Sunday, August 31, 2008

Guest Post: Jon Stone on the sudden death of Ducky, a 17-year old family cat

I am writing this in an email so you may post it to your blog as another example of what is so desperately wrong with the animal control by-law and the incompetence of those who are enforcing the law. Jean would love to talk to you. 

A long time resident of North Dartmouth, Jean Hanlon is yet another victim of the reckless enforcement actions of HRM's animal control officers and the inhumane law which they claim to be dutifully applying.

Recently Jean had her elderly cat to the vet for treatment of an ear infection. After receiving treatment and a prescription for medication, Jean returned home with her cat, fully confident that the animal would recover. She was called away to take care of some other business for a few hours. When she returned home, she could find no trace of the cat. She and her husband Paul hunted high and low. When she asked her neighbour about the cat, he had said he had not seen it which later turned out to be a lie.

Finally they called animal control and found out that they had received a complaint from someone in the neighbourhood and had taken a cat into custody. (if only other by-laws would be so vigourously enforced!) They took the cat to the pound - again this is the facility operated by the heretical NS SPCA - where the cat had been euthanized virtually immediately. The most troubling and frightening fact here is that again, animal control officers seem to carry the power of God because even though the animal control law states that seized animals must be kept for three days before being euthanized or otherwise adopted, animal control officers can waive that "right" for the animals and order immediate euthanasia as was the case with Jean's cat. HAD THEY FOLLOWED THE RULES WHICH THEY LOVE TO QUOTE LIKE MINDLESS AUTOMATONS JEAN'S CAT WOULD HAVE BEEN SAVED!

They say they believed that the cat was in bad shape. The only problem with the poor animal was that it was recovering from an ear infection and was of course a little wobbly. The animal control officer, as they are apparently inclined to do in their so-called investigations, embellished his report saying that the cat had been dragging its hind quarters. When pressed, he actually admitted that he exaggerated. So why is he still carrying a badge? Where is the recourse for this sort of incompetence?

Jean went to the animal impoundment centre in Burnside after finding out her cat had been euthanized without ANY serious investigation OF ANY KIND done by animal control. After beating against the locked door, they finally let her in. According to Jean the vet who administered the euthanasia was absolutely enraged at having been misled by animal control.

Needless to say, Jean has been devastated by this tragedy. Especially when her neighbour denied to the animal control officer that he knew the cat and signed a paper to that effect. As with most of the results of this kangaroo court animal justice, lives of people who love and cherish their pets are being devastated because of the callous, heartless and mindless actions of animal control officers.

What adds the ultimate insult to this is that this is all happpening under the nose of the NS SPCA which should be waving the flag of righteous indignation for HRM to immediately cease and desist in the poor enforcement of this even poorer by law. By their silence and the fact this takes place on their own premises the organization which bills itself as the protector of animals is in fact condoning these blatant acts of inhumanity on animals such as Brindi and Jean Hanlon's cat and no doubt countless other similar cases.

How many Brindis have their been as a result of this bylaw? How many cases like Jean Hanlon's cat have there been? How many more broken hearts will there be before some common sense and supportable legal principles win out over the heartless bureaucracy?



I received the following news today:

A cat belonging to a Dartmouth family was seized and put down at the Burnside Emergency Animal Clinic within less than two hours after neighbors reported it as a stray, claiming it was “dragging its hind legs.”

Ducky, a 17-year old Angora cat belonging to Paul and Jean Hanlon of Fernhill Drive, went missing on the evening of August 16. Her frantic owners searched in vain with the help of a neighbor. Finally at around 10 pm they called HRM Animal Control, who informed them one of their officers had taken it into custody a few hours earlier. The officer, acting on a call from an elderly couple in the neighborhood about a cat seen on a lawn, mistakenly concluded Ducky was in bad shape.

On learning the news, Jean Hanlon immediately drove to the Burnside clinic and, as she says “went berserk”: “I banged on the door and said, ‘You killed my cat! Let me in!’” A vet came out and explained to Hanlon she had euthanized Ducky after receiving an order from Animal Control. This happened probably sometime between 8 and 9 pm, before the owners were able to track it down. Explanations vary as to why the procedure was done so quickly, nor is it clear why Ducky was taken to the clinic rather than to the SPCA. Ducky was being treated with antibiotics for an ear infection, but was otherwise in good health, according to the family vet. The family is devastated by the sudden loss of a well-cared for, longtime companion. The vet told Hanlon she felt misled by animal control, who in turn claimed they did not know.

Animal Services has claimed it is not allowed to inform pet owners of the names of callers who report their animals. So its officer, who did not actually see the cat dragging its hindlegs, did not attempt to contact the owners. Nor did he search for someone to corroborate the information filled out on an “Animal Relinquishment Form” by Hanlon’s next-door neighbor. To date Jean Hanlon has not been sent a copy of this form, which includes a 72-hour waiver of the time required to hold an animal before euthanization. On it, the officer told her, the neighbor indicated that the cat was a stray, which Hanlon finds odd, as he had clearly known what her cat looks like. Also, since in the past, he had delivered strays to her door, she does not understand why he chose to call police this time.

My friend Jon Stone, who made me aware of Ducky's fate, wonders whether the actual rules were really followed, as Animal Services claims is the case. 

He asks, "How many Brindis have there been as a result of this bylaw? How many cases like Jean Hanlon's cat have there been? How many more broken hearts will there be, before some common sense and supportable legal principles win out over a heartless bureaucracy?"

My answer: TOO MANY. Killing innocent animals is absolutely unacceptable, regardless of how many or how few. 

Therefore, until enforcement procedures are reviewed and the law is improved–and this is not likely to happen until after the October election–I propose an immediate indefinite moratorium on all euthanization orders in HRM.  

I call upon all HRM vets to refuse to carry out an HRM order to euthanize an animal unless and until they are absolutely convinced it is justified by the animal's condition, i.e., visible signs of agony or a severe injury from which it will not recover.

Please join me in making this demand by contacting your elected officials and anyone else who will listen!