The Dark Side of Cat Rescue
USA: There is a dark side to animal rescue, says Heather. I am not that well qualified to write about the dark side of rescue but I do know about it.
I am referring to USA rescue for the sole reason that it is much discussed. You just don’t get the same kind of internet discussions about European animal rescue. You have to give Americans credit for their willingness to openly discuss rescue although the dark side of rescue includes, I am sure, many hidden, dastardly deeds of inhumane treatment, which never come to light.
I have used Heather’s words from her comment as a framework for what follows.
Internet trolls criticize shelters and shelter staff who euthanize by calling them murderers etc.. Cross-posters, and rescue directors and volunteers who refuse to foster sometimes force, drive or encourage other people into doing it by making them feel guilty.
The Julianne Westberry saga is a classic case of the dark side of cat rescue. There was so much wrong including deceit and what appears to be using cat rescue as a means to make money as the priority rather than rescuing cats.
But let’s also mention the phonies and dumpers who leave cats with people like Julianne Westberry and then point fingers at others. These people are being hypocritical.
The use of cat rescue as a means to make money was highlighted in the year-old case of Lowanda “Peanut” Kilby who was the director of a no-kill shelter, Boggs Mountain Humane Shelter, Georgia, USA. She was charged with no less than 60 felonies (serious crimes in the USA). The crimes included theft and racketeering.
Kilby was accused of charging 28 pet owners $100 to not kill their companion animals and then killed them anyway! People were told their cat or dog had been adopted when they had been killed. She was charged with stealing $10,500 in funds from the shelter which was closed down. Penny Burkitt, the shelter’s executive director resigned.
“We also need to address the subject of humane euthanasia for sick and dying animals, which many no-kill rescues and shelters refuse to do, while money is still sunk into the animal while it suffers needlessly, which is also a big subject of fights amongst rescuers. Some know how and when to let go and others (usually not the ones with the animal in their care,) throw fights and criticize. ”
I presume Heather is saying that sometimes, because a shelter is a genuine no-kill, the animals are kept alive needlessly. Does anyone else have experience of this?
Cat Rescuers with the best of intentions sometimes get in over their head and foster too many cats exposing themselves to accusations of cat hoarding. This is about the heart ruling the brain. It is amazing to read about people who say they care desperately about cat welfare and who want to pull cats from shelters to save them from euthanasia then end up hurting cats in their care through neglect because they can’t cope. Isn’t this a consequence of a failure to tackle the production of unwanted cats at source – irresponsible cat ownership by a minority?
And are some cat rescuers doing it to meet a need inside them? Are some cat rescuers filling a hole in their lives or in their psyche? Is cat rescue sometimes in itself an abuse of the cat (I am playing devils advocate in this instance)?
The personal relationships of animal rescuers can also suffer. It makes me think. Dedicated cat rescuers are going to have to go it alone because it would seem that there is little room in their lives other than the animals that they are rescuing.
While the rescues do such good work, we are also battling against an irresponsible, quick-fix, throw-away society who also refuses to see the “real deal.” How many times have WE RESCUERS been told “I can’t watch those commercials, I have to change the channel.” Maybe we need a follow-up, mini-series to this article called “The Dark Side of Rescue.”
Do you have a dark side rescue story?
Photo credit: Alannah-Hawker on DeviantART. The words were added by Michael
it must be mandatory for everyone who picks up animals and accepts pledge money to be subject to home check and interview, plus have open ledger containing name, date picked up, vet care and adoption papers if no longer at their shelter. too many are in “rescue” for the money which they use for personal expenses,a illegal action which must be prosecuted. the animals deserve that much. check local rescues and ask for their adoption records, note how many pets and ways they are exposed and marketed to gain good homes. a 501 C 3 means nothing, anyone can get one if they pay the fee, no questions asked.
Thanks Terri. There is a dark side to animal rescue but the general public don’t know how much fraud is going on. There must be a lot of good people in animal rescue. I suppose there is no state government registration or licensing system to ensure quality. It is a murky world.
Yes Michael, it is a murky world. Thanks for a wonderful article, you covered it well. State of Fl. reg. non profit org. $78.00, make 990 available upon request, thats it, no check of any kind. Inspections are the ticket to stop “bad rescues”. And at least one random inspection per year after initial inspection.
HI Jerri, nice to hear from you. I hope you and your family are well.
I have only ever heard horror stories about Paphiakos. I wonder how they keep going. Well actually I know why. Greek Cypriots are totally unconcerned about animal suffering, and in fact contribute to it. Anyway I got my vengeance. I heard some time ago that the RSPCA was considering appointing Paphiakos as their representative in Cyprus, so I contacted them, explained how they had turned away a needy pregnant cat which I found later poisoned near the hotel. But I think those photos did the trick. However I am unable to find who is the RSPCA representative in Cyprus. Several associations claim to be recognised by the RSPCA but there is nothing concrete. They all may only have an ad hoc, meaning-less relationship.
Sorry to hear about you sad experience with them. You have joined a long list of upset and angry people , Michelle.
Further to the above, here is a photo of the dog area.
A failure. Perhaps for a number of people dog ownership is also a bit of a failure in Cyprus.
Raising the subject of animal shelters being operated primarily for the money-making motive reminded me of the Paphiakos Animal Rescue in Paphos, Republic of Cyprus.
I can’t see they spend much money on the cats or dogs but the owner has a chain of luxury shops which amongst other things sell Dresden china and silver. I know they don’t care about the welfare of cats because they turned me away with a very pregnant cat that I found once when I was on holiday there. The first photo is inside the cat house and the second one is the unspeakable dog area. In the cat house one of the doors that you see has a sign which says “CLINIC”. Now somebody has a fine sense of humour of course. These photos were taken several years ago and the situation may have improved, or may have worsened.
OMG, horrendous. Thanks for sharing this, Harvey. Cat rescue makes me think of “cat rescue”. Sometimes the “rescue” part of that phrase does not reflect what actually happens.
I have a very bad personal experience of using the veterinary services at Paphiakos. I hadn’t lived in Paphos very long and needed to have my beloved 19 year old cat Holly blood tested. (She had CKD, was on medication and had 6 monthly blood tests and check-ups in the UK.) As requested, I paid the £100 up-front for the test and was told to collect her later that day. When I returned I was horrified to learn they’d sedated her as they said she put up too much of a fight when they tried to draw blood. Not only that but there was a wound where they’d shaved her to draw blood and the wound had been stapled together like Frankenstein’s monster. To cut a long story short, she didn’t fully regain consciousness and when I rang Paphiakos to explain there was a problem I was told I was making a fuss over nothing and to bring her back the following day. I’ve had cats all my life and knew this wasn’t normal so I rang around other vets in the town. As soon as I described the situation, the vet told me over the phone “It sounds like final stage kidney failure” and to bring her in immediately. Sad to say my beloved cat had to be put to sleep. This vet was shocked at how dehydrated Holly was and said with her history of CKD she should have been on a drip – especially as I’d been instructed to withhold food and water from the night before.
The next day Paphiakos rang me 3 times to collect the blood test results, despite my repeatedly telling them my cat had been put to sleep. I remember clear as day the Paphiakos vet telling me I’d made a big mistake because the blood test results had been good and I’d put a healthy cat to sleep! I reminded him he’d refused to see her the previous evening and I wasn’t prepared to believe his BS.
For years afterwards I tortured myself with the thought of how miserable and frightening Holly’s final day must have been. Her suffering haunted my every waking moment and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried myself to sleep every night for a very long time.
I blamed myself for choosing a bad vet and the only reason I used Pahphiakos was because they’d been so helpful when I imported Holly into Cyprus. (This was in the days before they were a member of the Pet Travel Scheme.)
I seem to recall journalist George Lanitis had a regular column in the Cyprus Weekly and he’d always been very vocal about how bad Paphiakos were. I should have believed him.
Yes let’s think about those people who dump their cats in Shelters on flimsy excuses and walk away not caring what happens to them….until…..something happens, like the Caboodle case!
People were flocking on then ‘What has happened to my baby?’ ‘Where is my baby’ ‘I thought my babies would be safe there’
Suddenly their unwanted cats were their much loved babies! Well in my book if their cat was so much loved they shouldn’t have dumped him/her on an already overflowing Shelter.
Far more cats are relinquished on the same old flimsy excuses than genuine reasons, the truth is that it’s just become inconvenient to most of those people to have a cat around.
I wrote my dark side of cat rescue story a while back:
Yes, well said, the dark side of cat rescue only reflects the dark side of life generally and carelessness with which some people care for their cats.
Well said about people saying their cats are their much loved babies. It can’t be true. There is a lot of hypocrisy in the whole thing. In some ways cat rescue are in an unenviable situation.