Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This is what we narrowly escaped in NYS...

Biscuit went out, and never came home.

Biscuit went out one day about two weeks ago, was trapped and taken to the Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society, was scanned for a chip, then was immediately killed.

While the shelter has a 5 day hold policy for dogs, there is no such protection for cats. As people familiar with the behavior of cats know, many trapped cats will display the fear and apparent aggression that shelters associate with feral or anti-social behavior, which puts any unidentified cat at risk when shelters are crowded and do not have a hold policy. Emily feels that if the staff had bothered to remove him from the trap and see that he was neutered and well fed and groomed, they’d have known Biscuit was someone’s pet, and at that point sould not have been so quick to kill him.

Word spread locally about Biscuit’s killing and caused outraged animal lovers to turn their anger toward the shelter. While understandable, that anger, if unabated, will make it even harder for the humane society to raise money and do what they can to rehome animals and deal with their area’s pet overpopulation problem.

Whether or not Biscuit should or should not have been allowed to roam outdoors, the fact remains that he was a friendly pet cat, not a feral. Even indoor cats get lost---frequently. And in fact, what if he had been feral, but had been neutered, vaccinated, tested, and fed daily by someone who had invested personal time and dollars in stopping the reproduction of cats in their little corner of their neighborhood?

What other property can you lose and have authorities immediately destroy? Let's suppose your drop your wallet, and your local police immediately toss it in the shredder as soon as a good Samaritan turns it in. Leave a ring of sentimental value on a the edge of a mall sink, and security can take it to the mall jeweler and cash it in for a few bucks of scrap gold. Your old beater car dies at the side of the road, and instead of being towed and impounded for you to pick up for a fine, it is immediately shipped off to be crushed for metal scrap.

If your indoor or outdoor cats are not collared, they should be microchipped. Outdoor cats should be gently trained to wear a break-away collar. And local shelters should remain our haven for lost pets, with a holding period of at least 3-5 days, so people who care about their pets can retrieve them.

I have been to the shelter in Biscuit's story. It is a large, active shelter that saves many lives, with good people who are dedicated to the lives of animals. Yet it appears if a cat comes in in a trap, and there are no immediate tags of ownership, he or she can be killed immediately. It would be easy to demonize the shelter, but in fact the sheer number of cats coming into shelters can be overwhelming, and the facilities to house them humanely for possible redemption (which seldom comes) are limited. It's easy to feel that it's far more humane to put scared feral cats down immediately than box them up for 5 days waiting for an owner who doesn't exist.

Yet the Biscuits of their world, and their owners, deserve to not be caught up in this net of "mercy."

We have more to do.


  1. So sad. You're right ... there is still so much to be done.

  2. It is easy to demonize the shelter because they're wrong. They don't even check craigslist or missing cat reports? They don't even assess whether or not a cat is truly feral? Or healthy? Or neutered? They just see a trapped cat and kill it? What if the cat is feral and eartipped? Will they kill that cat, too?

    No, I'm sorry, but there's no excuse for it. If these "good people who are dedicated to the lives of animals" are so overwhelmed that they cannot even make a small effort to reunite a lost cat with an owner, then maybe they need more volunteers or new policies or new leadership or all of the above.

  3. I agree with mikken. The only thing easy about it is THEY TOOK THE EASY WAY OUT!

  4. Thanks for the comments. I would then ask: what resources are we prepared to offer this shelter (or our own) to help change this? We are part of this equation as well. Just firing the director may not be the answer, especially if this is the kind of director who now sees that this is a bad policy and is willing to change it.

    I see that this shelter has other pro-adoption programs in place like a pro-rescue transport vehicle, so it seems like the window is open for other programs as well:


    1. That would depend - who is bringing them trapped cats? People trap cats for a reason and if it's only a few locals who "don't like cats in their yards" or whatever, they can help counsel these people on how to make their yards cat-unfriendly.

      Does this shelter take reports of lost cats to compare against an animal on intake? Do they photograph every single animal coming in and post it on a website so an owner can search for their pet online?

    2. That's what I would suggest is our responsibility to find out. I would say that upon reading follow-up media on the story, that "trying harder" to ID pet cats and having free micro-chipping would not resolve this particular situation. They are good policies, but Biscuit would still be DOA because the owner mistakenly thought he was chipped. A holding period for all cats, and an online lost/found pet photo directory, would be a better response--even if it can't be implemented "today" but could be promised within the next six months(and then fund-raise for increased vaccination/caging/humane handling equipment needs). And then I think: "What is my own responsibility here, then?" I don't see resources online specifically on this subject. I do know some shelters do post their lost/found pets online, so I could go find some of those to promote as examples. I could also use my woefully out-of-date web page to post information on humane handling/housing of scared/feral cats, so if a holding period is put in place so that owners and feral cat guardians can find missing cats, the cats are not stuck in hell for 3-5 days. Then when I read things like this, I could point a shelter there.

      Thank you for the comments. So nice to see more feedback on here. I helps make me "do" instead of just "spew."