doesn’t have an indoor home with a hearth that she doesn’t deserve to live!? Such cold-hearted people! AREN’T WE SUPPOSED TO BE STEWARDS OF THE EARTH? AREN’T WE SUPPOSED TO TAKE CARE OF THOSE ‘WEAKER’ THAN US? I daresay that ‘they’ (all the animals) would probably be a LOT better off without us than we would be without them. (Chew on that for awhile!) And lest we forget, nature doesn’t like a void- if feral cats are cleared out of an area, others just move in! Better to trap, neuter, release.

  17. Why stop with cats? Kill all the animals-the opossums, raccoons, fox,rabbits, squirrels, birds,deer -anything that dare wander across your property line. All those farmers who have barn cats had also better put them on a leash.

  18. So sad that this neighbor DID NOT notify others he was setting traps. They could have kept their pets indoors or put collars on them. Shame on you for being so mean. I’m glad you don’t live near me. And shame on animal control for not following the rules for keeping a cat before they euthanizie them.

  19. The worst part is that these poor cats were probably gassed! Worcester County has a gas chmaber and it fits whole traps. This is the most INHUMANE way to die and violates the county ordinance.

  20. “AREN’T WE SUPPOSED TO BE STEWARDS OF THE EARTH?” Uh yes, that is why you’d NEVER let a cat loose to hunt and kill wild animals. They are not native wild animals and do not belong outside. TNR is harmful to the environment. Trap it, neuter it, keep it contained in a home or fenced in – not free roaming.

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