The Odenton Veterinary Hospital has provided a statement explaining why they “euthanized” Oliver the cat while at their hospital. The reason for the statement is because the story went viral and they have been attacked online. It is said that the death was unnecessary. The staff at the hospital felt that the criticisms were unfair. They wanted to state their case. It is published in full below.
If you have not read the story before, please click on the link below and return to this page.
This is my comment on the hospital’s statement. In general, it is somewhat different to the statement made by the person who complained, Kaitlin Neal, and it is very different in respect of one very critical point.
I’d say that what happened turned on one critical matter: was the cat feral or was he a domesticated stray? This is vitally important because under the circumstances in which Kaitlin Neal took Oliver to the hospital the recommendation by CDC would be that the hospital should seek advice from the health authorities, which they did.
But the veterinary staff carelessly or deliberately appear to have misled the health authorities because they described Oliver as a feral cat. In doing this they preempted the outcome: it had to euthanasia.
And yet Kaitlin Neal clearly indicated in her Facebook post that Oliver was not a feral cat. He purred on the consultation table. The staff were able to handle him. This is admitted in the hospital statement.
“We were able to perform an examination…” – examining a cat at a clinic necessitates quite a lot of invasive handling and Oliver accepted it.
This indicates that the cat was not feral. Indeed, it clearly indicates that Oliver was domesticated albeit an elderly, unkempt outdoor cat used to his freedom. The handling of Oliver as described by the hospital would have been impossible if he was truly feral; their statement contains conflicting evidence. And they mention that he had not been vaccinated for years. Therefore he had been vaccinated indicating non-feral as he was not ear-tipped (under TNR program). Also the video and photo show a domestic cat.
Simply put: Oliver was not feral. If the hospital staff had informed animal control that they were dealing with a stray but essentially domesticated cat of unkown background then the advice received from the health authorities would have been different to that claimed by the hospital. The situation is muddied because Kaitlin has said that the hospital is being untruthful about their calls to the health authorities. This also indicates the hospital are fudging the truth; hiding malpractice.
When a domesticated cat with an unknown background bites veterinary staff at a clinic then I’d suggest that the advice from the health authorities would be a 10 day quarantine to see what develops. Oliver had been evaluated to a certain extent and was not showing any signs of rabies (he did not have rabies).
The staff themselves would or should have received a rabies vaccination as I understand it (were they all vaccinated?). This should be part of their work requirements because being bitten by cat or dog at a veterinary clinic is not uncommon. It is perhaps far more common than people think and therefore procedures must be in place to deal with this which do not include killing the cat concerned.
Handling: I am not a veterinarian but another issue concerns me. The veterinary staff knew they were dealing with a cat with a sketchy history. Under these circumstances, would it have been wise to have taken extra precautions when handling the cat? It seems to me that the cat was taken from the consultation room to a backroom out of his carrier. That needs to be confirmed but this information appears to have come from Kaitlin Neal’s account. Also we don’t know what happened in the backroom. If there was a mishandling of Oliver it needs to be factored in. And we don’t have evidence of the bites and scratches inflicted by Oliver. How bad were they. What exactly happened?
In addition, was it wise to take a blood test from Oliver when he was an unknown cat (feral in the eyes of the hospital)? How was he sedated? If he was sedated why did he react by biting and scratching?
P.S. Cyber bullying can never be acceptable. Death threats against hospital staff are ridiculous and obviously unacceptable. They may be criminal behavior. I may update this page after comments are made.
Odenton Hospital’s Statement
To our clients, community, and those concerned:
We do this job because we love animals, and we understand the concerns surrounding a story that’s gone viral which claims we mishandled a cat that was brought to our clinic for evaluation. Although we respect everyone’s right to free speech, in this case it has crossed the line to a cyberbullying attack- including serious threats against our clinic and staff. We would like to share our side of the story to those who are willing to listen.
On July 31st, a new client brought in a feral cat they were considering rescuing that had been abandoned outdoors several years ago. This cat no owner, no veterinary history, and we were told by the client that it hadn’t had any vaccinations for years. The client asked us to examine the cat and let her know whether he could be saved, or if it would be more humane to euthanize him.
We were able to perform an examination. The poor cat was so matted, we were unable to perform a proper skin examination. His right eye was bulging outward, had lesions all over the cornea, and likely would need to be removed. He also had severe dental disease, a possible tooth abscess, and a heart murmur.
We discussed with the client that this cat’s prognosis was very guarded to poor, and this cat was in very bad shape. We discussed options with the client, and she eventually decided to do bloodwork, stating that if the bloodwork looked too abnormal, she would likely elect to euthanize.
At this point, out of concern for the client’s toddler whom she had in the exam room with her, we took what we knew to be a feral, unvaccinated cat, to a more secure room in the back of our clinic in order to draw the blood.
Though we were able to get his blood drawn, the cat quickly became aggressive, scratching and biting a few staff members. We informed the client of this fact, and explained to her that often the protocol in the case of a feral, unvaccinated cat is likely euthanasia and rabies testing.
Before moving any further, we contacted our animal control office. We explained the situation in detail and asked whether this cat had to be euthanized and tested, or whether the client could quarantine him for 10 days and then vaccinate. The animal control officer told us that because this cat was feral, unvaccinated, had bitten someone, and was not healthy, their recommended protocol was euthanasia and rabies testing. After speaking with animal control, we spoke again with the client, explaining their recommendation to her. Rabies is fatal in humans, so we have to weight that fact against what we know about this cat and the protocol that was recommended by animal control. The client said, “This sucks”, and we agreed, sharing words about what a tough situation this was to be in. We asked the client if all of this made sense to her and if she understood why animal control had recommended euthanasia. She told us that it did, and then went to the front desk to check out.
Hours later, we began to receive angry messages and threats from people who have never even been to our clinic. We discovered that this client had posted a story online stating that we had euthanized this cat without her consent and we needed to be brought to justice. The story went viral and our clinic and staff began to be bombarded with emails, Facebook messages, and calls. Comments ranged from accusing us of being animal murderers to outright death threats.
The fact is this was a difficult decision for everyone involved, especially our staff, who are in this business because we love animals. This was not a decision that was reached lightly. We care deeply about every animal that comes through our doors, and euthanasia is never an easy choice. No one at this hospital would ever euthanize an animal without full permission from the owner, period. It has never happened and will never happen at our hospital. And while we share the grief that comes with losing any life, this client was made fully aware of what was happening at all times. Thus, we don’t understand why she has chosen to spark an attack on our hospital and staff for doing what was recommended by animal control and what she agreed to in the exam room.
Thank you for your time. We appreciate those of you who understand that there are two sides to every story. Thank you for keeping an open mind.
The Odenton Veterinary Hospital staff