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.”
Photo Credit: wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/File:A_cat%27s_paw.jpg