Nine lives too few for Manic?

Sunday Times - - News Fraud Case - By LEONIE WAG­NER

● The claws are out at an up­mar­ket Sand­ton hous­ing es­tate over a pam­pered tabby cat named Manic that its owner be­lieves was eu­thanised in a case of mis­taken iden­tity.

Manic’s owner, ther­a­pist Il­leana Co­co­tos, claims her pet was mis­taken for a feral cat, trapped and taken to the SPCA, where she be­lieves it was eu­thanised, even though it had a mi­crochip con­tain­ing her con­tact de­tails.

Now the fur is fly­ing and Co­co­tos is con­sult­ing a lawyer about pos­si­ble le­gal ac­tion.

“These are our pets, we love them, they help us, and they don’t de­serve to be treated in this way. It’s a ter­ri­ble thing to go through,” she told the Sun­day Times.

How­ever, the SPCA de­nies it put Manic down, while the es­tate, Water­stone, said Co­co­tos had been alerted that the man­age­ment was car­ry­ing out trap­ping to curb the pro­lif­er­a­tion of stray cats in the com­plex, and that own­ers should en­sure their pets were wear­ing col­lars.

Co­co­tos said she had last seen Manic in March.

On April 18 the se­cu­rity man­ager men­tioned to her that feral cats were be­ing trapped. At the time, Co­co­tos had not seen her cat for three weeks. This was not un­usual as he “liked to wan­der”, she said.

“He was a free spirit and we al­lowed him that free­dom.”

It was only when the man­ager showed her a pic­ture of the cats that has been cap­tured and taken to the Sand­ton SPCA, and she thought she recog­nised one of them as Manic, that she re­alised what may have hap­pened. She rushed to the SPCA to iden­tify and claim her cat, but was told the feral cats brought in from Water­stone had al­ready been eu­thanised.

How­ever, SPCA staff said the cat that looked like Manic had been a preg­nant fe­male, and had been scanned for a chip be­fore it was put down seven days ear­lier.

“I was trau­ma­tised and shocked. The SPCA claims it was a dif­fer­ent cat, but the tail mark­ings are very dis­tinct. It’s very un­likely that there was an­other cat in the es­tate with the same mark­ings,” Co­co­tos said.

She said she was meet­ing an at­tor­ney this week to dis­cuss le­gal ac­tion to get “clo­sure”.

Sand­ton SPCA gen­eral man­ager Jaco Pi­eterse de­nied that the an­i­mal wel­fare group was at fault. Pi­eterse said upon ad­mis­sion, all an­i­mals were scanned at least three times for a mi­crochip.

While the Sand­ton SPCA has no rule on how long an­i­mals are kept be­fore they are eu­thanised, Pi­eterse noted that Co­co­tos only came to the fa­cil­ity on April 19, which was 21 days af­ter the cat in ques­tion had been brought in.

“Which re­spon­si­ble an­i­mal owner waits more than 21 days be­fore com­ing for­ward to look for their miss­ing an­i­mal? Any re­spon­si­ble an­i­mal owner will im­me­di­ately con­tact the lo­cal SPCA and vets in the area to re­port their an­i­mal as miss­ing. We had no prior re­ports about Mrs Co­co­tos’s miss­ing cat,” Pi­eterse said.

Louis du Pisani, a spokesman for the Water­stone Es­tate Home Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, this week re­ferred the Sun­day Times to a let­ter he had sent to Co­co­tos. The let­ter says home­own­ers were sent a no­tice on Au­gust 15 last year about the prob­lem of feral cats and were asked to en­sure their cats had col­lars.

In the let­ter, Du Pisani said the board had re­ceived com­plaints from own­ers re­gard­ing feral cats fight­ing with their do­mes­tic cats, eat­ing their pets’ food and da­m­ag­ing out­door fur­ni­ture. He told Co­co­tos the es­tate be­lieved her cat had not been eu­thanised and was prob­a­bly still miss­ing.

But Co­co­tos is not ac­cept­ing these ex­pla­na­tions. “I know it was Manic in that cage, I know he’s not com­ing back.”

Il­leana Co­co­tos, left, with her cat Manic. She claims Manic, shown sleep­ing top, was put down by the SPCA, but the SPCA says the cat that it put down, above, was a dif­fer­ent cat.

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