Originally created 12/02/99

Woman seeks answers in missing cat case



Amy Sullivent is looking for answers about what happened to her yellow tabby cat at Richmond County Animal Control.

Is he dead, as the record indicates? Or did he escape, as animal control personnel now contend?

"Somebody had better come up with some answers and some truthful ones," Ms. Sullivent said. "My cat might be dead, but he's going to have justice."

Ms. Sullivent's neighbor caught Baxley in a baited trap and took him to animal control the day before Thanksgiving. He told her about it after she confronted him Friday, she said.

She immediately called animal control, which was closed for the holidays, but was able to talk to an employee who was on duty there. He said he had the cat and promised to hold him until Monday.

"He would not let me come get him that day," she said. "I called him again on Saturday just to make sure everything was still OK with my cat. He said, `Yes, everything will be OK.' He said they have to keep them for five days and that nothing would happen to him until Monday morning.

On Monday, Ms. Sullivent sent her fiance to animal control to retrieve Baxley.

"One person told him they couldn't find the cat," Ms. Sullivent said. "Another person told him that the cat had escaped over the weekend. And then another person showed him another cat, an orange tabby, claiming that one to be ours. So we got three completely different stories."

She immediately called Animal Control Director Jim Larmer, who told her the cat had escaped.

"This man was very rude, very short, very unhelpful," she said. "I asked him how the cat could have escaped. He could not give me an explanation, nor did he try. He did say, `Sometimes they slip through the bars."'

Mr. Larmer was confronted Wednesday by Richmond County Animal Control Advisory Board members, who came with a long list of complaints about mismanagement and incompetence at his facility.

At the meeting, board members cited the incident with Ms. Sullivent's cat as an example of problems plaguing his department.

After lodging a complaint with state officials, Ms. Sullivent called city Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who referred her to advisory board member Brad Owens.

Mr. Owens said Baxley's record at animal control showed the cat had been euthanized.

But at Wednesday's meeting, Mr. Larmer insisted the cat had gotten away. According to Mr. Owens, he even altered the record that indicated the cat was dead, writing in "escaped.'

"It escaped. I talked to her," said Mr. Larmer, referring to his conversation with Ms. Sullivent. "I told her we would keep our eye out. If it showed back up we would let her know."

There was no date on the record, but Ms. Sullivent and Mr. Owens say they believe the cat was killed the day it was brought in or the record was falsified. Both are violations of the law, Mr. Owens said.

Mr. Owens and other board members said they suspect that animals are being killed at the facility for the convenience of employees who don't want to be bothered with taking care of them.

"They didn't wait those five days," Mr. Owens said. "They did him up as soon as he got there. I'll guarantee you that's what happened. There's no other excuse other than somebody's lying out there, and I don't think that's the case."

Ms. Sullivent said she only wants justice for Baxley.

"This cat was my baby," she said. "I rescued him and spent over $300 nursing him to health.

"To some people like me who don't have children, a family pet is a person. And I'm just not going to say OK and take it at that."