Arizona Humane Society under Fire after Euthanizing Cat

When Daniel Dockery’s 9-month-old cat, Scruffy, received a cut from a barbed wire fence on December 8, he went to an Arizona Humane Society center hoping to get help.

The agency told Dockery treatment for the non-life-threatening wound would cost him $400, money that the recovering heroin addict did not have.

Desperate to save Scruffy, Dockery called his mother in Michigan, who offered to pay by credit card over the phone or to wire money over.

The agency refused.

Instead, the staff promised to cut Dockery a deal: if he signed Scruffy over to the center, the cat would receive medical treatment and be placed in a foster home. Dockery accepted.

Several hours later, Scruffy was euthanized.

A devastated Dockery took his story to The Arizona Republic, a Phoenix newspaper that published the cat’s tale last weekend.

Now, angry animal lovers are threatening to pull donations and censuring the Arizona Humane Society for what they call “a murder.”

In response to a slew of acerbic calls and Facebook comments, the agency has hired Stacy Pearson, a publicist responsible solely for dealing with public outcry over the cat, and has instructed a team of five volunteers to deal with angry calls and emails.

The group has also removed several comments from its Facebook page, citing “inappropriate content” as the reason; one comment labeled the cat’s fate “murder,” while another recommended the staff be euthanized.

Guy Collison, the Arizona Humane Society’s executive director and now, the only person allowed to post comments on the group’s Facebook page, wrote, “Scruffy’s story is heartbreaking, and underscores the worst-case-scenario of need eclipsing resources available.”

In a similar statement to the media, Stacy Pearson blamed a lack of veterinarians, Dockery’s inability to pay, and the “very serious” nature of the cat’s cut as reasons for Scruffy’s fate. She went on to note that the agency’s policy of declining credit card payments by phone was meant to prevent fraud, not animal treatment.

Yet the incident has already brought about change.

“The policy failed Daniel,” Pearson conceded, “and it had the potential to fail another loving pet owner. The policy has been changed effective immediately.”

In addition to a revamped payment policy, Pearson noted a second change to come to the agency: an emergency treatment fund, to be paid for with donations, yet another reason, she said, that “pulling funding is only going to make a problem like this worse.”

Unfortunately for Dockery, the changes come too little, too late.

“Now I’ve got to think about how I failed that beautiful animal,” he told The Arizona Republic. “I failed her…That’s so wrong. There was no reason for her not to be treated.”

Scruffy had helped Dockery stay sober for over a year, the longest he has ever been off drugs throughout his adult life. He raised the cat from birth, hand-feeding her tuna and letting her sleep on his pillow. In an interview, he said he considered the cat his “best friend.”

Having now received a flood of support from across the country, including offers of money, jobs, and new pets, Dockery continues to echo Pearson’s sentiments, maintaining that despite the agency’s failure, donors should not withhold money from the Arizona Humane Society.

“I don’t want any more animals to get hurt and not be able to get treated.”

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Beagle Escapes Death, Draws Attention to Inhumane Euthanasia Practice

What is being considered by many to be nothing short of a miracle could very well be the necessary push for animal rights across the country. Daniel, a 20-pound five year-old stray beagle, was one of 18 dogs unable to find a home in Florence, Alabama, and because of this, scheduled to be put down.  However, unlike the other animals, with which he entered a gas chamber on October 3, Daniel was able to survive.

After the scheduled extermination, one animal control worker was shocked to find the little beagle left alive and well amidst the bodies of the other dogs. Since word came out about this “miracle dog,” charitable groups across the country have reached out to help Daniel. Upon hearing about the lucky pup, Karen Rudolph (with Schnauzer Savers Rescue and temporary adopted parent of the dog) began calling him Daniel after the Biblical story of the man who was able to walk out of a lion’s den completely unscathed. Rudolph explains that what happened with Daniel is truly nothing short of a miracle, “Amazingly, not only did he survive the gas chamber which is very rare…he was not sick.”  Rudolph commented further on the dog’s condition: “It was almost as though angels pulled him out of there and he didn’t even breathe the gas.”

And this is not the first time something like this has happened.  In August of 2003, a Basenji mix was found alive in a St. Louis gas chamber.  The dog earned the name Quentin, in reference to California’s San Quentin prison.  Daniel and Quentin are the rare exception amid the estimated four million cats and dogs that are killed each year in the United States.

The use of gas chambers as a euthanasia technique has been around since World War II.  According to National Geographic, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) considers poisoning by carbon monoxide gas an “acceptable” method of euthanasia.  The method takes around 25 minutes to complete and begins with numerous animals (dependent on the size) in a sealed-off chamber where the gas is released.  An expert on animal-euthanasia, Doug Fakkema, explains that although gassing animals may have good intentions, the results are nothing less than tragic.  “The animal is in a warm or hot box, usually with other animals.  They don’t know what’s going on,” Fakkema explains, “The hiss of the gas is going on inside.  They get dizzy, and they panic.”

While many animal shelters use sodium pentobarbital, a much more humane method that involves injecting the lethal compound into an animal’s veins—and the only method accepted by the American Humane Association (AHA)—there are still those that have stuck with the carbon monoxide chambers…such as the shelter where Daniel was retrieved. 

Animal rights groups, like and AHA, who have been working to get gas chamber euthanasia methods banned across the country have yet another name to draw on to help their cause. Daniel, who has now been moved to New Jersey to be adopted, is doing great according to Jill Pavlik of the Eleventh Hour Rescue who is caring for the dog for the time being, while the more than one hundred adoption applications can be carefully sifted through and reviewed. “He’s absolutely fabulous,” she contends, “He walked in the house like he had always lived there. He’s very sweet, happy and outgoing”—and perhaps the luckiest dog on Earth.

The fight for Daniel’s life is now over, but another still remains with Daniel taking another starring role. His message now echoes that of all animals and animal rights groups—the need for humane treatment.  To help give these animals a voice and to stop carbon monoxide gas chambers in animal shelters, voice your opinion…and sign the petition here.

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San Francisco Moves To Ban The Selling Of Pets

In a controversial move, San Francisco has announced the possibility of banning the sale of any animals as pets in the city. The proposed ban would include every type of pet and would instead encourage the adoption of animals from shelters or other rescue organizations.

Known as the ‘Humane Pet Acquisition Proposal,’ the ban would encourage people to adopt pets from shelters instead of buying them from pet stores or breeders. The proposal would protect all animals, including cats, dogs, birds, and fish. Even live mice, sold for snake food, would be banned under the proposal. The only animals that would be exempt are live animals sold for the purpose of human consumption, such as fish, seafood, and poultry.

Last summer, a similar ban was proposed, but stalled amid discussions of which animals should be banned and which should be allowed to be sold as pets. The controversy was brought back to the city with the new proposed ban. San Francisco’s Commission of Animal Control and Welfare voted earlier this month to send the proposal to the city’s Board of Supervisors. Now, proponents need sponsors for the proposed ban.

Animal rights activists are proponents of the proposed ban. Philip Gerrie, a coauthor of the proposal interviewed by the LA Times, explains that “in the Western mindset, fish and other nonhuman animals don’t have feelings, they don’t have emotions, we can do whatever we want to them. If we considered them living beings, we could deal with them differently…Our culture sanctions this, treating them as commodities and expendable.”

The ban on selling animals in pet stores, activists say, would encourage people to adopt from shelters. Rescue organizations make it possible for humans to adopt and improve the lives of pets would might otherwise be euthanized in overcrowded shelters. Even though very few pet stores in San Francisco actually sell animals, Jennifer Scarlett, the co-president of the city’s ASPCA, told the LA Times that the ban would be “largely symbolic.”

The controversial proposed ban would have negative effects for pet store owners who make their livelihood from selling pets. The pet industry brings in between $45-50 billion every year. Opponents of the ban believe that animal rights activists do not have the right to dictate how animals are purchased as pets. Jonathan Ito, a pet store owner interviewed by the LA Times, is quoted as saying that the proposed ban “has no cause and effect” and that “The animal-rights activists are trying to drive a wedge any way they can in order to get a foothold on changing the ownership of animals…They don’t believe they should be bred. They don’t believe people are responsible to care for them…They are about eliminating animals as pets.”

The proposed ban on selling pets is not the first time San Francisco has attempted to ban products in the name of health, both for humans and the environment. In March of 2007, the city announced a ban of plastic shopping bags in grocery stores, which are notorious for cluttering up landfills. Since the ban was enacted, 5 million fewer plastic bags are used every month in San Francisco. In an effort directed at human health, the city was successful in banning the sales of toys in McDonalds meals that exceed a certain amount of calories and fat and do not offer fruits or vegetables.

In addition to the proposed ban on selling animals as pets, another controversial ban recently proposed in San Francisco is a potential ban on circumcision. The issue will be put to vote in November and, like the proposed ban on selling animals, has drawn heavy criticism from its opponents.

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Giant Dog Fighting Ring Busted in Philadelphia

The largest dogfighting ring in Pennsylvania history was broken up by officers from the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals last week. Dramatically, the officers busted in on the dogfighting group while an actual dogfight was in progress. One of the pit bulls involved, Spartacus, was rescued and is now recovering in a local shelter.
Philadelphia police arrested 14 individuals at four different sites, confiscated drugs, weapons and more than $10,000 in cash. In addition, more than 30 dogs were rescued, including a series of puppies that were likely being raised to fight.
“The Police and the SPCA actually saw people watching the dogfight, and they saw the dogfight in progress,” Aime Berman, the medical director of the Pennsylvania SPCA says. “This never happens. Generally we find evidence afterwards — we find evidence of the training and the treatment and, unfortunately, the abuse that the animals suffer. But to actually find a fight in progress was pretty amazing. The evidence is overwhelming.”
Since Philadelphia has fairly stringent dogfighting laws on the books, even spectators rounded up in the sweep are likely to face felony charges.
As for the dogs, some of them are being held as evidence in the case, while others are being rehabilitated for hopeful transfers to a new home.
“It just breaks my heart,” Barbara Paul, an assistant Philadelphia district attorney says. “I go home and hug my cats. I feel so strongly that people need to be punished for this. It’s so clear to me in these cases that the people who do this are just really malevolent.”