Utah Worker Claims Wrongful Firing After Cat’s Survival

September 27, 2012

A woman who worked at West Valley Animal Shelter in Utah has claimed she was wrongfully fired after news broke about a cat surviving two euthanasia attempts.

Karen Bird filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court saying her employers retaliated because they believed she leaked the story of Andrea the cat last fall. The cat’s survival story led to public outcry and changes in the shelter’s policies.

West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle said the city hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuit, but he denied the allegation that Bird’s firing was motivated solely by the cat incident.

“While Karen’s termination came shortly after the case of ‘Andrea the Cat’s’ failed euthanizing attempt, Karen’s disciplinary history with the city pre-dated this incident for a period extending many months,” Pyle said in a statement. “There were multiple reasons for this termination spanning that same period.”

Pyle said Bird’s work history included insubordination and failure to be courteous to fellow employees.

Andrea hadn’t been adopted after 30 days in the city’s shelter when workers tried to euthanize her last October. When they opened the carbon monoxide chamber, they found the black-and-white cat was still alive.

They put her back in the chamber and then transferred her to a cooler, assuming she was dead.

A worker who later checked the cooler found the cat had a low body temperature and had vomited and defecated, but survived.

They decided not to try a third time. Andrea’s story went public in The Salt Lake Tribune on Oct. 17, and the cat was later adopted.

Bird claims city managers and the shelter’s director became hostile after suspecting her of sharing concerns about the gas chamber’s effectiveness with the media.

Bird said she filed a complaint about that behavior. She soon learned she was being investigated on claims that she was allowing animals to stay in the shelter longer than she should and was making workers feel uncomfortable about using the gas chamber.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported Bird was fired in November, after working a decade at the shelter.

The city, which fielded numerous public complaints about the chamber, has since agreed to move toward a no-kill policy and set a goal of saving 80 percent of the dogs and cats it receives.

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