By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- A dispute between midtown Tulsa neighbors turns deadly for some pet cats. One neighbor hired a professional trapper to kill the neighborhood cats that got in her yard. Animal control says what she did was illegal, but they can't do anything about it.
In a neighborhood near 14th and Florence, missing cat signs have become more frequent. Bill and Mary Parsons recently lost their 17-year-old cat, Bessie, as much a part of their family as their dog, Pearl.
"She's just part of our family and for her to die or for this cat to die hurts us as bad as if it were a child," said Bill Parsons.
Just after their cat disappeared, the Parsons noticed trap warning signs in their next-door neighbor's yard. When they called the trapper on the sign, he said he'd caught their cat in a trap he was hired to install.
"She asked him where we could go to get the cat back and he said the cat was maimed so bad in the trap I had to kill it," said Bill Parsons.
"In 20 years on the job I've never seen people using those kind of traps in the City of Tulsa," said Tulsa Animal Control Supervisor Garl Willis.
Tulsa Animal Control supervisor Garl Willis responded to the Parsons' complaints. He says there were about a dozen illegal traps, similar to these we found online, set under bushes in their neighbor's yard.
"The reason they're illegal in the city is because they're cruel. It's inhumane. The animal is trapped and usually they suffer for quite a while and die or they'll gnaw off their legs to get away from them," said Tulsa Animal Control Supervisor Garl Willis.
Willis says he informed the neighbor and the trapper that the traps were illegal and had them removed.
The trapper, Billy Minter of Mission Wildlife, refused to talk on camera, but admitted on the phone he trapped and killed at least three cats at that address.
"The three cats we caught had no markings, no collars, had no identification. So by state law that's considered a feral cat," said Billy Minter of Mission Wildlife.
Minter has a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator permit which allows him to trap and kill designated species. He says what he did was legal.
But, according to state rules about his permit: Problems and complaints concerning domestic wildlife are not legally included in his jurisdiction and complaints concerning these species are not covered by this program.
Minter indicates he would do it again if he was hired to do so.
"Yeah I'll catch cats, I mean, you know, if they're being a problem," said Billy Minter of Mission Wildlife.
According to animal control, killing cats with that type of traps is felony animal cruelty. But, they say they can't do anything about it.
"Well, we would actually have to witness the offense. Just having the trap there in itself is not a violation. We'd have to actually have seen one of the animals in a trap which we did not," said Tulsa Animal Control Supervisor Garl Willis.
And, if they had, he says they'd charge the neighbor, not the trapper.
The neighbor who hired the trapper is Patricia Brown, who obviously didn't want to talk on camera.
But, she did send The News On 6 a letter. In it, she says a total of four animals were caught in her yard, two of them caught by the foot in a grip trap. She goes on to say her neighbors put their own animals at risk by letting them roam freely, a direct violation of Tulsa City ordinances.
And, as it turns out, it is against city ordinances to own an outdoor cat.
Tulsans can be cited if they fail to prevent any dog or cat from running or being at large.
That's something the Parsons say they'll remember in the future, but they say it's not an excuse to kill a family's cat.
"We want this trapping stopped. We want the killing of these animals stopped. We don't just want it stopped here. We want it stopped all over the city. We want it to never happen again," said Bill Parsons.
The News On 6 made another call to animal control on Monday, asking if animal cruelty charges could be filed since both the trapper and the neighbor admitted to The News On 6 that the cats were caught in illegal traps. But, that phone call was not returned.