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Animal Shelter Euthanizes Cat That Attacked Employee

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
February 2003

Durham, USA - A Durham County Animal Shelter policy that slaps a death sentence on animals that show violent tendencies prompted an extensive e-mail campaign last week demanding a reprieve for Bob, a cat on the shelter’s death row.

But activists’ efforts were in vain - Bob was killed.

Controversy regarding the shelter’s policy was brought to public attention by Lisa Marie Stephan and a story in The Herald-Sun. Stephan met Bob while visiting the shelter 26th January, 2003, and was interested in adopting him. When she returned the next day, Bob was no longer available for adoption.

Shelter officials said the cat bit a shelter employee in an unprovoked attack. The person needed to be hospitalized and put on antibiotics. It is the shelter’s policy to kill any animal it considers dangerous or that exhibits aggressive behavior, which can include biting.

Though Stephan was willing to sign a waiver, the shelter could not give her the cat for liability issues, said Durham Animal Protection Society board member Susan Teer.

"Just looking into the facts, would we be doing the right thing to the public if we put this animal out?" Teer said. "Since we knew the attack and we saw it, we didn’t think it would be responsible."

Much of the information spread in Stephan’s e-mail campaign was inaccurate, Teer said.

"The most upsetting part was that we’re trying to do the best that we can, and we have a shelter full of nice animals, that haven’t bitten anyone, that we can’t place," Teer said. "They need to be put to sleep, but where’s the public outcry for them? It seems like people were just looking for a poster child."

For the past week, Stephan had been sending e-mails to animal rescue groups around the world seeking assistance. The dozens of responses came from as far away as Australia.

"You have someone here who wants to save the life of this cat, who wants to pamper him with love," wrote Lydia Govelli of Victoria, Australia. "He has done nothing to deserve (death)."

Stephan worked with Silicon Valley Animal Rescue to find a way to grant a stay of execution for Bob. SVAR, a no-kill shelter, took up Stephan’s case to challenge the ethical reasons behind the Durham shelter’s policy.

Rebecca Trevino, of the Palo Alto, California based group, hired a lawyer to aid in the process. The group asked to transfer Bob into their care, along with all liability.

"We thought it would be appropriate to respond to (interim director George) Webb’s concerns," Trevino said.

Such an option would not be feasible, Teer said.

Though liability would be transferred to SVAR, Teer said the shelter was not comfortable with that option if another attack did occur.

"We’re just trying to be honest," Teer said.

But now that Bob has been killed, Trevino said the organization is considering taking up legal action against the Durham shelter on grounds of animal cruelty.

"In this case, it was not only cruel to kill this animal, it wasn’t even necessary," Trevino said.

Durham APS board members met Thursday afternoon to discuss Bob’s case. Along with four veterinarians and "deep soul-searching," Teer said the board decided the cat’s death was appropriate. The APS will not be evaluating its policy, Teer said.
post #2 of 20
OMG thats awful! What if that woman had done something to the cat that made him react like that???? That makes me so mad. The poor sweetheart was probably frightened out of his wits.
post #3 of 20
You know, I have met one truly mean cat in my entire life! ONE! But any animal who is afraid and feels cornered will attack. Even a baby kitten will hiss at a huge, intimidating Tom cat, and try to defend itself, as terrified as it might be. And no liability? They should search their souls again. They killed an animal when there was an alternative. Of course, there are animal behaviorists who could have advised the new owner, if this was a real problem. My heart breaks to hear this. The death was unnecessary.
post #4 of 20
You know as someone who just this past saturday was scrached across the face by a cat I think this is horrible. I know what happend to me was because when I tried to give the cat to a child to hold the child did not hold her right & she got upset. I made sure to take the cat away from the child quickly so she would not be hurt. She is a good cat I think she may have already been over stimulated & that's what caused her behavior, but I take some responsibility in that I didn't show the child how to hold her first. I think if we put down every cat that in someway "attacked" someone we wouldn't have any animals left. I guess more specifics would help in this case because some animals are very sensitive to certain situations. Also from what I've seen there are cats that just do not do well in the shelter environment. It's a lot of action & if they don't like other animals that can be very upsetting. I think they jumped the gun. All animals can be unpredictable at times, and we have to take responsibility for what in our actions may have caused an "attack"
post #5 of 20
Their are virtually almost always some warning signs that animals give off that they are feeling upset, or are about to attack. Most often people just MISS these signs and claim it as an "unprovoked behavior."

Now... I realize there aren't many behavorist out there who can take in every grumpy animal from the shelters. Most places like humane societys don't get to know the animals well enough, to know if they would be a potential danger. Many of the animals could be a liability. I adopted a seemingly innocent calico kitten from a HS, they said she was a great cat, very nice, and about 8 or 9 weeks old.
Well, I hate to tell yeah, but this babe must have been born and raised on a barn or by a feral mom! And she was only but 6 weeks. That cat was far more dangerous then any other cat I have ever met who was said to be "aggressive".

For a local HS I used to volunteer at, their policy was if the animal bites or has ever bitten or shows aggressiveness and wont calm down, they quarinteen him for 24 hours and then he's PTS.

Places like Humane Societies can only really do so much, and they have to go by the states set laws for it's facility. An independant rescue/shelter has much more they can do to help an animal, if they so choose.
post #6 of 20
Yes, I agree, AngelzOO. That's why another agency offered to take the cat and accept all liability.
Rebecca Trevino, of the Palo Alto, California based group, hired a lawyer to aid in the process. The group asked to transfer Bob into their care, along with all liability.
That's why the rest of us are upset. You probably didn't see that part. It's sad.
post #7 of 20
One question...

Does the organisation in Durham have an internet site I can voice my anger on???

post #8 of 20
Mags, That was a great idea, so I did some research on Google.com. Unfortunately, there are nearly 200,000 people in Durham, the city alone, and this was a county shelter. There were so many shelters listed it would have been fruitless to continue. I really appreciate your willingness to take action. There was no need for this animal to die. I also checked the Durham newspapers, but there were no archives for me to search. Bless you for your willingness and good heart. I would like to have joined you!
post #9 of 20
I live in the next city over from Durham, and I'm pretty sure that that was the only article printed about it. Not that you'd get much response unless you managed to get many other people to do the same thing... Durham has a bad stray and feral problem. They are always full up here. Sad, but what we really need is to get hissy out here to institute TNR programs.
post #10 of 20

Well I did a search for Durham Animal Protection Society after reading LDG's reply. And bingo...found a site and they have a guestbook.

And if Durham is in North Carolina...then this must be the board overseeing all the shelters in the area. Just need someone in USA to confirm this before I rant in the guestbook.

Oh and I've included the link I found.

post #11 of 20
Thanks, Mags. I wrote to the "adoption" address, since the other addresses concerned employment, etc., and there was no address for comments. I have asked for an explanation for this act, considering the fact that the Palo Alto group would have accepted all liability, and have given them my e-mail address. The problem is that if you send anything to the wrong department, they reserve the right to destroy the mail or disregard the e-mail. I will post the reply if I receive one.
post #12 of 20

I ranted in the Guestbook in the end. And they removed what I entered in there so I'm beginning to think that I've found the right people.
post #13 of 20
I was afraid of that. I know they received many e-mails on the subject, and probably won't reply to me, either, but I tried to be polite, hoping they would take into consideration the size and scope of this site. I guess it's easier to ignore people than explain the unexplainable. (the lack of liability) Thanks for writing them, Mags.
post #14 of 20
I have 8 cats of my own and have worked with many that have had "issues", including selective placements or capture, spay, and release of feral cats and attempting (when possible) to save and socialize feral kittens. I have worked with everything from domestic cats to tigers and think they are all amazing creatures. I am also the one that made the decision to euthanize this cat. The real story of this cat was not presented in the article, this was a nasty animal. The "bite" was actually a mauling, which could easily have been fatal to an infant or small child. The cat was not new to the shelter, and the tech that was attacked was very experienced and had been diligently working with the cat to try to save him. He was not frightened, was not mishandled, did NOT show signs of agitation or any indication that he was about to attack, and there were NO outside circumstances that would explain the attack. In 30 years of working with cats I have not seen an instance to compare. This was a dangerous animal and the cat could not in good conscious be released into the public. These decisions are never pleasant.

The "rescue" group listed in the article is not actually a rescue group. The article claims this is a "no kill" shelter. In actuality, according to their own published information, it is a privately owned non-profit vet clinic. According to their own published information they do not have an adoption program and do not take in animals. They, in fact, refer people looking to adopt to a local private shelter, which states clearly in its published policy "any animal determined to be agressive will be euthanized." Amazing they are able to make this decision but don't consider us able to make the same one.

The claims of "waiver of liability" are also misleading. Placing an animal known to be dangerous is legally considered to be neglegance, this can NOT be waived. More importantly, we consider it an ethical issue and will not compromise the safety of the public for the sake of appeasing someone's media frenzy. We were not willing to sacrafice someone's child to prove our point.

As for emails and guestbook entries. We were inundated, mostly with highly negative and often vulgor comments. The guestbook was attacked with multiple "how could you" entries by a single user. The emails that requested information were sent responses with full information. Combative or accusatory comments were ignored, these people had clearly made up their minds without bothering to get the real story.

Rescue groups that contacted us were asked, instead, to consider an older cat we had that had been "dumped" by the family of an elderly woman who had gone into a nursing home, asking her family to care for her beloved cat. Their solution, drop it at the shelter (an all to common practice.) All of the rescues declined to help this animal. With extraordinary effort we were finally able to place her in a good home to live out the remainder of her life.

Finally it must be noted that, even though he was in the shelter some weeks, no interest had been expressed in this animal until AFTER he had been declared dangerous. No one had ever visited with him and no application to adopt him was ever received.

I checked on this cat every day during his required hold period after the attack. Each visit reconfirmed my decision. I am absolutely confident this was the correct decision.

post #15 of 20
George, I am glad that you have posted an explanation. Believe me, your side of the story would have been published if Anne, the owner, or I had received an answer. I know that you must have received thousands of emails. But I wish we could have presented this earlier. The sooner we post the answer, the more likely it is that our members will read it! Thus far over 180 people have read this thread, and I'm guessing that only a few have seen your answer. I hope they check out this update.
post #16 of 20
I am so glad we were able to get both sides of this story! I am also hoping that CharmsDad will continue to post with us!
post #17 of 20

Thank you for your post. It is always important to get both sides of a story before making a decision. I have seen one cat who sounds very much like the one in this case. It was determined that he had a seizure disorder in which he had no control over his vicious attacks. The cat was euthanized because the seizures/attacks were unpredictable and brutal. It was decided that it was not only unfair to the people who were trying to care for him, but unfair to the cat to have to live with these random firestorms in his brain which led to the viciousness -- not to mention the fact that the cat often became hurt during the attacks as his victims attempted to escape. Although it saddens me whenever an animal is put down, there are times when it is the only thing we can do.

I hope you keep visiting The Cat Site. I think you will find that while we are pretty fanatical about the care of cats, we are also a great bunch of caring folks.

post #18 of 20
We did get hundreds of emails, most very angry, vulgor and abusive. Initially they were going to the supervisor of adoptions, but she was spending so much time with it I redirected the emails to me so she could get back to getting animals placed in homes. Most messages were simply deleted, and after a point we simply stopped responding to even the rare non-hostile ones. As an example, I got this one just the day before yesterday (this is the full message):

"I think you are a sick cruel individual have a f*****g heart maybe someone should do to you what you did to that defenseless cat."

And this isn't near as bad as most.

When I brought back the guestbook on the web site a couple of weeks ago the first post we got was a nasty one about this same subject (which I deleted!) I was going to put a hold on all new posts until they were reviewed, but we haven't had another similar post since then.

By the way, I've been volunteering there for a number of years and am a member of the board of directors. At the time of this whole incident I was acting as Shelter Director while we were in the process of searching for a new one. (We hired a new Director a couple of weeks later. The Director reports to the board.)

All of the cruelty, neglect or abuse cases for this county come through our shelter. We seem to constantly be preparing one case or another. I found it rather odd that in the original article the woman from the group in California made comments about bringing animal cruelty charges (for humanely euthanizing a dangerous animal for which we had full and legal custody????) From what I have been able to find, that organization has no experience or authority in dealing with animal cruelty in their own area, much less 3000 miles away. The spokesperson is actually a real estate agent, and does not have any ties with animal control, cruelty investigation, or have any association with any other legal authority. It appears she was just trying to be dramatic, and the reporter ate it up.

I sure do love my kitties (and doggies). All our critters have been either rescued or adopted from the shelter.

post #19 of 20
I'm so glad the story has been cleared up, and that you found us, George. I do hope you stay. I know you will have much to offer the site. And I do hope it will be valuable and enjoyable to you!
post #20 of 20
I always enjoy talking about my kitties (and doggies too, we have 5 dogs along with the 8 cats.)

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