Nancy Hornberger, a pet owner in Michigan, had a multiple cat household with one cat who kept fighting with the others and spraying urine. Aside from this, Spitz was a loving pet and Ms. Hornberger felt he might enjoy life more in a single cat home. She called the Oakland Co Animal Shelter and asked about having the shelter rehome Spitz. Ms. Hornberger says she was told that as long as the cat was healthy and adoptable, they would put him on the adoption floor. She packed up Spitz’s favorite food and toys and wrote a two page letter about him to be given to whoever adopted the cat. Ms. Hornberger then surrendered Spitz, his belongings and the letter to the Oakland Co shelter so he could find his perfect home.
But Oakland Co killed Spitz minutes after the former owner hit the door. Ms. Hornberger found out later, after animal advocates filed FOIA requests and received records for animals who were killed and categorized as “owner requested euthanasia” by the shelter. When informed of Spitz’s killing, Ms. Hornberger collapsed. She could not understand why her lovable pet would be killed instead of being offered for adoption by the shelter. And she says she absolutely did not ask the shelter staff to kill him:
We never, in any way, requested that.
The Oakland Co shelter’s website indicates they are limited admission for cats:
Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center will operate as an open admission shelter for cats based on available capacity starting January 2, 2015. That means we will not accept cats when we do not have room to house them. After consulting with veterinary staff and other experts in animal shelter operations, we will implement the industry’s best practices. By limiting the number of cats we house, we will be able to offer the very best care to our existing cat population.
It would seem to follow that the facility had adequate space to house Spitz at the time he was accepted. Also, for those trying to re-read that last paragraph: open admission=limited admission in Oakland Co, apparently.
(Photo by Casey Post)
WXYZ asked Oakland County Director of Public Services Mark Newman why Spitz was killed. He says that the cat was deemed unadoptable due to the urine spraying and too bad so sad the owner failed to understand that at the time she surrendered Spitz. Ms. Hornberger says if she would have known Spitz would be killed, she would never have left him at the shelter.
So what exactly makes an animal “unadoptable” at Oakland Co?
As for the shelters written policy on what makes an animal adoptable, it won’t be posted at the shelter or its website.
“It is not something we disseminate to the public, but it is our information,” said Newman.
It’s classified. But WXYZ got a copy of the document detailing the excuses used by Oakland Co to kill animals, which the shelter titled “CARES” because aw. Among the excuses:
- Animals designated “treatable/manageable” may be given one week before being recategorized as “untreatable/unhealthy” – not because these animals actually are either untreatable or unhealthy, just because it’s been a week and hey, we’re not running a doggie hotel here people.
- Examples of treatable/manageable conditions include: cough, cold, arthritis, fleas, worms, cherry eye, missing eye/limb or other physical disability, and having the audacity to be born while being cared for by a mother. One week to get over that lost eye or that being born thing.
- Examples of untreatable/unhealthy conditions include: healthy feral cats, dental disease, ringworm, and skin mites. I love that healthy feral cats are included in the definition of unhealthy because that just makes sense. Healthy=unhealthy, what’s the problem – you stupid or something?
(Photo by Casey Post)
One thing I didn’t see on the list was spraying, which is supposedly a capital offense in Oakland Co. The closest thing I could find:
Have a behavioral, temperamental or medical characteristic that would pose a danger to other animals, themselves or the public.
Does Oakland Co think cat urine is a public health threat?
Lest anyone think that Spitz’s killing represents an isolated incident at Oakland Co, the shelter’s own records seem to reveal it is a regular occurrence. Records appear to be falsified as “owner requested euthanasia” on numerous animals, including strays killed upon impound instead of being held for the legally mandated holding period and pets who are given nail trims and vaccines prior to being killed, supposedly by owner request.
Why the shell game? Oakland Co boasts on its website that it “currently has the best save rate in Michigan among public open-admission shelters whose intakes are greater than 5,000 animals”. But that save rate specifically excludes animals categorized as being killed by owner request, such as Spitz. (There is also an exclusion for animals killed and categorized as “contracted” which I don’t recall coming across before and don’t know what it refers to.)
Oakland Co taxpayers are getting the shaft with regard to their public shelter. The shelter is limiting admission of cats while claiming to be open admission, arbitrarily designating healthy animals as unhealthy, and falsifying records to blame the needless killing of pets on “owner request” where no such request ever existed. It is up to local residents to demand better. As for Oakland Co workers, if you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.
(Thanks Clarice for the links.)