The Right To Seize An FIV+ Cat

The right to seize an FIV+ cat is going to be a disturbing story. I want the readers at PoC to read this and then come back to this page for discussion. It’s at — the page at the website bluedogstate.com, is broken at Nov 2012 so it has been removed. Sorry for that.

FIV postive cat

Our Brinkley is FIV+

In a nutshell, a cat owner from Albany County, New York adopted an FIV+ cat from a shelter. The cat quit eating and the owner and his sister took the cat to the vet. Although the cat wasn’t in distress, the vet recommended euthanasia because of the FIV. The vet called the police as soon as the owners headed home with their cat.

Keep in mind the cat had food, water, shelter and love. The cat just wouldn’t eat. And the call was made to the police before the owners had time to seek a second opinion from another vet. Police arrived, seized the cat without any kind of legal documents and took it back to the vet who blew the whistle. The cat was euthanized, thus destroying any evidence on the condition of the cat.

The vet wants the owners charged with animal cruelty for not agreeing to the euthanasia in the first place. The state of New York doesn’t have a mandatory euthanasia law. Should the owners be convicted, their name and photo will go onto a registry listing them as animal abusers. They’re also facing jail time and a fine. All because they chose to take their cat home rather than kill it.

The concept of animal cruelty hinges on malice.

Perhaps this FIV+ cat had a tummy ache. Or maybe it was too hot to eat. We’ll never know because the evidence died with the cat. The vet who murdered this cat has stated that people who wait until an animal is so sick that death is the only option should be charged with animal cruelty.

How many vets feel this way? We could all be in trouble if the majority of vets think like this one. Many animals become seriously ill overnight. Panleuk and parvo are both fast killers. If a dog or cat dies from one of these illnesses, should we, the owner, face charges? What will this do to our frame of mind to seek veterinary advice if we’re afraid of being turned in?

What will this line of thinking do to those who wish to adopt an FIV+ cat? After reading the original case about the cat who was seized and killed may sway many from taking that risk. Because eventually an FIV+ cat may become ill and treatment must be sought.

This means a lot more cats will die unadopted, including those with other disabilities. I critisize the actions of this vet because it took the right to die with dignity away from the cat owners. It also took away the right to live until such time the cat was truly suffering.

I think it’s sad when a member of the veterinary profession goes on a vigilanty justice mission. I’m also thankful I haven’t met any vets who fall into this category.

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The Right To Seize An FIV+ Cat — 18 Comments

  1. An excellent but disturbing topic. Thanks Elisa….My initial thoughts on this is that it is very wrong for the vet to do this. Common sense says that the cat’s caretaker is not a criminal. They are the opposite, compassionate and loving. They disagreed with the vet’s opinion. They are entitled to do that.

    The police were wrong to act on the vet’s call. If the vet and police are correct in what they did it would happen a hundred thousands times every day. It is clearly wrong.

    The decision to euthanise is very complicated and difficult. What I mean is the timing of it is tricky. It is not clear cut. To prove a crime you have to establish that it happened beyond reasonable doubt. It would be impossible to prove a crime took place because you could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that cat’s caretaker caused the cat pain and suffering because of their actions.

    Also to prosecute someone for a crime it has to be in the public’s interest. That is not the case here because if convicted the state would have to prosecute hundreds of thousands of other people because many people cannot put their ‘pet’ down or wait too long. Are these people criminals.

    I think it shocking actually to go to a vet, disagree with him and then have the police come around! Put you off vets for life.

    Also the cat’s ‘owner’ has the right to make the decision on euthanasia. This is probably a legal right because they ‘own’ the cat in law. To disagree with a vet is not a bad thing.

    The police probably committed a crime in stealing the cat. But of course the police hardly ever get charged with a crime. They are above the law.

  2. According to my opinion there is something known as “DOCTOR/PATIENT” confidentiality, common in human patients and doctors. The same confidentiality is applicable when the patient is a pet/animal/bird/fish/reptile under the care of a human.”EUTHANASIA” of a pet is the sole final decision of the animals human owner under the consultation of a veterinarian doctor.Important, a “SECOND OPINION” on the pets malady should be sought before arriving to a conclusion to euthanize a pet.As an Indian living in Mumbai i am not familiar with American wild-life and pet laws, but, definitely feel that the Veterinarian misused her confidentiality with the patient and its human owners.

    • Good point Rudolph. Bottom line: it is down to the cat’s guardian to make the final decision and the vet has to accept that. The client, the cat’s caretaker, possibly had an argument with the vet and the vet acted spitefully in hurting the client by calling the police.

  3. It is highly disturbing that a veterinarian would “blow the whistle” when it was obvious that this cat guardian cared enough to bring the cat to the vet for treatment- perhaps medication to stimulate his appetite, or other help. This veterinarian had no right to call the police.

    This person adopted a positive kitty to render care and love. It’s not many people who would adopt a cat with this condition. I am assuming that if the guardian had other cats, the positive cat would be separated. It’s highly disturbing to me that seeking professional help from a “trusted” practitioner would turn into an act of betrayal. As far as I know there is no law against keeping an FIV positive cat.

    If this were my cat, under these circumstances, I would report the veterinarian to the AVMA for violating patient confidentiality and violating the oath to “do no harm”. This is an outrage, plain and simple.

    The whole thing smacks of a mindset along the lines of a PETA mentality. It is a disgrace.

    • Nice one Jo. I think the ‘victim’ should report the vet. Knowing the AVMA, I would doubt it would do much good. I guess you could argue that the vet has committed animal cruelty.

  4. The vet stated that people who wait until an animal is so sick that death is the only option should be charged with animal cruelty. He is absolutely right and the truth of the matter is probably that the owners of this cat let it suffer for a long time before they bothered to lift a finger to help it. If you have ever watched the animal hoarders show you see this type of neglect from the owners, or worse, all the time. There are lots of people that aren’t necessarily hoarders that are also guilty of the same thing. A vet is not going to apply this to someone whose cat may have gotten a sudden illness. Long term neglect is usually obvious and documentable and a veterinarian is not going to put his reputation and license on the line like this unless he believes that the animal is really suffering and that the owners are responsible for it. What most likely happened here is that there was more to the story than the “owners” revealed. It was said the cat had “stopped eating” but for how long? It is possible that the people waited and did nothing for some time and at the point the cat was brought to the clinic it was in a severe state of emaciation. Another possibility is that the cats teeth were rotting out (common with FIV cats) and the owners, by allowing it to go untreated and then doing nothing and bringing it home, were allowing it to continue to suffer. The majority of vets out there don’t recommend euthanasia lightly, and if it is obvious that it is necessary to stop suffering but a client declines and allows the suffering to continue, that is reportable animal cruelty and the veterinarian is obligated to do so. People neglect their animals to death every day. There are dogs and cats that are suffering from incurable diseases (cancer for example) and are in the end stages of their disease. They are in pain and suffering, sometimes from multiple issues at the same time (eye problems, stomach problems, dental, etc.) yet some owners will completely ignore the reality and claim they are “just fine” OR they have this idea that they should die “naturally ” at home despite the fact that these animals are miserable and in pain. Euthanasia defined means “good death” and is a gift to those in an endless cycle of illness and suffering. The cat in this article was probably given a gift and it came from the veterinarian who cared more about it than the owners did.

    • I tend to agree with you. Lots of people do what you say. But are these people criminals? That is a tough question but if you criminalised every case of a person euthanising their pet too late causing suffering you would have courts full for the next year. It is not practical nor in the public interest. Also it is difficult to assess pain in a cat etc. and judge when to euthanise.

      A lot of failures to go to the vet are due to finance not immoral behavior. Do you punish people who can’t afford to go to the vet to check if their cat needs to be euthanised?

      It is complicated. I understand what you say. The answer as Ruth AKA Kattaddorra says is education and better companion cat caretaking. Proactive measures. Nowhere near enough is done to regulate and train cat and dog owners.

      Vets too have a role to play. They cause unnecessary pain by the bucket load when they declaw cats. They do that for money.

  5. I was able to find the article about this case at http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Loving-care-interpreted-as-animal-abuse-3658128.php and now I have to wonder why you would neglect to post the real facts and instead twist what happened to create a controversy? The cat at the center of this story had developed liver cancer and at the time it was presented to the vet had developed jaundice and was dehydrated. In a cat with no other disease process, this is an EMERGENCY situation and requires immediate treatment.For a cat already suffering with FIV it is much worse. The moment these people chose to do nothing and bring the cat home they were absolutely guilty of animal cruelty and were letting the cat suffer unnecessarily.

    • Perhaps everything on the internet is not the complete facts. Only the vet and client and cat know the total and true facts.

      Thanks for your comment. Not sure if Elisa is twisting things but thanks for adding some important detail.

      I am not sure it changes things because the principle being discussed is can a vet call in the police to seize a cat if the client does not euthanise the cat as directed by the vet?

      I don’t think a vet can or should do that. If a vet is allowed to do that he or she will have to be selective because I am sure there are hundreds of thousands of cases of people taking their cats home when they should let the vet euthanise him/her. Or people come to the vet way too late in the first place.

      There are more important cases of animal cruelty happening such as vets declawing cats! Sorry to go on about that but I just have to.

      From a moral standpoint if this vet declaws cats he has no right to criticise his client for causing pain and suffering.

      • Elisa left out many crucial details of the story and basically rewrote what happened so it barely resembles what has been reported. This irks me to no end as does your blind defense of her without bothering to fact check first. This has happened in a large portion of her articles and is to the point where there should be a disclaimer that states there is no fact checking and conjecture is the order of the day.
        And to compare the misery and suffering of a dying, neglected cat to that of a cat that is declawed is to compare apples to oranges and has no validity. This is about neglect, suffering and euthanasia, not amputation or its aftermath. Minimizing what the cat went through at the hands of his *owners* is really disrespectful to him. Declawing is an entirely different discussion and frankly, you’re preaching to the choir here about that.

        • This is the “source” I used for the story. I didn’t just make this up off the top of my head. Petside is a very good site for cat articles

  6. I don’t know how you can say that the cat wasn’t in distress, Elisa. The cat was dying, in Dr. Cheever’s words “cell by cell”. A slow, miserable death. The owners had allowed the cat to degenerate until euthanasia was the only remaining humane course of action. Dr. Cheever is a well-known vet that is known as an animal rights activist, and I think she takes the suffering of animals very seriously. Personally, I am glad that there are veterinarians that will report owners when they see extreme negligence taking place. Charmer II was jaundiced and dehydrated, and the police must have seen his agonized state when they came to the Sagliocca’s home to seize him.

  7. The only proof we have of the actual health of this cat is from Dr. Cheever’s words, and certainly she would say whatever is necessary to defend her actions. Where is the proof that she was right? The family should have been allowed a second opinion. They put down a previous cat, so it’s not like they necessarily were against euthanasia. Maybe the news came as a shock and they weren’t quite ready yet to say goodbye. Yes, the comfort of a dying animal is important. But there is a balance to be struck between care for the animal and care for his humans. It’s called patient education, and Dr. Cheever failed at it. When someone leaves a nursing home or hospital against medical advice, that establishment failed that person. The patient has a right to do what he wants to do, but the job of the medical professionals is to educate and motivate the person to do what is in his own best interest in a gentle and professional way. The right to seek a second opinion may play into this process. When these clients left with the cat, the vet failed. That does not give her the right to call the cops on them. It means she needs to keep doing her job, which includes follow up calls encouraging them to get that second opinion and explaining how the cat may look fine, but is actually very, very sick. She did not have the right to do what she did because her state does not have mandatory euthanasia laws. Maybe the family has a child and wanted to give the kid time to say goodbye to her pet and come to terms with what was going to happen.
    We should never be in the camp that says, “It’s just an animal.” But I also don’t want to stand with those who always put the animal ahead of the human beings. That isn’t right either. The caretakers of this cat had a right to get a second opinion and to have the cat put down when they felt the time was right, by a vet they would choose. Life is filled with suffering. We can’t eliminate all of it. And we certainly can’t keep making death the immediate answer in the face of any and all suffering. There are those who advocate mercy killing for humans, so it’s easy to see why it would be seen as the only choice for this cat. But maybe palliative care was available that would have relieved the animal’s suffering and given the humans involved time to say goodbye in a dignified manner. If the cat didn’t look sick outwardly, if only lab tests and blood work revealed the illness, then how are the caretakers guilty of neglect? Monty refuses food occasionally and even has bouts of puking and diarrhea. I never suspect upon taking him to the vet that it’s because of a terminal illness. If it turned out to be a disease instead of a bunch of grass he ate outside am I a criminal if I ask for a second opinion and a couple of days at least to say goodbye to my furry friend? According to Dr. Cheever, yes, I would be. And what about her stupid comment that the cat was dying cell by cell? Yes, if a human or animal is dying he is probably dying “cell by cell” because that’s what death is like. But just because death is coming doesn’t mean we need to in all cases hurry it along like death is our great friend. Death is our enemy. Even Christians forget that, but we shouldn’t. Death is not our friend. Death is not an easy or best answer. Just because everything eventually ends up dead is not a reason to start the killing.

    • The cat was described as moribund (near death.) There was no time and no interest in getting a second opinion. The police that were involved must have also felt the cat needed to be euthanized as they brought it back to the clinic. They were not under any obligation to do so. The prosecutor in this case also chose to press charges and must base charges on evidence. There must have been something presented that the prosecutor felt was valid enough that they could make a case and get a conviction. It also should be noted that this is the SECOND cat that these people have allowed to deteriorate to the point of no return without any treatment. The first one suffered from untreated diabetes and also had to be euthanized. Both these animals were at the end of life stage and your argument does not apply to them. They were past the point of no return.

      • Emma, thanks for your good research and excellent argument. Much appreciated. I agree that if a prosecution is brought the evidence would have to be a bit out of the ordinary in such a case.

  8. Pingback: Elisa’s Top 10 Cat Articles For 2012 | Pictures of Cats

  9. Emma – I just read this whole story, but it’s really a he says she says case. I read both sides.

    1. Dr Cheeves says that the cat was moribund. The owner says the it wasn’t, it just stopped eating. We don’t have any independent verification of either side. We don’t even have an autopsy report or pictures to prove the cat was jaundiced. If she reported the owner, she knew the evidence would be needed for the court case, so why didn’t she sent the cat body to the independent place for an autopsy or kept tissues or pictures? FYI – one of the articles said that the charges against the owner were dropped, so there was no evidence.

    2. The owner adopted an FIV+ cat – this isn’t something many people do. He wasn’t a hoarder, this was his only cat. The previous cat was also adopted FIV+. We only have the vet’s word about the condition.

    3. We don’t know that the cat was neglected – the owner clearly brought the cat to the vet when the cat stopped eating. How is this consistent with neglect?

    4. The vet Dr Cheeves is an animal rights advocate. True, but she is also an extremist with the history of extreme views and is a member of fringe vet organization separate from AVMA. There are some animal rights activists who are completely against pet ownership. There are also those with extremely bad records for killing pets e.g. PETA.

    I don’t know who is right, but I am still disturbed that a cat can be taken from an owner and euthanized without an independent verification of the facts or a court order. Surely, they have to be some investigation or at least another vet? Something like this will make people fearful of taken their sick cats to the vet.

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