(NEW Update!) Man Saves Kitten From Train Tank Car; Fired From Norfolk Southern Railroad For Disobeying Orders

My job has no set hours. I can be found working any time during the 7 days and 24 hours of a week. So as I sit here on a Sunday writing this story, I’m affected even more at it’s content. This is because the hero of the tale will not be readying himself for the start of his workweek like millions of others. Chris Small has been a car-man for Norfolk Southern Railroad for almost 14 years. But after all those years, Chris was “treated” to a disturbing phone call on Halloween morning. He had been fired pending an investigation into an incident that had taken place the day before involving a small kitten.

Norfolk Southern Railroad has decided that Chris rescuing the kitten after his shift, is something to be fired over.

And that is because he went against his boss’s orders. His heartless and cruel orders. 

Here’s the account in his own words.

I work in the train yard in Louisville, KY. On Wednesday, October 30, 2019, I was working in the yard inspecting trains. I heard a cat meowing somewhere down the track from me, but it was dark and had just stopped raining so I couldn’t see anything. So, I began to look around as I was inspecting the cars. I expected to find an injured cat but wasn’t having any luck. As I got closer to a particular tank car, I realized the meowing was coming from inside the car. I bent down, and through a cut in the seal, I could see a tiny face. I told my boss a kitten was in the tank car and we needed to put the car in the shop so we could get it out.

He said no, to leave the cat where it was because it would climb out on its own and for me to get back to work.

Image of a Norfolk Southern Railroad Tank Car

That’s when everything changed for Chris. He couldn’t leave the kitten to die and go on each day with a clear conscience.

There was no way this tiny kitten could climb out of that tank car on her own, and there was no way of knowing how long she’d been trapped without food or water.

However, Chris still played by the company rules AND figured out a way to save the kitten’s life. 

I called local animal control services, but the office had closed at 7pm and no one was available. But I wasn’t going to leave a helpless animal to die, so I promised the kitten if it was still meowing by the time I finished my work, I’d come back and rescue it.

I finished my work and I could still hear her meowing, so after making sure that particular train wasn’t going to be leaving any time soon, I ran to the shop and got a pair of trash tongs. I went back to the tank car and used the tongs to begin pulling junk out of the crack where I had seen the kitten.

But what Chris pulled from the car was clear proof that the kitten would NOT have survived. 

Along with all the trash was 3 dead kittens, 2 looked like they were stillborn and the 3rd looked as though it had lived a few days longer.

I reached in the crack one more time and managed to grab the kitten. I pulled her out and put her in the pocket of my coveralls, where she promptly fell asleep, warm for the first time in who knows how long.

Chris then went to his boss to inform him of the situation and that the kitten was out of the car.

I went back to the shop, and my boss said, “Congratulations, you have a cat but you probably don’t have a job.”

The next day, prior to my arrival time for work, I received a phone call telling me I had been fired pending an investigation, and if I set foot on the property I would be arrested for trespassing.

Now, looking into Norfolk Southern Railroad and this unwarranted decision, I’m confused by their social media page.

On October 29th, National Cat Day and the day before the incident, they posted this on Facebook. 

Then 48 hours later, they’re firing someone for saving a kitten’s life on one of those trains? Believe me, everyone that has heard of this story so far, has been very vocal in letting the company know how they truly feel. 

And I’m sure the higher-up’s at the railroad have a slew of issues to deal with around the incident. Comments on the social media posts have mentioned the animal abuse laws in Kentucky too.

A report by the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranked Kentucky as the worst state for animal protection. [But] Kentucky outlaws various forms of intentional or wanton mistreatment of animals, including:

  • abandonment
  • mutilation or torture
  • beating, and
  • not providing adequate food, drink, space, or veterinary care.

In order to be considered a crime, the mistreatment must be cruel or result in the animal’s injury. Animal cruelty is generally a misdemeanor. However, anyone who intentionally tortures a dog or cat without a legal reason will be charged with a felony if the animal was seriously injured or died.

Never to see the train yards of Norfolk Southern Railroad again, Promise is happily settling into her new life.

Chris’s future is not so certain though. But that’s not Chris’s first priority right now. He made a promise to the sweet kitten and he is keeping it–forever. 

I named the kitten Promise because I promised her I’d save her if she was still meowing. I couldn’t live with hearing her cries in my head if I left her there so I kept my promise to her and brought her home.

She went for a checkup at the vet where she was given a clean bill of health. The vet confirmed she’s approximately 2 weeks old, and she’s been adopted by our Beagle/Basset mix puppy. She purrs like a champ, has a ravenous appetite, and is warm and safe and loved by all.

He has met with his Union reps and the investigation is underway. Just this morning, he posted on his Facebook page that, “I did a interview with W H A S today, I hope they do it justice.”

This is not a story about me. It’s a story about promise, and how her cry for help wouldn’t be ignored. God put me on her path, and by doing so she changed mine. This little kitten cried out for help, now she has all of us. She belongs to the world, I was just the lucky one to get to meet her first. Thanks for your kind words and sharing her story.

We’re so very sorry to the Small family for all the trouble this has brought. But we’re firm believers that with your good deeds, something far better for you will come of this. Promise!

UPDATE 11/4/2019

After a flood of comments on their Facebook page, the railroad posted this today. 

Some are happy with the outcome, but others feel there is still more to address. Especially from Chris, who although happy they recognized the error of the situation, wants the supervisor held responsible. 

Chris Small – Thank you so much NS. A donation to the Kentucky humane society is a great thing to do, so how are you handling the senior general Foreman? Anything less than a termination is unacceptable.

So while Chris can return to the job that he’s held for more than a decade, he can at least come home to a sweet “purrk”. Little Promise will always be there to greet him after a long day. 

REMEMBER: SPAY/NEUTER, FOSTER, VOLUNTEER, TNR & AS ALWAYS, ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

Related Story: Verizon Worker Suspended For 3 Weeks Without Pay After Rescuing Cat From Top Of Utility Pole

Related Story: 79-Year-Old Woman Sentenced To 10 Days In Jail–For Feeding Stray Cats!

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42 Comments

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    • NS did the right thing and handled it well; it’s the Car Foreman that screwed up and I too hope he’s fired for grossly mishandling the situation. He sounds like an arrogant bully with a Napoleon complex. My Dad was a carman for 42 years; he’s had some great formen and some who they had to “adjust his attitude”. Railroaders are a tough but caring brotherhood; you don’t want to know how they deal with “people” like this car Forman; suffice it to say, you couldn’t get away with most of it nowadays. NS did do right by the guys job; but let’s hope they do right by this general foreman too. Fire him.

  1. What exactly did this kind gentleman do besides save the life of another fellow creature that was in dire consequences? Oh! He disobeyed a coldhearted boss who does not have any feelings except for what the book of rules say, I guess.
    I feel you will be blessed in other ways if this stupid man has his way. I hope it’s overturned and you you receive compensation for your job loss. God be with you.

  2. A wise man once said that The only thing needed to allow evil to flourish is for good men to stand by and do nothing. That is what the boss had asked his employee to do. Think about it. What a heartless act to ask this of ANYONE. Then to fire him over having a heart?! I hope karma finds you and dishes you out ten fold.

  3. The fedetal government just passed a law making it a felony to abuse or neglect an animal.Perhaps Norfolk and Southern should be indicted for their hubris and non caring attitude towards animals. This man who saved the kitten should be applauded not punished..

  4. I would like to thank the man for what he did for the kitten, the story is heartbreaking and he did not deserve to lose his job for a simple act of kindness. I’m so sorry for what the world has come to for punishing an act of kindness and humanity toward this fragile life.

  5. I sincerely hope that the railway company shows the same compassion that Mr Small showed for this kitten. He stuck to the rules and did this kind act outside his working hours. His boss displayed zero empathy.
    The world needs more folk like Mr Small. God bless him.
    From a cat lover in Ireland

  6. This man is a guardian of rhe animals, a very important job in this life. I have the highest respect for him. The cimpany should be ashamed of themselves. I hope they do the right thing. At least he knows he did. Darling kitty!!

    • Thank God the employee obtained his job back….it’s really disheartening one can show such compassion for an animal however his boss lacked compassion for his fellow human being. Sad, really sad

  7. I dont understand the reasoning behind firing him since he waited until after his shift to go back and rescue her. The boss waz the only one guilty of cruelty here and maybe they should be doing the investigation as to whether he has a job or not.

  8. Chris is a hero. Promise is lucky it wasn’t his boss that heard her cries. If they let that foolish decision stand they have no sense. This story can either make them heroes or make them seem like black hearted villains . Come on do the right thing. You are lucky to have a compassionate human like Chris working for you.

  9. For all the ppl that have saved kittys in trouble may God Bless You for your kindness…You have done the right thing. Whatever doors were unjustly slammed in your face other more prosperous doors will open up for you

  10. What a wonderful man Chris is, shame the world isn’t filled with alot more people like him. He is a true animal lover, i myself would do anything to save an animals life. Promise is such a lucky little kitty and its heart warming to know how much she’s loved. Well done Chris!

  11. Thank you for the update. I am a believer in karma, but I realize that it works both ways. This kind gentleman gets his kitten and now his job back…The company gets both bad and good press…Now I wonder what will happen to the boss? We may never know, but in the end, we already know what we need to…a kitten was saved and so was a man.

  12. That boss is a heartless man! Sadly this story reflects the societal attitude that cats are disposable and don’t deserve humane treatment. Glad the rescuer has his job back. A bit of shaming directed at the employer did the trick!

  13. Thank you God for sending this wonderful man to rescue this baby, you are definitely a hero with a huge Heart, so thankful you got your job back. You should have been recognized for what you did and your supposedly boss should have been reprimanded or worse for what he told you. God Bless you and thanking the company for making the right choice & their donation also!

  14. As someonev whom had worked for the railroad for years, I know this is daily life. The call NS Nazi southern because of the way the year employees. They fire you for anything, so bad we must carry fire insurance!!.. and now they are pushing one man crews on giant hazardous trains…. Beware public.. They want them bad to satisfy there greed

  15. How can there be so much unhumanity so far in the 21st century, I am so angry at these people at NS and those like them that instead of prasing a gesture of kindness and humanity, treat it as something to be pety about or as something they should be ashamed of. Bless Chris for being just a kind hearted human and I hope he is able to be very happy with this little and beautiful kitten. All souls are precious, specially of those who cant defend for themselves and that love you unconditionally and with no prejudice at all.

  16. Not only should Chris never have been fired, he should be lauded for his compassion, kindness, and personal responsibility. And any employee who would NOT do what he did should be fired! It is a felony in all 50 US States to harm or neglect ANY cat. *Live long and prosPURR, little Promise!*

  17. Props to the company for making a decision in line with modern views about human decency toward both animals and employees. A few tweaks to the corporate culture are still in order, but it deserves praise and encouragement today. The donation to charity was classy.

    I respectfully suggest that they adopt a policy that permits employees to rescue animals in distress on their own time if it’s possible to do so without compromising safety. If they want to gain loyal friends and goodwill, take every opportunity to tweet photos of employees showing kindness in the community. It’s good for business.

  18. Glad to see that Mr. Small got his job back, at least for now. Having worked for rotten bosses myself I can tell him he better watch his back, cause this bum’s gonna have it in for him for sure now. Keep your union involved and the public as well (as need be). NS, you are on notice…we the people who take cruelty to animals and people seriously are watching your company closely. In today’s market, there is too much competition to alienate potential customers.
    Mr. Small, may you and little Promise have many happy years together.

  19. In all truth, you can’t really blame Norfolk Southern Corp here, it’s more the dick of a boss who works for them who is at blame here.

    If anything, Norfolk Southern Corp should deduct the donation of 10000 from the boss’s yearly paycheck.

    • Agree that would certainly change his views that every one of gods creatures deserves a fair and just life. Well done Chris for your compassion in saving promise and giving him a loving home

  20. the Norfolk Southern Yard off of Powhatan Avenue has regularly “disposed” of animals. The ditch behind Powhatan Field has quite a few remains that have been dumped there.
    Migratory bird nests are destroyed regularly during the breeding season on rail cars and in the yard.

  21. I’m glad everyone here is so happy that this cat survived…. But due to the actions by him 10 carman lost their jobs effective today. That’s not a rumor that’s a fact.

  22. I worked for NS for only five years and found out that their supervision are the biggest Asshole’s in the world. They did a good thing by their donation but the carman better be on his toes. NS will never take their eyes off of him. They will try to get him in another way!

  23. Great outcome for the worker and the kitten. The Boss on the other hand could use a lesson here from Mr. Small, if the boss didnt lose his job at least demote him and promote Mr. Small with a pay raise.

  24. In response to the guy who said that this resulted in the loss of 10 car inspector jobs, that is not true. Stop blaming your co-workers for the actions of the corporation. NS has decreased its employment by thousands of workers in the past year or so due to a Wall Street driven operating plan called “Precision Scheduled Railroading.” THAT is what is driving layoffs, furloughs and the general loss of jobs in the rail industry across all crafts.

    So wise up, fight back, and stop blaming your brothers an sisters!

  25. I am appalled by the treatment of this employee. Not only did he obey his supervisor but after his shift was overwhelmed with empathy for another life.
    Shame on you Norfolk Southern. I. Am going to make it my personal cause to make sure that everyone that has not heard this story hears it.

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