WAKE FOREST (WTVD) -- A Wake Forest woman whose beloved cat was euthanized at the Wake County Animal Shelter during the winter storm is heartbroken; she claims it never should've happened.
Teresa Panameno said she let her 3-year-old black-and-white cat named Little Boy, outside Jan. 18 to use the bathroom, but the cat never returned.
Turns out, Little Boy was caught in a trap set on a neighbor's property. Animal Control officers responded on Tuesday and took the cat to the shelter.
Dr. Jennifer Federico, Director of Wake County Animal Services told ABC11 that the cat was immediately deemed feral for his aggressive nature, and given the state-mandated stray hold of 72 hours.
She said staff posted his picture on their website. By Friday, no one had come to the shelter to claim him, and Federico said he was still aggressive, so he was euthanized.
"Had this cat calmed down in three days, he probably would've been out on our adoption floor waiting for a home," Federico said. "He did not, was still aggressive."
Panameno said her family continued to search for Little Boy in the days after he went missing, checking the shelter's website, but not seeing his picture until Thursday the 21st. That's when she said she started calling the shelter, but sent an email when she couldn't get an answer.
That email was sent about 6:50 p.m. on Thursday, after the front office had already closed. The front office stayed closed Friday because of the winter storm that was beginning to move through.
Still, Federico said the shelter moved forward with euthanizing the cat and that no mistake was made on their end.
"If you're not open for business, why are you going to carry on with that kind of business?" Panameno said. "I mean, go in there, take care of the animals, feed the animals, fine. But don't euthanize someone's family pet. I mean they have no way to get to you to claim their pet."
Panameno said she didn't hear back from the shelter until Sunday, Jan. 24. In an email, she was told her cat couldn't be handled on intake, but staff did not tell her he'd already been put down.
Panameno made her way to the shelter in Raleigh where, with cat carrier in hand, she was told she was too late.
"It's just heartbreaking," she said. "I mean that that could happen to anyone's animal."
Federico maintains the shelter followed procedure, and that information is readily available to owners who call to inquire about lost pets.
An automated message on the animal shelter's voice messaging system informs callers they need to come to the shelter to identify and reclaim lost pets.
"It is impossible for our staff to identify your pet over the telephone," the message states. "If you think we might have your pet, you must come to the center to identify it."
"It's just sad all around," Federico said.
Panameno is now considering taking legal action.