You will pay the veterinary bill if a shelter employs a vet to treat your lost cat

The scenario: you have lost your elderly cat. A neighbour finds her and takes her to a local shelter. The shelter management decide that your cat needs veterinary treatment and they organise it. The shelter pays a veterinarian. You find out that your cat is at this shelter and you ask for her back. The shelter says that you have to pay the veterinary bill before you can have your cat back. You are obliged to pay the veterinary bill.

Cat at a veterinary clinic

Cat at a veterinary clinic. This is a generic photo. Photo: Pixabay.

That scenario is what happened more or less to a woman living in the City of Coquitlam, in Metro Vancouver, Canada. She actually disputed the obligation to pay the veterinary bill and took the matter to a tribunal which decided that the shelter was right and she was wrong.

The cat’s name is Zuki. She is an elderly cat and her health problems are linked to her age. She went missing last September. Shelter workers immediately took Zuki to a private vet linked to the shelter for an examination. She was found to be frail, dehydrated with leg weakness.

The shelter decided that Zuki needed a veterinary examination and treatment if necessary. As it happens, Zuki’s owner had her euthanised shortly after she picked up her cat from this shelter. She argued that Zuki did not require veterinary treatment because she was elderly. She also argued that the shelter should have released her cat to her earlier when she called on the day that Zuki went missing.

The shelter said that Zuki was already at the veterinarian when her owner called. She filed a complaint with a local tribunal to recover her $384 she had paid to the shelter.

The tribunal said that shelter workers are not qualified to make a detailed assessment as to a cats’ health and therefore they had to employ a vet to do it for them. If they didn’t, they would be a breach of their duty of care towards the cats in their charge.

The bylaws of this city state that an enforcement officer can seize a cat that is “at large” (ostensibly without an owner) and apparently in distress and suffering. The bylaw also states that the owner can collect their cat after paying the impound fees, custodial charges and veterinary bills.

I think the story is quite instructive and although it is particular to this city in Metro Vancouver, I would imagine that the same or similar rules apply to most locations in America and animal shelters. Otherwise, a shelter would be paralysed as to what to do. If they can’t contact the owner, which they normally cannot, they have to make a decision about a cat’s health and sometimes take urgent steps. They must be free to take those steps without the possibility of being sued or being liable for costs spent on behalf of the owner.

Below are some pages on cat shelters.

Pictures of sad shelter cats tend to go viral and enhance chance of adoption

14 facts about the duration of stay at shelters by rescue cats

At Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, the following statistics are provided by an online newspaper regarding the speed of adoption ...
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Pictures of sad shelter cats tend to go viral and enhance chance of adoption

Pictures of sad shelter cats and interesting bios improve chance of adoption

This post was inspired by ex-shelter cat 'Fishtopher' who was a long-term resident at the Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center ...
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Killing shelter cats and dogs is a choice not a necessity

Killing shelter cats and dogs is a choice not a necessity

Nathan Winograd, perhaps American's greatest animal advocate today (2022), states that "shelter killing is a choice". He firmly believes that ...
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Shelter cats are sometimes not given a chance to show their friendly character

Gentle petting and speaking to shelter cats reduces stress, improves their health and adoptability

It's been found that when shelter cats are gently petted and talked to their chances of developing an upper respiratory ...
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Handsome shelter cat who got adopted by jumping on her lap and staying there!

How to select a cat at a shelter

I have never selected a cat from a shelter! Although I was a foster carer. So, you might want to ...
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Shelter worker adopts shelter cat

Gently stroking and talking to cats at rescue centers prevents upper respiratory infections

You might not have heard of the words. I certainly hadn't until today. They are "gentling" and to be "gentled" ...
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Nathan Winograd and rescue cat

6 reasons for the 90% drop in pound killings of US dogs and cats since the 1970s

Despite the fact that the number of domestic cats and dogs in America has doubled since the 1970s, the number ...
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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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