A cat was brought to the facilities of the Animal Rescue League of Berks County (ARL) by a neighbour of the cat’s owner. The cat was scanned at the front desk and scanned again but no microchip was found. Clearly the neighbor did not help the staff at the shelter in identifying whether the cat had an owner or not. The cat was vaccinated and processed in the usual way.
The cat played up and became aggressive which meant that the staff had difficulties caring for him/her. As they could not find a microchip and therefore, on the face of it, there was no owner the Interim Executive Director, Tom Hubric, made the difficult decision to euthanize the cat the day after the cat arrived at the shelter. The decision was in part prompted by the fact that the shelter was at capacity.
The cat’s owner turned up after the cat had been euthanized and informed the shelter that he/she was originally adopted from the shelter and was microchipped. A third scan of the deceased cat, as I understand it, found the microchip. Tom Hubric admitted the shelters error on Facebook which was sensible as it helped defuse the consequences of their mistake.
The microchip had moved (migrated) from the usual position and the staff scanning for it did not adapt to this possibility and missed it. Also, as mentioned, the cat was aggressive and the staff could not handle him and look after him properly. Of course aggression in a cat under these circumstances does not mean the cat is inherently aggressive. A longer wait before euthanizing might have helped resolve this hurdle.
In addition, as mentioned, the shelter was at capacity. Hubric said that “100% of our cat rooms are full, we have many cages with more than one cat, we have set up three additional large cages in our lobby….et cetera. The shelter does not have any more room or enough staff to care for additional cats and clearly this situation helped to prompt Mr Hubric to make the reluctant decision to euthanize the cat.
Comments on Facebook to his admission of the error are generally favorable because they understand that people do make mistakes especially under these very difficult conditions. However, one person made the point that the decision to euthanize was made quite quickly and normally there is a holding period perhaps of 72 hours or in some cases five days and in some states there is an obligatory holding period to allow the owner to retrieve their cat.
In addition, without wishing to be overly critical, staff scanning for microchips should be aware that it might have migrated (moved from the usual position) and therefore scanning should be flexible enough to cover that possibility. The shelter I think is going to train staff on how to scan animals for microchips to make certain that they are 100% sure that the animal is not microchipped. This policy change may include a third scan.
ARL will also consider promoting fostering to allow for expansion when they are at maximum capacity. And also ARL are considering selling up a meeting at the town hall in order to allow residents in the community to share their concerns and to respond to those concerns moving forward.
Comment: Mr Hubric is clearly a decent and sensible person. He did the best that he could under the circumstances. A mistake was made and perhaps the procedures under which he made a mistake were not robust enough to minimize the possibility of a mistake being made. The fact that he apologized and admitted the error I think is a very good thing and he should be commended for it. Also he should be commended for reflecting on what has happened and deciding how best to move forward.
Below is the note made by Mr Hubric on Facebook and the source of this post: