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Couple wants new rules for pest companies after cat killed under nearby home being fumigated

Posted at 11:25 PM, Jul 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-19 05:02:02-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A Pinellas County couple is pushing for new regulations after their cat was killed under a nearby house that was being fumigated.

The pet owners showed our I-Team the surveillance video that they say proves that state laws were broken, yet the state dropped their case.

Rob Coscia and his partner Beth Eschenfelder have saved all documents and surveillance camera footage shot from outside Rob's home. They showed the I-Team vet bills and registration to prove the cat, Tuxedo II, was in fact theirs. Tuxedo II was a stray they rescued months before she was killed. 

Surveillance video shows Tuxedo II running across the street and hiding under a vacant home. Minutes later, the fumigation truck pulls up to the home and approximately an hour later, Rob spotted the tent going up and realized what was about to take place. The video also captures Rob walking across the street and the fumigation workers appear to escort him off the property. 

Geiger's Pest Services tells the I-Team they asked Rob to leave the work site for safety reasons. Rob tells us they wouldn't let him crawl under the home to retrieve his cat, Tuxedo II.

Phone logs show the couple made over a dozen calls to Geiger's offices. They also called code enforcement, police and state regulators but they say no one stepped in. 

Two days later, Beth put on a mask and crawled under the house where she found Tuxedo II's body. The couple took the extra step to pay for a toxicology report that showed poisoning was the cause of the cat's death. 

Toxicologist William Sawyer says sulfuryl fluoride is most commonly used in tent fumigations often under the label Vikane. It is a gas that will kill any living organism.

Florida law mandates "before the fumigant is to be applied, the certified operator in charge...must make a final, personal inspection of the structure" and the law requires each pesticide be used according to its label. The label for Vikane reads "remove from the structure all persons, domestic animals, pets..."

Rob and Beth turned their evidence over to Pinellas County Animal Services and the Department of Agriculture. Animal Services ticketed Geiger’s Pest Services and one employee with cruelty to animals. The county ended up dropping the case, citing conflicting statements. 

The Department of Agriculture took statements from employees and concluded both sides provided different versions of what happened. Investigators could not determine whether a violation took place.
Geiger’s Pest Services would not agree to an answer our questions, but they didn't hesitate to point out they were cleared of wrongdoing.

As for Tuxedo II’s owners, they say there should be a rule or law in place that mandates neighbors be notified in the event any home in the immediate vicinity is scheduled for fumigation.