A little over a year ago, Emma and her husband Kevin, took their young daughter Caitlyn to chose a cat. Instantly she chose the little grey tabby one, and decided he was called Elmo. Elmo & Caitlyn soon became the absolute best of friends, and did everything together. If Caitlyn was sad he would run up to her for a cuddle. It wouldn't be long before she was happy again, and they would play together. Their favourite past time was having tea parties together, where Elmo would have his cup of tea & then be taken for a walk by Caitlyn....in the pram! He didn't mind of course, he loved it! Once they'd finished they would snuggle up together, and take an afternoon nap. They were always together, and Caitlyn loved him more than anyone.
There was another guest who was always invited to Caitlyn & Elmo's tea parties, and that was Bruno the Bullmastiff. Caitlyn, Bruno and Elmo really were best buddies and Bruno would regularly get in on the action too. Bruno & Elmo always slept together, and got on great. When they would take Bruno on his walk, Elmo would always follow them so far up the road at the start of the walk, and would always be sat waiting to greet them when they got back. Without fail he would always wait to greet Caitlyn as she arrived back from nursery to. Elmo was just an all round perfect family cat, and evidently came from a loving home who adored him - as he did them.
One Monday in July, Elmo never came home like he normally would. After enquiring around locally, Emma got word that a grey and white cat matching Elmo's description had been found on the by-pass very close to her home. She was told this was on Monday morning - it was now Tuesday. Panicking, she quickly rang, and emailed, Dorset Waste Partnership. After an agonising wait until Thursday, the Christchurch Depot contacted her and informed her that 2 cats had been collected off that road at that time, a black & white cat, along with a grey and white cat.
Like most of us, Emma always thought that if you had a cat microchipped then you would always be re-united with them if found. That is after all, why we microchip them in the first place.
Emma asked them had they had chance to check the chip yet, she needed to know if it was Elmo or not. The supervisor then evidently just wanted her off the phone, yet after pushing he admitted that he couldn't say if the cats had been scanned and regardless, they would have already have been disposed of by now anyway, as they send them straight away.
Emma demanded to see the cats, but the supervisor stated it would not be possible because, apart from the cats already being disposed of, the depot where they are kept them was in the middle of nowhere and was not manned! When pushed for a phone number to the depot, he stated they did not posses a phone line. After her demands of none of this making sense, nor being good enough, the supervisor stated he would contact them (at the unmanned depot with no phone line) and get them to check the freezers. Barely moments later the phone goes, they had contacted them and looked in the freezers and realised it was a badger - they now apparently never collected any cats that day.
Understandably, Emma found this unacceptable and was not going to stand for it. She logged a complaint, refusing to just go away like they wanted her to do. The boss eventually contacted her, and offered her to go down to the depot to check on the 1 cat they currently had in the freezer. It had been a week now since those 2 cats had been collected from the by-pass. Emma explained what had been said and, apart from evidently seeing it was manned and had numerous phone lines, the boss confronted the Christchurch supervisor about what he had been saying - which he denied.
Emma then requested the Ferndown depot investigate, and that is when she found out the 1 poor cat in the freezer had been there almost a year on it's own. The freezer had not been emptied in a year, and they had only collected that cat in the past year. As for the Christchurch depot, where it is believed Elmo had been, Emma got no further answers.
CatsMatter must note here that each council state they either scan or don't scan. Each council will also have numerous depots across the region, each of which may handle things slightly differently, as Emma has found to be the case here. This is another reason why a law change is so important, the system is just too vast with multiple aspects to it that are almost impossible to monitor individually. This is why we always encourage people to let us know of incidents so we can match it to our notes - and chase it up to find out what is going on at their depots.
5 months on Emma is still battling with the council for answers, although she understands she may never get closure at this point. They have sent her useful blank log sheets, but Emma believes the entire council have covered it all up & would rather her go away at this stage. They did send her a few report logs though which strangely mentioned her report in a 'past tense', which is odd considering this would have been written at the time, so in theory should have been worded differently. Unfortunately, this is not the first report we have had about councils telling their employees to bend the truth or even outright lie. Sadly, this shows the scope of what we are up against, and highlights the need for a change law.
Caitlyn is still asking when Elmo is coming home, and it breaks Emma's heart each time she mentions him - knowing she misses him equally as much. Bruno misses him also, and visibly struggled when Elmo never returned. Caitlyn was so heart broken, Emma decided with her husband that maybe another cat would help in the healing process. After always owning cats, Emma is fully aware you can never replace a cat but with Caitlyn being so young, and of course the family being huge animal lovers with enough love in their hearts to offer more a much needed good home, they bit the bullet and thought that was for the best.
They have since adopted 2 rescue kittens, telling Caitlyn that because Elmo had to go to heaven suddenly, he sent her 2 kittens to keep her company and safe for him. Sadly, although Caitlyn loves them, the same bond she shared with Elmo is missing, and it has just made it more evident to them how special Elmo was to her. Bruno is a big softie, but unfortunately the new kittens have not quite succumbed to his charm as yet. The kittens will be staying, and were sure they will settle in, and soon be having tea parties together once more.
Emma understands she will never see Elmo again, or give him the send off he deserved, but she wants to raise awareness and ensure this nightmare stops. Like us, she understands battling her council will never bring her boy back, but she can make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else's little boy or girl. Emma offered to buy scanners for her council to ensure none ever went un-scanned again, yet she was met with 'that's not possible.'
Emma will continue to fight for answers, and longs for closure. She is angry at the council for potentially just disposing of him, especially for the sake of young Caitlyn who is struggling to understand it all. If the council did neglect to scan Elmo and simply send him to landfill, they are guilty of robbing his family of the closure we all so desperately need following the death of a loved one.
Emma has started a petition to hold Christchurch to account. You can show your support in memory of Elmo here