Sisters distraught as pet shop kills cat, freezes it and gives it to them in plastic bag
Two young sisters have been left heartbroken after a pet store mistook their beloved cat for a stray, killed it and returned it frozen inside a plastic bag.
Kiana and Tia Neeson with thei cat Babies remains
Pets at Home said it had launched an investigation into what it described as "an extremely tragic situation".
The 15-year-old tabby, named Babies, was put to sleep by a vet at the firm's Newtownabbey store in Belfast. When Julie Neeson went to pick him up she said she was handed Babies back in a plastic bag. She said the animal had been put into a freezer at the store overnight.
Ms Neeson said her daughters Tia (13) and Kiana (10) were inconsolable. The Newtownabbey woman said Babies went missing on Sunday and despite searches couldn't be found. The next day she discovered the cat had been handed in to Pets at Home.
A vet examined the animal and, unable to locate the owner and having deemed him to be in poor health, put it down.
Ms Neeson said her children were distraught, with one penning a heartbreaking letter about the pet being in heaven.
"My children are totally devastated. It's unbelievable. He was only out of the house for a couple of hours.
"At 5.30pm Babies was dead by lethal injection given to him by the Vets4Pets surgeon who works through the shop," she said.
"When I got there we were handed Babies frozen. I didn't even get a box to carry him out of the shop. He was just in a plastic bag."
Ms Neeson said a collar the cat had been wearing must have fallen off before Babies was taken to the store.
Neighbours have rallied behind the family and raised the £100 required to cremate Babies.
The vet at the Pets at Home store said he was sorry the decision had to be taken without Babies' owners being there.
Posting on Facebook he said: "I'd like to express my sympathies to the cat's family at this difficult time, and I am sorry that this decision was made without them being present.
"This poor cat was suffering from chronic renal failure and had been for some time. He was presented as a stray by a concerned member of the public."
The vet - who has 12 years' experience - said no microchip was detected and there was no other means of identification.
A spokeswoman for Pets At Home said: "We always put pet welfare at the heart of everything we do. Stray animals are frequently brought to our vets and they always receive a full clinical examination. We will always try to re-home them whenever appropriate.
"The cat was brought in and presented as a stray by a concerned and sympathetic member of the public who recognised that he was not well. Our vet carried out a full medical examination as we do with all animals brought to us. Our vet quickly diagnosed that the cat was in the end-stages of chronic renal failure. He had clearly suffered from this condition for a number of years and was unfortunately untreatable.
"He was not wearing a collar, and was scanned for a microchip but none was found. Unable to identify the owners and with the cat suffering, he made the difficult decision to put him down.
"We completely understand the family's response and it's never easy to lose a beloved pet. We'd like to express our sympathies to the family at this difficult time."
The Pets at Home vet said: "I examined his abdomen and his left kidney was grossly enlarged. I could also feel a knobbly irregular indented surface which indicates renal infarction and major internal damage in the kidney. I advised that the poor cat was too far gone and that putting him to sleep was the kindest option. He was given an injection and drifted slowly off to sleep while being stroked by the young lady and the vet."