Cat Tragedy And A Pile of Questions

This is a cat story that makes me ask a lot of questions. The internet newspapers tend to report the news but rarely challenge what happened.

A woman, Colleen, asks her son, Jesse, to take her cat, Lady, for a flea bath at Broadway Animal Hospital in Gardner, Mass, USA. Within a short time Lady was dead. Euthanised. That is the story in a nutshell. How could this happen?

The Detail

For some inexplicable reason, Jesse signed a form that authorised the hospital to euthanize his mother’s cat. He was given the form by a vet, Dr. Malik. Jesse signed it without reading it. Lady was perfectly healthy.

What happened? Why did the vet give him a form that asked the hospital to kill Lady? Why didn’t the vet ask Jesse why he wanted Lady killed? If he had asked that he might have realised he had the wrong form.

It seems (and I am guessing) that Jesse requested a flea bath for Lady whereupon Dr Malik grabbed what he thought was a consent form because I guess flea baths can be dangerous, which begs the next question.

Why was Colleen asking a vet to put her cat through a flea bath? There are lots of safer ways to deal with fleas (Frontline comes to mind). And in any case there is no point clearing fleas off a cat with a dangerous insecticide if the home has fleas jumping around because they will just jump back on the cat after a while. The whole problem will restart unless fleas are cleared from the home at the same time. Maybe she did that but I doubt it.

OK, the vet has a nice looking perfectly healthy cat in front of him and he handed it over, or someone else did, to a vet tech to kill. It makes me ask whether anyone asked some questions at that point.

The next question is important I think. Jesse signed the form without reading it. That is not uncommon. But he didn’t have to fill anything in on the form it seems to me. Surely the form would have something on it to fill in to explain why the owner wanted the cat euthanized. If the form required some input from Jesse he would have realized it was the wrong form surely?

Is this a pre-written form that says the owner wants her cat put down for unspecified health reasons? It looks like that because if the form had areas that needed to be completed by Jesse he didn’t complete them as far as I can see. If he did complete those parts of the form he must have been totally switched off.

Perhaps the consent form for an operation or procedure is similar to the form that consents to euthanasia? It might even be the same form with a tick box requirement on it.

It is easy to be critical in retrospect. However, I think this is an example where procedures were inadequate to protect the cat from mistakes that could lead to the cat being harmed. I am sure there will be an internal inquest at the hospital with the goal of tightening up procedures – checks etc. to prevent tragic mistakes like this.

An interesting thing of note is that Jesse discovered the tragic mistake when he took a second cat to the same place and Dr Malik asked whether he wanted to cat’s bodies back after euthanasia. Why did the vet make a presumption that Jesse had brought in a second cat for euthanasia?

On aspect of such a tragedy is that the average domestic cat is virtually worthless from a purely financial point of view. All the value is in the emotional connection and no one puts a price on that.

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7 thoughts on “Cat Tragedy And A Pile of Questions”

  1. Maybe I’m being a bit awful and suspicious but this story didn’t ring true and I’m wondering if Jesse didn’t like his mother’s cat and took the chance to get rid of her? Why did he take another cat to the same vet? Was it before or after his mother found out Lady had been killed?
    But if the story IS true, why take a cat to a vet for a flea bath? Surely it’s not a routine thing done when there are kinder and safer ways to get rid of fleas.
    This reminds me of the multi tasking vet who killed the wrong cat!
    Clients should be able to trust their vet and clinic staff, but as we can’t we should ALWAYS read any consent form carefully and also it’s a good idea to label the cat carrier with the cat’s name, description and what procedure they are there for.
    Yes it’s a sad fact Michael that peoples much loved pets are worthless to some of those who are supposed to be caring for them

  2. The last time I went to pick Monty up from the vet they had a video playing in the lobby about alternatives to declawing and telling in no uncertain terms exactly what declawing is and what they risks are to the cat. They still will declaw there if a client insists, but no person there can claim they did not know that declawing was more than a nail trim. There is some real client education going on there. I was very happy to see the video, though it was hard to pay attention to it, because in the back the vet and a tech were trying to put Monty into his carrier for the trip home. Monty, feeling much better, was snarling, growling, scratching and biting them. But despite Monty’s deplorable behavior toward people who saved his little life, they still care about him. You can tell that they truly care about all animals there. It was that vet who got so sad when I said years ago that my husband wanted Monty declawed. I think vets who just see cats as dollar signs for the money they can make from declawing would be more likely to make a serious error like in the story above. I trust a vet much more who is educating clients against declawing, being honest about how horrible it is. I know he’s not going to accidentally put down any animal.

    • What a great point you make Ruth. I felt that but didn’t express it. If a vet really is concerned about cat welfare this sort of carelessness, if it is that, would not happen. The primary function of a vet is to promote cat health. The money flows from that. Some vets have a primary purpose of making money.

  3. I would think the vet would have talked to the people about the risks and benefits of the flea bath prior to treatment. Any paper signed should be carefully explained by the vet. This just seems like a very busy, but very careless, vet clinic. Monty’s vet is very busy, but I can’t imagine anything like this happening there. I can see an animal needing a flea bath if nothing else is working. We had to do a flea dip treatment to one cat when I was a child because she came with these huge fleas on her and nothing seemed to work to get rid of them. The dip worked, along with lots of house cleaning. I can’t imagine the people not finding an over the counter flea treatment that would work. If that was the case, I just don’t see how there isn’t a conversation with the vet including questions about the cleanliness of the home and what products have been tried so far. It just seems like all concerned were very careless about the welfare of this cat.
    Monty’s vet knows him. I get follow up calls after Monty has been in for any type of treatment. Well, of course, it would be hard for the vet to forget him, since Monty hates his guts and makes these feelings known in no uncertain terms.

  4. I find this to be totally crazy. There must be some missing element to the story. Was it supposed to look like a mistake perhaps? Cat’s do, on average have very little value I guess. It’s unusual to love your cat as I do. When Red died I could not eat or sleep or speak for about 3 weeks basically. I was a total zombie. The people around me understood but after about 3 days it then just clearly seemed strange to them. It was a trip for work to England that woke me up a little but it took so long to get where I am now and there is still a big hole I can’t ignore. People just dont care so much for cats in that way. Most people.

    This story is clearly missing something. Anyway, who takes a cat in for a flea bath. Thats very odd.


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