What they found there horrified them.
The Tupelo-Lee Humane Society indeed had Pepper, but the cat had been euthanized within 24 hours of arriving - barely enough time for the family to realize she was gone.
"I'm still in disbelief," said Jarrad Collins. "It is not humane what they're doing, and there's no telling how many animals this has happened to."
TLHS Director Debbie Hood said she regrets the situation and feels awful for the Collins family. She called it a tragic reminder of what happens when pets don't wear ID tags on their collars, aren't microchipped and are allowed to roam free.
"We took in 288 cats this month alone and more than 700 animals total this month," Hood said. "We can't hold them all. Our facility is just too small."
State law requires shelters to hold unidentified dogs five days before euthanizing them or putting them up for adoption. But no such law exists for cats.
They can be put down immediately.
"We try to find the owners," Hood said. "But if they don't have tags, there's not much we can do."
Pepper was picked up by the city's animal control officer on May 18 after a neighbor trapped the cat in a cage using tuna as bait, TLHS records show. She was wearing a pink flea collar but had no ID tag.
On May 19, Pepper was euthanized.
Collins said his cat likely wandered into the neighbor's yard only because she smelled the tuna. He also said the officer should have immediately released her upon seeing the collar. "He should have used common sense," Collins said.
Tupelo law supports Collins' claim. City ordinances prohibit unleashed dogs or unfenced dogs, but no such rule exists for cats. Legally, felines can roam free as long as they're vaccinated and cause no property damage.
Jimmy Shelton, the animal control officer who took Pepper, said he debated whether or not to release the cat on site. But he chose to impound Pepper because the neighbor said she frequently intruded on his property.
Shelton said the neighbor didn't know who owned the cat. And because it had no microchip or ID, he impounded it.
Collins admitted he should have tagged his pet but said it had never been a problem in the four years the family owned her.
Last year, the shelter took in nearly 8,500 animals, but only about 23 percent were adopted; almost all the others were euthanized because of the low demand for pets.
Until more people ID their pets, sterilize their pets and adopt more pets - and until the shelter gets a larger facility, which it's working toward - such incidents will happen, Hood said.
"It's just tragic," she added, "but it wasn't intentional."
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or email@example.com.