Why did the RSPCA kill poor Dixie?

PUBLISHED: 14:02 13 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 March 2010

A DISTRAUGHT cat-loving couple today spoke of their rage and heartache after the RSPCA mistook their treasured pet for an injured stray and destroyed it.

A DISTRAUGHT cat-loving couple today spoke of their rage and heartache after the RSPCA mistook their treasured pet for an injured stray and destroyed it.

The man and wife from Earl Stonham are demanding an apology from the animal cruelty charity after it snatched away their 11-year-old cat Dixie without telling them.

One of its inspectors assumed the lame but lively and loveable moggy was a stray too ill for treatment and put it to sleep.

Brian and Melody Estall, who were both at work at the time, are furious he made no attempt to check Dixie's ownership as the black and white cat wandered a short distance from its home in Church Farmhouse, Church Farm.

"Why didn't they ask around?" demanded Mrs Estall, who runs a sandwich bar in Colchester with her husband. "He did look a bit sorry but he was happy. He purred all the time. He looked thin but the last time we took him to the vet he said that he was an old cat but as long as he kept eating well he was fine. He was bright eyed and loved chasing rabbits even though he had an arthritic leg. He moved fast when he wanted to."

Mr Estall said Dixie was in the same physical shape since that visit to the vet two year's ago.

"The inspector probably saw him dragging his leg, which happens after he had been sitting down for too long, and assumed the worse," said Mrs Estall.

Dixie's life had been tough as the runt of the litter but he made the most of things and enjoyed life, she added.

But events last Wednesday lunchtime brought that life to a premature end.

A fork lift driver at nearby Bure Valley Foods factory spotted the pet on its premises. It was only 30 yards away from his home but the man, who described the cat as looking like a "pack of razor blades" called in the RSPCA, and said it was a stray.

"Why did [the inspector] take one man's word that the cat was a stray?" asked Mrs Estall, adding that a quick check at other neighbouring offices in the business complex where Dixie was a familiar and well-loved face would have revealed the truth.

An office worker at nearby British and Brazilian Produce, who was fond of Dixie and knew where the cat lived, soon learned of his disappearance. Although she didn't see the incident, she contacted the RSPCA to tell them of their mistake.

The first the Estalls' knew about Dixie's fate was when the inspector called to say he had "some bad news".

"He said that the cat looked as though it had been in an accident and was pain. He said that he had made a snap decision to put Dixie down there and then. But an eyewitness saw him take the cat away, alive, in a cardboard box," added Mrs Estall.

"Is he qualified to make those sorts of decisions?" she wondered, explaining that Dixie wasn't wearing a collar as it made him uncomfortable.

"We know this would have saved him. But this does not give the RSPCA the excuse to take the cat away and put it down. If he was injured, then we could have at least gone to see him once more before he was put down to say goodbye to him."

As they continue to wait for Dixie's remains to be returned to them – they were told they couldn't have his body as he had already been cremated – Mr Estall is lovingly preparing a grave next to Dixie's sister, Pixie, who died 18 months ago.

"I want at least a written apology," he said. "My wife was up all night crying about it."

A spokesman for the RSPCA said it was unable to comment while an investigation was being undertaken into the incident.

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