Margaret Baker wanted to do the right thing. When the Gilroy
woman found three newborn kittens crawling on their stomachs
outside Nob Hill Foods in Gilroy, she scooped them up and started
making phone calls.
Gilroy – Margaret Baker wanted to do the right thing. When the Gilroy woman found three newborn kittens crawling on their stomachs outside Nob Hill Foods in Gilroy, she scooped them up and started making phone calls.
Seventeen hours later, after being bounced from one agency to another, she finally left the kittens on a City Hall secretary’s desk, disgusted by what she called “the runaround.”
“I don’t even like cats,” she said, “but this was ridiculous. I told the assistant, ‘They’re yours now, because no one else is going to take them.’ “
County Animal Control referred Baker to Gilroy police, saying that animals found in Gilroy are the city’s responsibility. Gilroy police told her they can’t accept cats, and referred her to Town Cats, a volunteer shelter in Morgan Hill. After 5:30pm Thursday, May 3, no one was picking up the nonprofit’s phone. A recorded message told Baker that the best way to reach the group was by e-mail – but Baker didn’t want to wait overnight. The Gilroy woman suffers severe cat allergies, and was already becoming red-eyed as she handled the three squirming kittens.
“I never left a message,” she said. “It was an emergency situation, not something for e-mail. As it turned out, I had to keep them overnight anyhow.”
Fearful that crows gathering nearby would attack the kittens, Baker handed them to her daughters, ages 7 and 8, and ducked back inside Nob Hill Pharmacy, leaving the kids and her groceries in the car. Pharmacy workers acknowledged Baker found the kittens outside the store Thursday night, but declined to comment further.
“I explained the situation, and they started making the same phone calls I did, to no avail,” Baker said. “They got the same answers that I did. So one of the assistants got me a tall box and lined it with tissue paper, and someone else got three eyedroppers and gave them to me. And I said, ‘Well, I guess I’ve got kittens for tonight.’ “
Baker kept the kittens overnight and took them to the San Martin Animal Shelter the next day, only to find it closed Friday morning. Even if it were open, the shelter doesn’t accept strays from Gilroy, said Community Service Officer Aaron Avila. On her way back from the shelter, Baker flagged down a Gilroy officer and asked what she should do. The officer told her to bring the kittens to the station, Baker said.
At the station, the clerk reiterated that Gilroy police can’t accept cats.
“We don’t have the facilities to care for or keep cats – period,” said Avila. The department’s six dog kennels are linked together, making them unsuitable for cats. “What we can offer are directions and phone numbers for the Humane Society, and to Town Cats.”
When the Dispatch called the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, a representative said abandoned cats from Gilroy should be brought to the city’s police department. When the Dispatch explained that Gilroy police don’t accept cats, the agency said they could accept Gilroy cats sometimes, depending on circumstances, but the agency does not have a contract with the city of Gilroy.
The no-cats policy has been in effect at least five years, said Avila, but the officer Baker met might have been confused, or just decided to refer Baker to the station so she would be referred to an appropriate group.
At the police station, Baker was growing frustrated.
“I told the clerk, ‘You people make it very hard to do the right thing,’ ” she said. ” ‘I think I’ll just go across the street to the mayor’s office and put them on his desk, and tell him they’re his.’ “
And that’s what Baker did, more or less, presenting the kittens to a city assistant. (Baker didn’t get her name.) According to Baker, the assistant made the same round of phone calls and got the same answers. She stared at the box of kittens.
“She said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do now,’ ” said Baker, “and I said, ‘Well, they’re yours.’ “
The kittens quickly found a home after city staff issued a notice: City employee Lisa Velasco is keeping two, named Bella and Hobbes, and another family took the third, Feisty. Though the kittens’ story has a happy ending, administrative secretary Karen Pogue cautioned that residents really shouldn’t bring kittens to City Hall.
“This isn’t the way to handle our strays,” said Pogue. “It happened to work out this time, but we don’t want people doing this.”
Baker said after being shuttled from shelters to police, to shelters, to police, she didn’t know what else to do.
“It’s deplorable,” she said. “How can anyone do the right thing?”