Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 12:55 am | Fair 64º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Tiny Kitten Sprung From New North County Jail Construction Site

Trapped feline — given the name Chapo — found at location west of Santa Maria

Chapo displays his displeasure after being rescued by Daniel Maga from Stoney Masonry and a member of the Laborers Union Local 220 at the construction site for the Santa Barbara County Northern Branch Jail. Click to view larger
Chapo displays his displeasure after being rescued by Daniel Maga from Stoney Masonry and a member of the Laborers Union Local 220 at the construction site for the Santa Barbara County Northern Branch Jail. (Sheriff’s Department photo)

The Santa Barbara County Northern Branch Jail already has freed its first unwilling resident — a cat found trapped in bricks set to be a wall in the new facility.

A box of kittens reportedly had been abandoned at the jail construction site at the corner Black and Betteravia roads. 

Staff from General Services and Sheriff’s departments searched for the kittens, but the tiny felines remained elusive on the large site filled with heavy equipment and construction material.

“The possibilities for hiding were nearly endless,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a social media post. 

There were fears the tiny kittens could become prey for coyotes or hawks, and there were hopes that workers had taken them home.

Last week, workers at the site were cleaning the hollow brick wall interiors in preparation for concrete. 

Chapo the cat was rescued from a wall under construction at site of the Santa Barbara County Northern Branch Jail west of Santa Maria. Click to view larger
Chapo the cat was rescued from a wall under construction at site of the Santa Barbara County Northern Branch Jail west of Santa Maria. (Sheriff’s Department photo)

“Low and behold, there was a kitten living in the base of the brick courses,” the Sheriff’s Department said on social media. “It was happy to stay inside the walls, which of course was not possible.”

Six hours later the kitten remained inside the brick wall so construction workers took action. 

“They wound up basically having to bust him out,” sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Wolf said. 

The frisky feline escaped and re-entered the wall in an area accessible to workers.

“Once they finally got a hold of the kitten they were happy to see that other than being a little scrawny and skittish, he was in good condition,” the Sheriff’s Department said.

With the cat corralled, workers tossed around name suggestions, including Lucky before designating the tiny feline as “Chapo,” the nickname meaning "shorty" for Mexico’s jailed drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

It remains to be seen if the name Chapo will last.

Chapo the cat rests after being rescued from the construction site for the Santa Barbara County Northern Branch Jail west of Santa Maria Click to view larger
Chapo the cat rests after being rescued from the construction site for the Santa Barbara County Northern Branch Jail west of Santa Maria (Sheriff’s Department photo)

Since being captured Chapo — the cat — has been neutered, gained 1.5 pounds and otherwise seems happy while living with a Sheriff’s Department employee.

“He represents toughness and resiliency,” Wolf said, adding the cat has become the mascot for the long-awaited construction. “He’s a survivor. ... He is one tough little cat."

No other kittens have been found and it is hoped they were caught and taken home by other workers at the busy site.

Construction is under way for the $111 million state-of-the-art facility to provide much needed inmate housing, and medical and mental health treatment and program space with 376 beds, officials said during groundbreaking ceremony in October. 

Work on the 133,000-square-foot facility is expected to take two years, with the new jail set open in spring 2019, in time to celebrate Chapo’s second birthday.

“He has been embraced by his new Sheriff’s Office family and will likely be a fixture of the Northern Branch Jail for years to come," the social media post said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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