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Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital breaks silence over missing cat Tara bungle

A shattered vet says she and her staff are at breaking point after a pet cat was mistakenly released to the wrong owner and then vanished. 

The desperate search for Tara the tortoiseshell cat in Sydney’s eastern suburbs continues with pet detectives called in to help track down the beloved animal now missing for five days.

Daily Mail Australia exclusively revealed on Tuesday the world famous Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital mixed up Tara with another tortoiseshell cat called Lara at the clinic on Sunday night.

She was handed to the grandmother of the family which owned Lara, who didn’t realise it was the wrong cat and let her out into the back garden when she got home.

Tara managed to escape and hasn’t been seen since, much to the distress of her owners Katie Matthews and her partner Bernardo Matuck, currently overseas in separate countries visiting sick relatives.

Vet hospital owner Dr Julia Crawford broke her silence over the bungle which she admitted was caused by human error – but insists protocols are in place.

The hunt in Sydney's east continues for missing cat Tara (pictured with owner Katie Matthews)

The hunt in Sydney’s east continues for missing cat Tara (pictured with owner Katie Matthews)

‘It was a single mistake made by someone who in that moment wasn’t thinking about what they were doing,’ she told A Current Affair

‘Similar cats next to each other. Everything is labelled, everything’s in the right place, and it was a human error.

‘There are enough protocols, it was human error, she didn’t follow the protocols. It’s like a car accident.’

Dr Crawford believes Tara will eventually be found alive as the hunt hampered by rain enters its fifth day.

‘We do this job because we love it,’ she said

‘We’ve just at breaking point. Our staff here are passionately feeling for this little cat lost in the rain.’

‘I think she will be found. We’re terribly sorry.’

Meanwhile, the other cat Lara has been reunited with her owner and has settled in back at home where Tara was last seen. 

Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital became world famous via vet Dr Chris Brown and the hit television show Bondi Vet, where the long-running show was originally filmed.

The series is now filmed at another local veterinary clinic.

Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital's Dr Julia Crawford is heartbroken over the bungle caused by human error

Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital’s Dr Julia Crawford is heartbroken over the bungle caused by human error

The other cat Lara (pictured) has returned home to her owner in Bondi

The other cat Lara (pictured) has returned home to her owner in Bondi

Daily Mail Australia has repeatedly called and emailed Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital for comment this week but is yet to receive a response. 

The clinic and staff have been the target of community backlash and abuse since the bungle and took to Facebook on Thursday night to set the record straight on several claims.

‘It was a mistake and we are endlessly apologetic to Tara’s owners, the family who inadvertently collected Tara, and to beautiful Tara herself,’ the clinic wrote.

‘Tara is missing as a result of our mistake, no one else’s and we request that the abhorrent and nonsensical hate being directed to Lara’s family cease.’

It comes after the clinic originally blamed the other family in their initial message to Ms Matthews to inform her of the bungle, which was later shared by Tara’s owner.

‘The grandma who inadvertently collected Tara (instead of Lara) did NOT intentionally let Tara outside,’ the clinic continued.

‘Ideally, no cat should be let outside immediately after returning home from a stay away from home, and that was the sentiments behind the words typed in the frantic message sent to Tara’s owners.

‘We are dedicated to finding Tara and continued search efforts and strategies are afoot.’

Ms Matthews told Daily Mail Australia she now feel betrayed by the vet hospital where she first got Tara from as a rescue kitten four-and-a-half-years ago. 

The Queens Park resident and her partner are demanding answers and point the blame solely at the animal hospital.

The vet hospital has hired a pet detective to help in the frantic search for Tara

The vet hospital has hired a pet detective to help in the frantic search for Tara

Katie Matthews has been left devastated over the disappearance by her beloved cat Tara

Katie Matthews has been left devastated over the disappearance by her beloved cat Tara

Four-and-a-half-year-old tortoiseshell Tara (pictured) was still missing on Friday

Four-and-a-half-year-old tortoiseshell Tara (pictured) was still missing on Friday

‘We were just so confused… it didn’t even feel real to be honest,’ Ms Matthews told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday.

‘Tara always boards with BJVH when we go away and we trusted them because they personally know Tara. She gets all of her check-ups and injections there.

‘She just had her flu jab and one of the vets told us not to worry about Tara boarding as she will get so many cuddles because she is well known and loved by staff there.

‘At the end of the day… they were the only people that were responsible for Tara and they failed her and us.

 ‘Just imagine if they thought Tara was meant to be a Lara due to be euthanised or have a major surgery… it’s just not okay.’

Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital was made famous by celebrity vet Dr Chris Brown

Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital was made famous by celebrity vet Dr Chris Brown

Ms Matthews has reassured the other cat owner and her relative she doesn’t blame them for the mishap.

‘It’s ridiculous… how on earth can it be that poor elderly lady’s fault, even if she knew it wasn’t her cat,’ she added.

‘Tara would have been upset and she may have opened the box to comfort and settle her… unfortunately Tara spooked and ran out of an open door.’

She pleaded for the abuse of clinic staff to stop, despite blaming them for the mix-up.

‘I do not condone abuse of any staff members at the vet hospital,’ she posted.

‘I have been clear about this when replying to the outpouring of love from our local community. I know people are emotional and I appreciate your hearts are in the right place but anger and blame will not find Tara.’

Katie told Daily Mail Australia she and her partner Bernardo Matuck are beside themselves over their fur baby's disappearance (pictured all together)

Katie told Daily Mail Australia she and her partner Bernardo Matuck are beside themselves over their fur baby’s disappearance (pictured all together)

Katie and her partner Bernardo have demanded answers from Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital (pictured) over what happened to their missing cat

Katie and her partner Bernardo have demanded answers from Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital (pictured) over what happened to their missing cat

The shattered couple described Tara as the light of their lives and shared dozens of photos to help spread the word about their missing pet.

They pray for a happy reunion with Tara when they return home but haven’t ruled out their worst fears could be realised.

‘Honestly … I just don’t know… we are hopeful but are beside ourselves with sadness,’ Ms Matthews  told Daily Mail Australia.

‘When we rescued her, we committed to her care and safety and we will continue to commit to Tara no matter how long it takes.

‘She is such a gentle caring soul… we feel beside ourselves. She isn’t a street cat… she is a garden girl and she has no idea how to fend for herself.’

Ms Matthews reiterated calls for the vet hospital to ramp up its efforts to find Tara and welcomed the use of pet detectives who have been called in to help.

‘I want them to put their money where their mouth is and take the necessary actions to find Tara,’ Ms Matthews said. ‘Accept what they have done wrong and fix it. 

‘I’m sure their heart is in the right place but they’re really not doing enough. We are understanding and forgiving people but please at least meet us halfway.’

The couple’s two-year-old greyhound Charlotte is being cared by a clinic employee at her private home.

Ms Matthews says she’s unlikely to trust the vet hospital to care for any of their pets again.

Katie Matthews rescued Tara from Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital  when she was a kitten

Katie Matthews rescued Tara from Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital  when she was a kitten

The heartbroken owners shared dozens of photos in the hope of spreading the word about their missing cat Tara (pictured with Katie's partner Bernardo Matuck)

The heartbroken owners shared dozens of photos in the hope of spreading the word about their missing cat Tara (pictured with Katie’s partner Bernardo Matuck)

Ms Matthews paid tribute to the community back home, which has rallied around and helped search in her absence since she posted a desperate appeal on several Facebook pages. 

‘The local community have seriously poured out their love at this time and put in a lot of their time and effort to help us locate Tara,’ she said.

‘The outpouring of love and support has been so helpful to both of us during this extremely distressing time.

‘We would like to stress how important this has been so far and how important it is to keep getting out there and taking the time to share and comment on posts to get Tara back home and safe.’

'At the end of the day… they were the only people that were responsible for Tara and they failed her and us,' Katie Matthews (pictured with cat Tara) told Daily Mail Wednesday from the UK

‘At the end of the day… they were the only people that were responsible for Tara and they failed her and us,’ Katie Matthews (pictured with cat Tara) told Daily Mail Wednesday from the UK

A community appeal was launched to find tortoiseshell cat Tara (pictured), who went missing after an embarrassing bungle by Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital

A community appeal was launched to find tortoiseshell cat Tara (pictured), who went missing after an embarrassing bungle by Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital

The hunt for Tara was launched on Monday night after Ms Matthews shared the concerning message she received from the clinic several hours earlier, alerting them to how the mishap happened.

‘I’m sorry to have to message you this way … (Tara and Lara) were both tortoiseshell and the person who picked her up was the grandmother and didn’t know what her cat looked like,’ the vet wrote.

‘She took Tara home and the neighbour came in and said it wasn’t their cat and then of all stupid things they let her out.’

The apologetic vet stressed they were doing everything they could to find Tara and that staff will now undergo training to avoid similar bungles in the future.

‘I can’t believe it has happened and staff will be appropriately trained,’ she wrote.

‘I cannot apologise enough and we are all very distressed as I imagine you will be. We are doing everything we can.’

Bondi Vet was a long-running television series which followed the lives of Dr Chris  Brown and other vets at Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital when the program first became a popular primetime hit back in 2008.

Dr Brown went on to become a household name as a television personality and is  still a member of the team at the vet hospital, according to its website.

The program is now filmed at another local veterinary hospital.

Tara (pictured with owner Bernardo) was mistakenly discharged instead of another cat Lara

Tara (pictured with owner Bernardo) was mistakenly discharged instead of another cat Lara

Tara's devastated owners shared this message from the vet clinic alerting them to the mix-up

Tara’s devastated owners shared this message from the vet clinic alerting them to the mix-up

Sydney's famous Bondi Junction Veterinary Clinic has launched its own appeal to find Tara

Sydney’s famous Bondi Junction Veterinary Clinic has launched its own appeal to find Tara

The online plea quickly went viral, prompting the vet clinic to launch its own public appeal on Tuesday morning.

Tara was last seen in Castlefield Street in Bondi.

She is described as grey with a ginger splodge on her face and has a collar with her name Tara in diamantes.

The collar also has a round silver tag engraved with ‘my name is Tara. I should be home. Please call Dad’.

Ms Matthews says she's unlikely to trust the vet hospital to care for any of their pets again, including greyhound Charlotte (pictured with her partner Bernardo and cat Tara)

Ms Matthews says she’s unlikely to trust the vet hospital to care for any of their pets again, including greyhound Charlotte (pictured with her partner Bernardo and cat Tara)

Locals are urged to check cubbies, sheds, garages and under properties, where Tara may have sought shelter from the rain.

‘If you see a cat like Tara please immediately take a photo (if you can) and URGENTLY call the number,’ Arthur & Co Pet Detectives wrote.

‘Please DO NOT leave food out (this will attract stray cats) nor walk the streets calling her/shaking biscuit tins etc as she doesn’t know you, and is in a terrified state. 

‘Please share to everyone you know in Bondi, Bondi Junction areas and report anything at all that could lead to finding Tara e.g rustling noises, meowing, a smell of urine.’

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