Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Back in April, Cuddles sadly became a victim of a RTA, and his story is a sad tale of mess up after mess up by vets and the council.... Cuddles was an indoor cat who had escaped. Frantic with worry, Keri and the family made a social media plea, and began putting posters around the area. They were also constantly phoning the local vets - just 5 minutes away from the house. The vets insisted no cat had been reported.
After seeing Keri's online plea to find her little man, a lady came forward saying she recognised Cuddles off his picture and she had in fact found him earlier on. The lady couldn't leave him in the road but due to her not having the car at that time, and having kids with her, she felt her only option possible was to phone the vets to enquire if anyone had reported a missing cat. The vets assured the lady that no one had reported a missing cat and, due to them not being able to collect the cat themselves, they advised on the standard procedure to contact the local council which the lady proceeded to do.
Once Keri and the finder got chatting, Keri found out that the lady had in fact phoned the vets to report the incident but the vets had made no record of the call or his accident! Keri, and family, phoned the vets countless times throughout the day - even took missing posters in! Each time the vets said no one had reported anything. Once Keri discovered the vets knew, but didn't tell her, she instantly raised a complaint naturally. The vets have since apologised, and have offered condolence gifts. However Keri, rightly so, demanded a policy change in their practice chain. This was eventually promised and was implemented soon afterwards. Had the veterinary practice made adequate records then the family could have been informed of Cuddles untimely death, and made attempts to collect him to bring him home.
On speaking to Keri about this afterwards, she was worried this may happen to someone else at another practice. CatsMatter are always striving to find news to amend or improve all issues surrounding cat RTAs, so we promised Keri we would work on getting a note sent to all veterinary practices to highlight the issue, and ask they check their procedures and ask they make improvements where necessary. A mammoth task we hoped an old friendly contact of ours could maybe help us out with.....
In 2017, The British Veterinary Association released their report on the most common reasons vets see a cat, RTAs sadly ranking at the top! We provided the awareness material/photos for the press release on all their social media accounts. We produced a best practice advise piece on the issue which encourages vets to look at, and amend where possible, their current protocol. This will be published in the BVA journal which is distributed to all 17,000 veterinary practices.
Although the veterinary practice in general caused excessive unnecessary heartache for Keri and the family, it does sadly get worse...
On discovering that the local council took Cuddles away, Keri immediately phoned them. After being passed around numerous times on the phone, and being told different information from each person she spoke to, Keri got nowhere trying to locate his body or get any simple answers to her questions. CatsMatter immediately stepped in as, knowing time is not on the owners side with councils at the best of times, we were desperately trying to find out if he was still there to get him home so the family could lay him to rest properly! We also know the importance of getting answers and closure, and did all we could to try and get that for Cuddles' family! Manchester council have confirmed to us they do scan in the past, however this is not the first time we have been alerted to this council in regards to cats who are not chipped. When dealing with councils, our priority is getting them to scan for microchips of course, but we make the point ALL cats deserve to go home, not just the chipped ones. We state that chips can grow/fall out, malfunction, or even likely to be so badly damaged during a RTA that the chip is broken and not readable so it's important, even for those of us who chip our cats, that the councils treat all the same and give all owners a chance at closure.
We only ever hear good reports regarding chipped cats from Manchester, but this was not the first time they has been brought up to us specifically regarding un-chipped cats. We began to feel this was not a coincidence and could see a pattern forming when it came to cats without chips...
Our efforts to locate Cuddles, and get him home, were evidently in vain as we began talks with the council. They confirmed they do still scan but do not have the facilities to store them, so the moment Cuddles was taken it was tragically over for Keri to get him back no matter how hard we tried. Our only hope now was to encourage they shake up the department, and introduce an option for future owners to have the chance to collect their loved ones.
After liaising with Manchester officials, we were informed that they are currently in a contract until 2024 and to amend it at this stage would incur them costs, on top of all the additional equipment they would also need, which they state is not feasible at this time as they are under immense pressure to cut costs wherever possible. It's not unusual at all for councils waste contracts to last for years, we had expected as much and felt disheartened to know it would be 6 years until they made the changes. Of course we pursued this and we got support from senior management in the waste department who own cats themselves and completely sympathise with an owners need for closure. An educated guess usually tells us how genuine and willing a council is, and we were assured it was all genuine from Manchester. Our thoughts were confirmed when the council stated they did not want to wait until 2024, and they will do all they can to get something in place hopefully long before then.
The council is responsible for all of Greater Manchester which is almost 500 square miles, the second largest populated region in the UK, and has 10 metropolitan borough councils within - each of which will have numerous depots. This is in stark contrast to councils we usually deal with where just 2/3 depots need equipping, and no major overhaul needs to take place. The area where Cuddles was collected from was Stockport.
What the council have now stated is that they will continuously look for other ways to cut costs so as they can implement this. They have internal reviews often regarding finances, and we have been assured this will continue to be put on the table for implementation. They can not be precise with timescales at the moment, but introducing storage facilities is at the top of the list as soon as funds become available. The team have insisted we stay in touch, and encouraged us to give them a nudge regularly if we feel it has gone on the backburner - which they promise it won't.
Although tragically Cuddles won't be going home, Keri has made a beautiful memorial garden for him in the back garden. To accompany this feature, the veterinary practice have sent Keri a personalised headstone as their way of apologising for their part in his body not being sent home. As a result of Keri speaking out about what happened to Cuddles, and refusing to let his death be in vain, his legacy will help many others in the future. Now veterinary practices around the UK will be advised to look at their current policy, and make amendments where necessary.
As for the council, and the cruel way he was taken away immediately, his legacy has put a stop to that. Although all involved are unable to give an exact date, what all involved can confirm is Manchester council will soon become an authority who store, as well as scan, and cats will be sent back home where they belong.
RIP gorgeous little Cuddles - he was, and will continue to be, one very special cat ❤