LAND O' LAKES - Debbie Patsos adored her cat for 10 years.
The cat was born with four legs but only three feet, so Patsos named her Peggy for her peg leg. She described the cat as happy and healthy aside from her limp.
Peggy was euthanized Saturday by Pasco County's Animal Services, and Patsos says it should never have happened.
According to Patsos, she was taking her dog on a walk Saturday morning when the 20-pound cat managed to get out of her home in the Wilderness Lake Preserve neighborhood.
"She got outside, and she's not an outdoor kitty," she said.
Peggy walked into a neighbor's garage late Saturday morning. The neighbor, Casey McCarthy, said he saw the cat limping and thought she'd been injured. He said the cat wouldn't let anyone touch her and wouldn't eat or drink, so he assumed the cat might've been hit by a car.
McCarthy called emergency vet services, the fire department, and the sheriff's non-emergency number trying to find someone who could help with the cat.
"It was probably a dozen numbers later when I was finally referred to the dispatch over in New Port Richey for the shelter," he said.
An animal control officer was sent to McCarthy's home. When the officer arrived, he examined the cat and put it into a carrier. McCarthy said he assumed Peggy would be taken to a shelter and looked at by a veterinarian. Instead, the officer euthanized the cat in his van.
McCarthy, who describes himself as an animal lover, rescued two kittens from his yard early Saturday morning. If he had known what would happen, he said, he would've just kept the cat.
"The whole thing was just very bizarre," he said. "At no point in time did anyone from the county say, 'If we pick up the cat, we're going to euthanize it.' I would've said, 'Never mind.' "
Meanwhile, Patsos realized her cat was missing and went to the shelter to post pictures of Peggy and notes letting employees know the cat wasn't a stray. She found out Monday that the cat was euthanized at the time of pickup.
"My neighbors feel awful," she said. "They've been down here crying and sobbing with me."
According to a release from the animal services department, the officer examined Peggy and found the cat's two rear legs severely injured. The officer couldn't find a collar, tag or microchip, so he euthanized the cat to help prevent further suffering.
Suzanne Salichs, assistant county administrator for public services, said the animal services department is completing an investigation.
"It's very unfortunate and we know the loss of a pet is a serious thing, and we are looking further into this," she said.
Based on the officer's report, she said, he followed the department's procedure for sick and injured animals. She said she plans to meet with the animal control officer, his supervisor, the acting animal services manager and McCarthy during the course of the investigation.
McCarthy disputes the officer's report.
"That guy had to chase that cat around my car," he said. "If that cat had no use of his back legs, I think it would've been slow enough that he would've caught it."
Patsos calls it an act of cruelty. She gets choked up when she talks about her pet, who she called lazy, spoiled and super-loving.
"I'm devastated over this," she said. "There was no effort made at all to find the owner or give this cat a chance."
McCarthy said he's angry because he feels like the officer didn't care about what happened.
"There's no reason this cat should've ever been euthanized," he said. "I'm blown away. They shouldn't even call them shelters. They should call them death camps."