Search warrant saves the cat in the wall

Jelly the cat with SPCA Otago inspector Rachel Stedman. Photos by Christine O'Connor/supplied.
Jelly the cat with SPCA Otago inspector Rachel Stedman. Photos by Christine O'Connor/supplied.
A complicated cat rescue at a Mosgiel arts and crafts shop has ended with the shop's lock picked and holes bored into its wall.

''The outcome was great, but it could've been handled in a better way,'' De Winkel store owner Thea Bekkers said.

Several days after Jelly the cat went missing, a De Winkel customer heard meowing in the store, and called the SPCA.

SPCA Otago employees discovered the cat - who they suspected was the missing Jelly - was stuck between two fire walls.

After a couple of days consulting various authorities - among them the Mosgiel Volunteer Fire Brigade - an SPCA-contracted builder concluded the only way to get Jelly out was to make a hole in the wall.

The last she heard from the SPCA, Ms Bekkers said, a builder was coming on Friday night to drill a hole.

''And I said, I'm away from Friday night, I won't be here. So you can't be in my building ... My landlord wasn't happy with [a hole being drilled] without consent,'' she said.

The hole in the wall where Jelly came out.
The hole in the wall where Jelly came out.
Ms Bekkers' landlord declined to comment to the Otago Daily Times on the record.

Several hours after De Winkel closed on Friday night, an SPCA inspector went ahead with the rescue, search warrant in hand, accompanied by a locksmith, a police officer and a builder.

Although they entered without Ms Bekkers' or her landlord's explicit consent, the SPCA's actions were legal under the Animal Welfare Act.

Otago University Faculty of Law lecturer Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere said the Act awarded certain rights to designated inspectors to assure the wellbeing of animals, including the right to obtain search warrants not unlike those that the police use.

Based on facts about the case provided by the Otago Daily Times, Mr Ferrere said he was ''confident that the measures that the SPCA took were likely to be within their legal powers''.

Also, Mr Ferrere said ''legally, the SPCA would not be obligated to fix the hole [that they had made]''.

But SPCA Otago spokeswoman Kirsty Thomson said the cost of the repairs definitely would not fall on Ms Bekkers or her landlord.

''We're not sure if we're fixing the hole or if the owners of the cat [Rod and Lynnn Galloway of Mosgiel] will be fixing the hole, but it will definitely be fixed by one of us,'' she said.

''Not at the tenant or owner's expense.''

Throughout the ordeal, Ms Bekkers said, she was ''surprised at how much power the SPCA has in accessing premises''.

But she emphasised that she was happy the cat was rescued.

''I love animals,'' she said.

''But ... I just feel a bit insecure that people can just come into my shop - or it could have been my house - without contacting me. It still feels wrong to me.''

Jelly, aged about 3 years old, was reported to be on antibiotics and painkillers but doing well.

carla.green@odt.co.nz

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