|I have to admit that I was not surprised today to learn that all of the cats, more than 130 in total, supposedly "rescued" from a mobile home in St. Anthony Minnesota by the Animal Humane Society, had been killed. I had, after all, predicted this would happen, even though the deaths were totally unnecessary. Even still, I was disappointed. The volume of response Animal Ark had received when we offered to care for the cats was overwhelming. Volunteers, donors and other rescue organizations were ready to step in to provide care for cats they felt faced unnecessary but certain death at the Animal Humane Society.|
The fact that no one at the Animal Humane Society returned emails or phone calls offering support for these felines was also not much of a surprise. In spite of the fact that AHS representatives had said the cats would be kept for 2 - 3 weeks so they could be evaluated, many people involved in animal rescue believed the felines would be dead within 24 - 48 hours after arriving at AHS. Though we hoped and planned for the best, we expected the worst.
The excuses used by AHS director Jannelle Dixon to justify the killing of these felines were as predictable and unjustifiable as the deaths themselves. Dixon told a WCCO reporter that the cats could transmit disease to people; that they were sick; and that some of them had "behavior issues".
Behind the scene, staff, volunteers and rescue organizations in Minnesota have consistently reported that some of the cats were expected to be suffering from ringworm, herpes virus or FIV. Additionally, some seemed fearful.
To be very clear: the only one of these diseases considered to be a potential problem for humans is ringworm. It is a mild, treatable fungal infection, comparable to "Athlete's Foot". It generally takes 2 - 4 weeks to receive confirmation of ringworm culture tests back from a lab.
Feline herpes is common, and tends to flare up when cats become stressed, which was clearly an issue in this case.
FIV can be serious for infected felines. However, routine tests for the disease result in false positives. It is generally considered very manageable in a shelter environment, and transmission to other felines is generally through deep bite wounds resulting from un-neutered, infected males fighting. Since routine tests generate a large number of false positive results, it is generally recommended that confirmatory tests be sent out to a lab. These tests generally take weeks to process. It is also worth pointing out that FIV + felines can live long and prosperous lives. There are several sanctuaries for FIV + felines in the United States and some of them had offered support of the cats "rescued" by the Animal Humane Society last week.
Given that AHS housed these felines only a few days before killing them, it is unclear how it would have been possible to perform the diagnostic tests necessary to confirm the diseases referenced. Additionally, it unclear why AHS would not have offered simple treatment for these diseases if they were actually present. Furthermore, it is unclear why AHS would refuse to transfer these felines to other organizations in the area willing to provide treatment or management of these concerns.
Given that animals from more severe animal hoarding situations have been rescued where the animals were suffering from far more serious medical and behavior concerns than the felines taken from this home, it seems clear AHS had several options available to them that did not include killing these felines.
For all of these reasons, Animal Ark believes these deaths, more than 130 of them, were unnecessary. I personally believe AHS not only wasted the lives of these kitties, they squandered the good will of the community that was willing to aid in their care.
On top of that, AHS may have inadvertently exacerbated future problems with other animal hoarders, who often are suspicious of animal welfare organizations offering help for them and their animals. Fear their animals will be taken away sometime prevents these people from seeking help to even get their animals spayed or neutered. Now add "taken away and killed" to the list of their fears.
Yet, ironically, I also believe AHS helped to advance the no kill movement in the nation when they decided to kill those cats. Today, on Animal Wise Radio, Nathan Winograd stated that if Dixon ordered the killing of those cats that she should be fired.
Animal Welfare advocates in Minnesota and around the country are infuriated by these unnecessary deaths, yet they are hopeful that they may help bring to light many of the issues within animal shelters themselves that have resulted in unnecessary killing of animals.
Donate to Animal Ark in Memory of the St. Anthony Cats
Contact AHS and Express Your Feelings
Contact Your Favorite News Organization and Ask They Follow Up on This Story
Animal Wise Radio Interview with Nathan Winograd:
The interview is near the end of the first hour.
On 02/08/2011 par4long said: On 02/18/2009 Laura said: Alot of blame to go around;Get your facts right
Streff and Hanson are with the AHS. Shields is with the Minnesota Federated Humane Societies. They are NOT one in the same. There are many more differences, like MFHS has no payroll (AHS $6+ million) they use rescues and don't sell animals for profit OR euthanize animals.
On 02/23/2009 Ellen said: beside the point, Whitney
Hi, Whitney: I don't think what you're asking is really the point here. Yes, there are finite resources, though AHS has a multimillion dollar budget (unlike Ark). However, AHS constantly has empty cages at all of their sites. For instance, the St. Paul shelter used to house 60 large dogs, but has not had more than a dozen at a time for at least five years. Also, there were organizations contacting AHS as soon as they heard about this, to try to help these cats. Unfortunately, we now find out that they killed all these cats within a day of taking them in. They weren't going to allow other groups to help, obviously.
Yep, Ark usually has a waiting list. But if AHS were genuinely trying to go no-kill and working with other groups around the metro, we could use their efficiencies of scale to save a lot of lives we don't save now.
On 02/18/2009 Whitney said: Who's Better?
I am a lover of animals. I have an "aggressive" breed dog that no one wanted and I have a cat that was abandoned at a college party. They are my kids, I would fight for them, and I would do anything to keep them from having to feel pain.
My question is, what do you do with the "undesired" animals that are too sick to adopt out, or the cat that's been hit by a car? If I brought one of those animals to you I'm pretty sure you'd say there was no room, I didn't call first to schedule my submission. How easy it is to "not kill" an animal when the only ones you have room for are the ones that don't immediately need your help.
How do you justify that?
On 02/18/2009 Laura said: Alot of blame to go around
The AHS lied to the public and they will suffer for that when donors pull their support. They will be held accountable for their actions in this nightmare and it will cost them dearly from the comments on the Star Tribune web site. I do think we all need to take a long hard look at the so-called "humane investigators". These people had a history of hoarding cats, I think we need to hold Streff, Hanson, Shields and anyone else who has watched the 90 minute video and is considered a "humane investigator". Where were they??? Wouldn't common sense tell anyone with an ounce of intelligence that they would need to return from time to time to make sure they were not collecting cats? I understand one of these people has a conviction for animal cruelty, yet another reason to keep them in their crosshairs! We want to blame someone for this disaster, we want to hold people accountable. The AHS is part of the problem and I think there is plenty of blame to go around! It all starts with people who throw their beloved pet outside, unaltered, to fend for itself and ends with mass murder. Look between the two and there are plenty of organizations, agency's and individuals to blame. Maybe the rescue orgs will take the calls more seriously now rather than passing them off to another org. by saying they are full. We all have so much to learn from this...
On 02/17/2009 MP said: St. Anthony Cats
I emailed my disagreement with how this was handled and received a long email back from the HS which still did not justify what they did. As a former foster care for cats, we had a mother and two tiny kittens who all had upper res illness. One tiny kitten was not expected to live. We treated them, took care of them, and the tiny kitten became a member of our family and is almost 20 now. We also took in a foster cat who was very unsociable. He lunged at us, hissed at us, growled at us and would not let us near him. He had been abused. With time and love he gradually grew to trust and was placed in a forever home. He would have been killed at the humane society. I do not think they could, unilaterally decide all the cats could not be saved. It was totally a business decision. When business overrides humane compassion, we have lost everything.
On 02/17/2009 Eileen said: What happened to "humane"?
It almost seems as if AHS put the cats down just fast enough to avoid the situation of saying "no" to the no-kill organizations like Animal Ark who volunteered to take in the cats. That may have been a far worse publicity crisis for AHS. Now, they get to say the offers to help weren't fast enough and make it seem they were just too late. Oh, if only they'd called us sooner! Simply ridiculous!
Ethically, how can AHS tragically kill these defenseless cats KNOWING other organizations would call to help. Who are they to judge whether a person would want or not want an animal needing TLC? Certainly, AHS may not be able to house and treat a high number, but surely they KNOW where to turn for help. And they should...they are not lone crusaders.
The other forgotten impact AHS's decision has had is on the couple who housed the cats in the first place. It clearly wasn't a responsible choice for them, but one has to consider their fragile emotional state. That has to be adversely affected, now! Who'll take responsibility for that?
I'm just so deeply disappointed that AHS is not taking a stand for animals like they should. Yes, a no-kill mission is a big one that requires both money and volunteers and much more, but aren't we ethically and morally obligated to do what's right? This situation just didn't go right.
On 02/17/2009 Annetta Cepek said: Now what?
Sadly, I was not surprised, either, to read this. I am appalled, sad, angry...and I dont know what to do next. I am sick of AHS...we all know this isnt the first time.
FIV...there are homes and sanctuary situations for FIV. This was the most challenging illness mentioned, but people are working thru this daily
URI?..Come on...of course they have this and of course, its treatable
Ringworm? Uh..so? very, very treatable.
Dixons excuses are insulting and I have to wonder how many people are still believing her at this point.
So I am wondering why AHS was called first for this RESCUE????? How about holocaust????
What can we do now? What can we really DO to make an impact right now, so this is exposed, so that the people who manage this deathhouse will open their eyes and look around and see that money is leaving?
On 02/16/2009 Greg Watson said: What Can We Do? What Should We Do?
Obviously, it is too late to save these poor cats. What I'm interested in knowing is what do we do now? How do we protest these actions by the so-called
"Humane" Society. As someone pointed out, they seem to have all the power and answer to no one. How do we as concerned citizens voice our outrage? Start a letter writing / email campaign? Organize a protest? Contact our local political leaders? I'm interested to hear what others have to say. Something needs to be done. We cannot just remain silent and let this pass.
On 02/16/2009 Sandy Millerbernd said: Outraged
Exposing those sick cats/kittens to others? The wealthiest shelter in the state and they don't have an adequate quarantine area? But they have a multi-million dollar boarding facility at the airport? How can they be stopped, they have no one to answer to except the general puplic. The public put a stop to their inhumane way of euthanizing by gas. Maybe the public can do something again? Those animals can not speak for themselves. It is up to us.
On 02/16/2009 Mary Jo said: Shame on the AHS
I thought I had heard the news wrong I found it hard to believe that all the cats were euthanized. How incredibly sad. Shame on the AHS!! I have worked in animal clinics and agree that these cats were treatable. I now own a pet sitting business and will take my link to the AHS off and will no longer support them unless MS. Dixon is fired and this won't happen again. I also agree that this will make hoarding animals worse. People will not trust the AHS and other organizations.
On 02/16/2009 Shari T said: More questions than answers for the AHS
I am both sickened and saddened by this sequence of totally avoidable events. As an experienced cat rescuer who was one of the many who immediately volunteered to assist in this particular situation, I find myself with far more questions than answers and the unshakable feeling that the AHS couldn't wash their hands of this situation fast enough. Why else did they kill every single cat and kitten that came out of that trailer within 24-72 hours of taking them? What happened to the stated 2-3 weeks for evaluation? I can't fathom how they could have possibly evaluated each of them medically and from my own experience know absolutely they couldn't have evaluated them behaviorally.
My most recent hoarding experience was the Pahrump, Nevada 800 cat situation that Mike has previously mentioned. I worked closely with Best Friends and others on site in that horrific place in the desert and have seen almost every imaginable illness and behavior problem that comes from this type of animal abuse. I concur completely with what Mike has already said about the medical issues cited as a reason for the AHS's mass killing of these cats. I've had ringworm...no big deal and I've lived to tell about it.
I also have Pahrump cats currently in my care that are healthy, happy, loving companions that have overcome their health and behavioral issues...I'm confident that their situation was every bit as bad or worse than the one in St. Anthony.
Imagine the trauma these cats experienced during their "rescue" keeping in mind that they don't know they're being "rescued". All they know is the environment that they live in, good or bad, and any change to that is traumatic. People in scary Haz-Mat suits, gloves, and nets came in to their home, captured them, put them in cages and took them to a brightly lit scary place with cages and strangers. I dare say that my own spoiled, well socialized cats may have exhibited "issues" when presented with this scenario. It's my experience that it can take days or weeks for cats to settle down enough to get an accurate assessment of their level of socialization. What type of "testing" did AHS do on 130 cats in such a short period of time that led them to make such a bold assessment that they all needed to be killed?? I would like to see the parameters of such a test.
The biggest glaring question here is why did AHS ignore all offers of help from other groups??? It appears they returned no phone calls or emails from those in a position to help medically and behaviorally and instead accelerated their decision to kill all the cats! Why would any "responsible" agency do that?? I can not imagine unless they just did not want to be bothered with this situation. I would love to hear their response to that question.
It's time for those of us in Minnesota to demand some answers to these and other questions. AHS depends on our donations to fund their work so I think the public deserves answers other than those carefully crafted statements they like to feed to the media (who seems to swallow it hook, line and sinker). As a community we need to join the 21st century and embrace progressive methods of dealing with homeless animals in ways other than killing them. If other communities are successfully doing it, then why aren't we??
I say it's high time for Janelle Dixon and the current board to either participate in finding ways to reduce the killing (the term "euthanasia" is a cop out) or step aside and let others take the initiative. I will personally never support the AHS until that happens.
Please take the time to let them (and others) know what you think of their policies... Do not let these 130 cats die in vain. The AHS would probably like nothing more than for this situation to just quietly fade away.
On 02/16/2009 Colleen said: What a shame
I don't always agree with the Animal Ark or their policies but why didn't the AHS reach out to those groups and other shelters offering help and hope for these poor cats? I was told they would not be making a decision for about two weeks. It sickens and saddens my heart and soul that these cats were put to death thru no fault of thier own. They are at the bridge now, waiting for all of us who offered help and hope.... Ms. Dixon should be ashamed of herself and be removed!!! I will NEVER again support the AHS!
On 02/16/2009 CG said: Did the AHU Break State Law
Technically, these animals were not an owner surrender. They were confiscated correct? Doesn't State Law indicate they have to be held for so many days?
On 02/16/2009 Lyn Dornseif said: What were they thinking???
I am sickened by the AHS response to this situation when they had so many other options. It appears that they lied to the public, they turned their backs on the very animals that they are supposed to protect and they used their power inappropriately.
Who has the power to remove those responsible for this travesty from their positions? Something must be done to protect animals from this "humane society"
On 02/16/2009 Jill McIntee said: answers
I believe the AHS Director should respond to Mr. Fry's comments publicly. His points are valid. After reading the article, it seems like it was just too much trouble for her organization to deal with so she just had them all killed. Very disappointing Ms. Dixon.
On 02/16/2009 Jean said: It's like they doubled their efforts
I was amazed that cats were euthanized SO FAST. I don't know how long it takes to test for such diseases, but they had to be working round the clock to test and kill these animals so they could close off any opportunity to get these cats a chance.
It looks like they doubly determined to make sure these cats were destroyed despite all the offers to help. Their actions have a desperate feel. Reminds me of a child who covers his or her ears and vocalizes to avoid hearing anything.
If they had listened to what has been done (I'm thinking of the Pahrump cat rescue in Nevada), they would realized that things can be done differently.
Very sad day for the animals.
On 02/16/2009 debI said: Contated the AHS
I too contacted the AHS on Friday February 13. I was told the cats would be evaluated and tested for 2-3 weeks before a determination could be made about adoption and care. I offered to help find funding and other sources for securing homes and aid for these felines only to be told to call back in 2-3 weeks after AHS's evaluations had been completed.
I was shocked to learn of their deaths this morning.
What can we do about this situation and prevent future needless loss of life?
On 02/16/2009 sb said: What the F##&#$ H#@$ is wrong with AHS ?
and I can’t believe more cat lovers haven’t absolutely flipped over this. I don’t consider myself a “cat” person but the killing of these poor unfortunate cats that were so-called rescued by the so-called “humane” society is not only ridiculous but dim-witted. This situation could have been the perfect opportunity for AHS to open its heart, mind and arms and ask the public for help. I am certain they would have gained new supporters, regained some old ones and forged a new cooperative union with many rescue organizations. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this a 10 for STUPID.
On 02/16/2009 Marilyn Petrich said: AHS Killing Rescued Cats
I was appalled that the AHS killed all of the cats rescued from St. Anthony. I listened to the director giving her rationale and it was all about not spending money. Having volunteered at a no kill shelter, I am well aware that the diseases mentioned were very treatable. I will no longer support the AHS.