DANIELLE Porteous was stunned when she was told her cat, Storm, presumed dead about three years ago had returned alive and well.
That surprise was surpassed with shock, then anger, when she was forced to pay $256 before she could even see her long-lost cat.
Mrs Porteous was stung by the Sunshine Coast Council for having an unregistered pet, despite Storm's registration being cancelled about 9 months after his disappearance.
The devastated family feared their usually indoor cat had been killed by a snake after escaping outside from their Palmwoods home.
They'd even built a memorial for Storm to help comfort their heartbroken son, Zephia, who was only 3 when his beloved grey domestic cat vanished.
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Mrs Porteous said they'd searched extensively for Storm following his disappearance, putting posters up in the streets, contacting local vets and scouring social media, all to no avail.
They'd assumed he'd died and when his registration renewal notice came, cancelled his registration.
Almost three years later, in mid-July this year, she received a call to say that Storm had been found in Ilkley and was at the pound, alive and well, bar a gash on his nose.
She was absolutely stunned when she was then hit with the $256 fee for failing to register the feline.
"It's just unfair," Mrs Porteous said.
"It's not about the money, I don't care about the money, it's just the principle."
She said she spoke with a pound officer who advised her to contact the council and seek a refund given the circumstances.
Last month she was told the refund was not going to happen.
She said she'd been happy to pay the pound fee if the unregistered charge could be reversed and in late-August sought a review of the charge.
In response Mrs Porteous said she received a letter from the pound's business operations manager telling her the decision was final, unwilling to listen to what she believed were reasonable excuses.
She said they'd had two dogs and three cats over the last 6-8 years, all registered, all microchipped and never an issue with them escaping previously.
Mrs Porteous was frustrated that hadn't been taken into account with Storm - a $150 rescue kitten - being unregistered.
"There were no negotiations whatsoever," she said.
Mrs Porteous said the fee had put a sour note on what should have been a joyous reunion.
"Obviously we're super happy to have him back," Mrs Porteous said.
"Honestly, the money is not the issue here, it's the principle of the situation and the fact that the Sunshine Coast Council are not willing to take reasonable excuses into mind when making a decision.
"We are all treated like numbers and someone needs to make a stand so they realise they are doing the wrong thing."
Despite all the negotiation and back and forth between Mrs Porteous and the council, a Sunshine Coast Council spokesman last night denied the family had been fined.
"It's fantastic that this missing cat has been found after such a long time and has been reunited with its owner thanks to its microchip," the spokesman said in a written statement.
"Reuniting lost pets with their owners is the first priority of council's pound and this is a great example of how important it is to have your pet microchipped and registered.
"Due to the unusual circumstances in this case, council did not issue an infringement notice, saving the owner a substantial fee.
"However there is a cost associated with securing, housing, caring for and feeding the pet cat, leading to a cost recovery fee for that service."