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, is broken at Nov 2012 so it has been removed. Sorry for that.

FIV postive cat
Our Brinkley is FIV+
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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.

18 thoughts on “The Right To Seize An FIV+ Cat”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.


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