2 Jun 2020

Contractor under fire after cat owner finds pet's body thrown in ditch

From Checkpoint, 5:55 pm on 2 June 2020

There are calls for a thorough investigation into the contractors supposed to recover the bodies of pets killed on Auckland roads, after revelations a worker threw a dead cat into a ditch instead of taking it to a welfare centre so it could be returned to its owner.

What appeared to be the remains of to be other animals were also found at the site.

Rebecca Jelley contacted Fulton Hogan to get her cat Muffin's body back for a proper farewell, after finding out it had been killed by a car.

"It ended up that they believe the employee threw her off a cliff, as they had said, which we weren't too impressed with," Jelley told Checkpoint.

"We dug a little deeper and it turns out she had been dumped in a ditch not far from their offices."

She said she went out with Fulton Hogan workers to try find the cat's body.

"The first spot was about 30 kilometres from Muffins' final resting spot. We went out there with a crew from Fulton Hogan, and we were busy looking down this cliff face. Unfortunately the employee who was responsible was not engaging in the search in any way, sort of standing off and not helping.

"That sort of left us feeling quite uneasy about the situation, and not sure what the truth was at this point."

The Fulton Hogan worker who initially claimed to have thrown the cat's body over the cliff said it was in two pieces. Jelley said that turned out not to be true.

"We recovered a body, eventually, intact."

She said it took a lot of pushing to get Fulton Hogan to get to the bottom of where the cat's body was. Jelley's younger brother went to the company's office and refused to leave until the cat's body was found.

"Finally we did get her back by asking to review their GPS tracking in the truck and this is where they found actually there was a site near their offices where she was actually dumped in the end."

She told Checkpoint there has not been much clarity in explaining how the cat's body came to be dumped where it was, and it was unclear what Fulton Hogan's policy was for dealing with animals killed on roads.

"Speaking to Fulton Hogan directly they said protocol is regardless of the pet's condition they get taken to the welfare centre who scan them for a chip. They hold them and try to reunite them with family.

"Talking with council we're getting a different story, so to be honest right now we're not sure.

"I want to see a change in the process. I want to make sure there's a protocol in place that people know to follow."

Jelley said she was very concerned her situation was not an isolated incident.

"We have been assured by Fulton Hogan numerous times that this is definitely a one-off situation. As soon as I posted my story online, there were a lot of comments suggesting that's not the case and in fact it's been going on for years.

"In addition to this, finding animal bones at Muffin's final dumping site also raises concerns.

"We went to that site after we found out about the location… we found a rib cage, when we passed the photos on to vets [they thought] it was a dog. We found hip implants which looked to be also from a dog, and you think somebody that spent nearly $30,000 on a pet isn't just going to dump it on the side of the road.

"We found numerous cats unfortunately there, and lots of little animal bones, which is really distressing.

"Of course there's no evidence to directly link it to Fulton Hogan, but the fact it's the same location just leads me to suspect possibly this is a much wider issue and this is just them cutting corners and not following through on the process properly."

Fulton Hogan declined to be interviewed but in a statement said: "The actions of the individual concerned are contrary to common decency and our company values and procedures around how we recover the bodies of pets, and we are currently dealing with the individual in an appropriate manner.

"We have expressed our sincere apologies to the family for the distress they have been through, and have also reiterated to our teams the duty of care we have when collecting deceased animals from the roading network."