A Spate of Oops-Killings

The last few posts on the blog have involved pets being needlessly and “accidentally” killed by the municipal shelters charged with protecting them.  In Hernando Co, the victim was a dog whose owner, if he had one, wasn’t given the legally mandated time to redeem him because the pound oops-killed him before the holding period expired.  In Jacksonville, it was two newborn kittens who were being transferred from one foster owner to another when the pound oops-killed them without bothering to check.  And in Yuma, AZ, a lost dog whose owners tried to redeem him but were turned away by the pound was oops-killed for coughing.  When public shelters fail to do their jobs and cultivate a culture of killing healthy/treatable pets as the acceptable norm, they damage more than just the staff, volunteers and rescuers involved in day to day operations.  They pollute the community with this morally bankrupt ethos.

A young man in MA had flea bath appointments for his two cats at a veterinary clinic last week.  He first dropped off one kitty, signed the form he was given, then returned shortly afterward to deliver the second cat.  As he was signing that form, which he assumed was a basic form allowing the cats to have flea baths, the vet asked him if he wanted to keep the bodies.

Keep the bodies?

“It was like a blank stare back at each other for the first 10 seconds, then [the veterinarian] immediately grabbed the papers I thought were registration forms and told me I had signed the papers.”

As it turns out, the form the young man was given was an authorization to euthanize a pet, not a consent for a flea bath.  No one at the clinic reportedly explained anything to him – just got his signature on the form and took the cat.

The vet who killed the first cat and was prepared to kill the second one declined to speak with the local TV news but instead hid behind his lawyer, who also hid.

The practice of killing healthy/treatable pets without asking questions, commonplace in too many municipal shelters, is accompanied by a lack of compassion and a failure to stand up for a pet’s most basic right:  the right to live.  This disturbing attitude is not limited to animal shelters and creeps into society at large.  But shelters, whose very names imply a duty to act as a safe haven, provide humane care and protect pets from cruelty, are community leaders and must set the example for others to follow.  When shelters, humane societies and societies for the prevention of cruelty kill healthy/treatable pets without question and do not advocate for the right of pets to live, it is not surprising to find individuals in the community adopting this same attitude.

It also doesn’t surprise me to read that, when confronted about the killing of a healthy pet, the vet refused to stand behind his actions.  Again, a page from the playbook of too many pounds in this country.  Everyone knows killing healthy/treatable pets is wrong – even those doing the killing.  But most of them aren’t going to stop on their own.  It is up to us as pet lovers and ethically responsible people to publicly demand an end to the killing of healthy/treatable pets and to demand their right to live be respected.  Until we change the culture of acceptance concerning needless pet killing, we will continue to witness this unending parade of death.  And in the end, it doesn’t matter much whether the pets at the landfill were killed by “accident” or by design.  What matters is that most people accept the killing as “necessary” and some even go so far as to call it a “kindness”.  This must change.

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25 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Wood

     /  September 25, 2012

    Just wondering…how do the living children of these people who so willingly kill healthy, adoptable pets feel about their parents? If either of my parents, or any relative, for that fact, was in this practice, I would demand they get another job, or have nothing to do with them. Maybe it is the children of America who can help us put an end to this barbaric practice.

    Reply
  2. Stephanie

     /  September 25, 2012

    Recently happened to my neigbors dog. Please check out the Justice for Harley Reforming the Erie County SPCA facebook page. He went missing Sunday night and they had killed him Monday morning before the shelter even opened for his person to claim him. Who btw was waiting at the door that morning. They then tried to turn the tables and blame the owners. The killing needs to stop.

    Reply
  3. Excellent, true-to-the-bone post! <3

    Reply
  4. FixCharlotte

     /  September 25, 2012

    Someone needs to pull that vet’s license…

    Reply
  5. As for vets, there should be some kind of moral agreement between vets that there will be NO on-demand killings of healthy and treatable animals. As for the shelters, I don’t know the answer outside of the NKE. Ummm, maybe intelligent staff and supervisory persons? As in, they LIKE animals????

    Reply
  6. I vehemently agree that the killing needs to stop now! This is happening all over the country and we have to stop it and make the idiots accountable!

    Reply
  7. A great post on an awful subject. Definitely a classic.

    That poor guy. That poor cat. What a crappy vet.

    Reply
  8. Eucritta

     /  September 25, 2012

    We’re soaking in it, aren’t we?

    This morning I also read of a 16-year-old kitty in Oregon, picked up by an ACO, killed immediately as too aggressive to examine, and only then found to have a chip and loving owners. From the sound of it the poor cat was terrified out of her wits, and for the ACO – evidently too ignorant and impatient to give her a quiet space to calm down in – death was the ready answer, the one right there at hand.

    I’m also appalled by how frequently variations of the Nuremberg Defense are used. We were just following orders. It was according to protocol. We were acting according to departmental policy. It was right there, on the form. We’ve always done it this way.

    One of my grandfathers used to call this the moral coward’s defense. I think he has the right of it.

    Reply
  9. Eucritta

     /  September 25, 2012

    Spamming the thread here … I was just reading a ProPublica entry on why patients don’t report medical errors, and this quote came up:

    “You really can’t improve what you don’t measure,” said Dr. Julia Hallisy, president of the Empowered Patient Coalition. “How do you know where to focus your improvement efforts if you haven’t measured what’s happening in the first place?”

    So far as I know, no-one tracks oops-killings either.

    Reply
  10. Justan Okello

     /  September 25, 2012

    The sad part is that quite a large number of people who get jobs at shelters don’t actually like animals… As far as the cat killed instead of getting a flea bath: “Dr. Malik was put on a year-long probation back in 2005 for improperly treating a dog’s paw. ” says it all.

    Reply
  11. I hope that man has a lawyer of his own..but guess it wouldn’t do any good.. he should have read what he was signing.. OMG what a tragedy. So sorry for his loss..

    Reply
  12. Jessica C

     /  September 25, 2012

    Wow! That is so awful. I feel for that guy.

    And great post, as usual. I completely agree.

    Reply
  13. layla

     /  September 25, 2012

    As for the vet story, don’t believe everything in the newspaper. The young man who dropped the cat off was the son of the cats owner. The form he signed WAS explained to him.

    http://www.telegram.com/article/20120925/NEWS/109259861/1003/NEWS03

    Reply
    • mikken

       /  September 25, 2012

      The real problem is that this vet who supposedly “loves animals” was willing to kill an apparently healthy cat for a stranger with no history or explanation. He did not even verify that this man was the cat’s owner – what if he’d brought in the neighbor’s annoying cat for killing? Apparently, he’d do it?

      When I had to rush our dying dog to the emergency vet for euthanasia in the middle of the night, we had to verify the fact that this dog did indeed have a regular vet, who that vet was, and why this dog was dying (19 years old, lymphoma) and needed euthanasia. Even so, the attending vet did a quickie exam to confirm that all was on the level.

      I expect every vet to question the euthanasia of an animal unknown to them or their practice. I also expect every vet to question WHY an apparently healthy animal is there to be killed.

      I also wonder why they did not ask if this man wanted to be present for the procedure? What if the euth was legit and he wanted to sit with the cat?

      Much wrong on many levels here. Yes, the man bears a terrible responsibility (and the fact that the dead cat was a gift to his mother from his sister a year before she was killed herself only adds to the tragedy), but the vet was clearly too willing to kill an animal both healthy and unknown to him.

      Reply
    • I don’t buy it. The minimum explanation any client should be given when bringing in a pet for euthanasia should include things such as “will be given a sedative before receiving the injection that stops the heart”, “you should say your final goodbyes before the sedative is given”, “death occurs very quickly and will be verified before the remains are removed”. This is in addition to asking if the owner wishes to remain with the pet during the euthanasia as well as what type of disposal is desired (private cremation with return of ashes, etc.). And on top of all that, the vet must verify that the pet is medically hopeless and suffering and unless the vet has been treating the cat for a terminal illness, this means more discussion with the owner about the cat’s condition requiring euthanasia. If that young man was given at least this minimal explanation, I can’t imagine he thought he was signing a consent form for a flea bath.

      Reply
      • layla

         /  September 26, 2012

        That young man is 24 years old. Granted the vet has some responsibility her, but so does the client’s son. That is all that I am saying.

      • Bottom line is that the vet is a professional, the son is not. Have you not ever signed things without reading them carefully? (Perhaps he didn’t understand what euthanasia means – not everyone does) I trust my vets at MSU and sometimes I have to sign things for treatments. They always explain what I’m signing and what it means – but I don’t always read it carefully. Regardless, that vet, in less than ordinary circumstances killed a healthy cat (no previous history, no signs of illness, no medical reason to kill the cat . . . and he went ahead and did it because someone messed up and gave the son the wrong paperwork to sign). That is inexcusable and says a lot about the vet, in my opinion.
        We just want to stop/prevent the killing of healthy animals, whether that be at “shelters” or AC officers or in vets offices or by police officers. There has to be some accountability when a healthy animal is killed, for whatever reason.

      • Well said and I agree

      • Simba

         /  September 26, 2012

        What does the son’s age have to do with it? As if “the man’s youth” was to blame for the wrong paperwork being given, or no-one apparently asking who he was or what he was in for. Does being 24 years old suddenly affect the competence of those around you?

        One simple question and they could have fixed it- ‘what is your name?’ That’s it. Ask that both of the man on the phone and the man who walks in with the cat and- hey presto! That is absolutely standard practice when someone shows up for an appointment, and it’s inexcusable to have missed it. It doesn’t matter whether they explained with finger puppets what was going to happen, they screwed up big-time.

        If the vet knew the clients, it would be very odd for him to simply get permission from the son to euthanise the cat without checking it out with the owner. If he didn’t know the clients, how the hell did he know that the person bringing it in had the authority to make that decision? How did he know it wasn’t a family row or a dispute with a neighbour?

        This is inescapably, unexcusably the fault of those in the clinic. But hey, the guy was under 30, they couldn’t possibly have been expected to do their jobs to the most basic standard.

    • Eucritta

       /  September 26, 2012

      Information continues to come out about this case:
      http://www.telegram.com/article/20120923/NEWS/109239745/-1/NEWS05

      Evidently the vet has been in trouble before for not following standard modern practice, and the flea baths were *flea dips,* which even in the bad old days before the topicals were never in my hearing recommended for cats.

      Then, too, about the story linked by layla, it’s not what I consider exculpatory. Thing is, regardless of whether or not the son read all of the cards he was asked to complete – which he seems to have assumed were basic info to keep on file for patients rather than immediate orders for euthanasia – the people at the clinic should not have *assumed* he was the other client who had called requesting euthanasia. They should have *asked,* confirmed the identity of the client and patients, and double-checked the appointment record. This is just good business practice, something my vet clinic does automatically.

      Then again, my vet doesn’t do euthanasia just on request either.

      Reply
  14. This is a terrible case but can I just ask, who in the world takes their cat to the vet for a flea bath??? What is that? Never heard of it. The cats must have been terribly neglected if a vet has to do this, whatever it is!

    Reply
    • When I worked in a vet clinic 20+ years ago, dipping cats was common. The dips were awful, smelled like gasoline as I recall, and you had to force the cat to sit in the dip for several minutes. Aside from ineffective flea collars or repeatedly spraying pets with flea spray (also awful). there weren’t many options for flea killing. Once Frontline and other topicals hit the market, things changed in a big way. Apparently this vet is old school and still offers flea dips for cats.

      Reply
  15. Yep, old school and useless!

    Reply

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