Isle of Wight resident, Julie Stewart has called for a pet labelling system to be introduced after a disastrous pet minding incident when she mistook her new neighbour’s tortoise for a terrapin.
‘It could have happened to anyone,’ said Julie, 36, who was looking after the Jarvis family’s pets whilst her new neighbours visited the mainland. ‘I had just fed their cat and was crossing the lawn when I saw a terrapin near the roses. Without giving it a second thought, I just picked it up and popped it back into the pond, with the other terrapins.’
‘I was only when Stef came round for coffee a couple of days later and mentioned that Torty, the tortoise had gone missing that I began to feel a little awkward. I guess I gave the game away a little when I asked Stef if tortoises could swim.’
Mrs Stewart blamed Torty’s death on the lack of labelling legislation for pets. ‘There are all sorts of laws about what should and shouldn’t go on something like a tin of beans, so surely the same should apply to family pets. If Torty had carried a modest label that had read ‘Tortoise - do not immerse in water’, the poor thing would still be happily crunching cucumber in Stef’s garden right now.’
Since the demise of the hapless family reptile, believed to have been over forty years old at the time it took to the water, relations have been strained between the two neighbours. ‘The Jarvises have gone all sarcastic on me,’ said Mrs Stewart. ‘Their cat, Smudge, had a large sign next to the cat flap which read ‘Cat - do not microwave.’
It has emerged that Torty the Tortoise is not the only victim of Mrs Stewart’s neighbourhood pet husbandry techniques. The Naylor twins at No. 56 lost their white mice after she put a rat trap in their cage. ‘I was doing them a favour.’ she said later. ‘Mice? Vicious vermin more like.’
This occurred in the same week that she released Joey the Parrot into the wild from Sandown Villa, citing humanitarian grounds because the ‘poor thing kept repeating ‘Let me out. Let me out.’ ’