SNOW HILL — In the wake of public outcry over the euthanasia of three West Ocean City cats, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control tried to clear the air Tuesday, presenting a timeline of what actually happened as far as cat trapping on Waterview Drive.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">
While Animal Control was not chastised for its handling of the situation, the County Commissioners are hoping the incident will spark some changes, including more cages so animals can be held longer and more community communication in the form of information posted on the county website.
“We’ll change the way we do some things,” said Commission President Bud Church.
Lt. Ed Schreier of the Worcester Sheriff’s Office, which oversees Animal Control, gave the commission a breakdown of the events that occurred on Waterview Drive at the end of March and beginning of April.
According to Schreier, a complaint was lodged by a resident of the area that feral cats were disturbing his property and fighting under his house as well as defecating in his yard. Following his report, Animal Control set up two traps at the property.
The traps captured three cats, two raccoons and an opossum over a three-week period. All of the animals were put to sleep.
Outrage ensued when the owners of those cats visited Animal Control on Saturday, April 7. Matt Odachowski, a resident of Waterview Drive, came in with his family in search of a gray and black cat with no teeth or front claws. The description matched a cat trapped on March 30 that was initially held at Animal Control, but put down on April 3 after control officers noted a “drastically changed” personality from the cat that Schreier described as “hostile and aggressive” in his report to the commission.
Schreier noted that the cat’s sudden shift in behavior from docile to aggressive was perceived as a possible indication of rabies.
“We have a rabies problem in Worcester County,” he added.
The two other cats trapped, an orange tabby and a black male, both displayed hostile behavior and fresh wounds when they were trapped, leading officers to believe they were feral, according to Schreier. Both were put to sleep immediately.
Schreier reminded the commission that none of the cats had any kind of identification.
“[If they have a collar] we don’t take them, we don’t touch them,” he said.
In the case of the gray and black cat, Schreier said the officer who checked the trap walked down the street and talked to three different people asking if they could identify the cat, which they could not. If the cat had not started to evidence aggressive behavior, Schreier said the feline would have eventually been put up for adoption if no owner turned up to claim him.
Another Waterview Drive resident missing a cat, Tara Zimmerman, also visited Animal Control but was told that her pet, a Calico, did not match the description of any of the cats trapped.
After hearing the timeline of events, the commission did not criticize Animal Control for how it handled the trappings and euthanasia of the three cats.
However, Church said that the commissioners would like to see changes so that nothing like this happens again in the future.
“Maybe there have been some lessons learned here,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a tragedy to turn the light on and see things.”
Church lent support to a request by Animal Control for $7,000 worth of new cages, which would allow animals to be kept longer in the crowded shelters. He also endorsed the idea of strengthening communication with the community by having Animal Control post information about captured animals on its website.