Ally's Last Ride Lands Her in a Death Trap Set by an Uncaring and Irresponsible Supermarket Chain and a Bargain Basement Shelter
"The people at Albertsons didn't think she was in the truck for long, but we think she was. Cats hide in amazing places, so she could've gone unnoticed for a long time."
-- Billings Animal Control Officer Nancy Lindstrom
Another cat has fallen victim to a corporate giant that puts profits ahead of compassion and an animal shelter that scrimps on veterinary care. On this latest occasion it was a rare ten-year-old Snowshoe Siamese named Ally and the perpetrators responsible for her untimely demise were the Boise-based retailer Albertsons, which operates hundreds of supermarkets out west and across the south, and Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter (YVAS) of Billings, Montana.
It is not known where Ally hailed from but because of her pedigree it is highly probable that she at one time had a home. Tragically, it is a good bet that there is a brokenhearted individual out there somewhere who is grieving for her to make a miraculous return.
The only thing known for certain is that she arrived in Billings early on March 3rd in the back of one of Albertsons' delivery trucks from Salt Lake City. Workmen unloading the truck discovered her presence and contacted Animal Control Officer Nancy Lindstrom who came and collected the badly injured cat and took her to YVAS.
"I was expecting a cat in bad, bad shape. She appeared that way but she hissed at me and growled at me," she told the Billings Gazette on March 3rd. (See "Cat That Survived Long Truck Ride Recovering at Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter.") "When I got back to (the) shelter, I opened up the box and I was talking to her, and she let out a tiny meow. Feral cats won't meow at you."
Actually, Ally was in far worse shape that either Lindstrom or anyone else realized at that time. She had sustained unspecified injuries to her back and had possibly a broken hip, both of which would be consistent with having a heavy object dropped on top of her.
She also was famished and dehydrated which would tend to indicate that she had been trapped in the truck for an extended period of time. Not only has Albertsons refuted that claim but it has ordered its employees not to discuss Ally at all with outsiders.
"The people at Albertsons didn't think she was in the truck for long, but we think she was," Lindstrom told the Gazette in the article cited supra. "Cats hide in amazing places, so she could've gone unnoticed for a long time."
Since Billings is only about a seven-hour drive north of Salt Lake City (622 kilometers), that is far too short of an interval for Ally to have become dehydrated and famished unless she already was in that conditions and did indeed hop on board in Salt Lake City. Moreover, cats trapped in delivery trucks have endured significantly lengthier confinements and emerged from their ordeals in far better shape than Ally.
For instance, in 2006 a four-year-old longhaired cat named Neo accidentally spent five days trapped in one of Golden Van Lines' vehicles on an eleven-hundred-seventy-three kilometer trip from Crowley, Texas, to Longmont, Colorado. Company vice president Mike McCarthy and his staff tracked down his owners, Amos and Sonja Gaines, and flew Neo back to Crowley via American Airlines. (See Cat Defender post of November 6, 2006 entitled "Trapped in a Moving Van for Five Days, Texas Cat Named Neo Is Finally Freed in Colorado.")
Later in 2008, a ten-day-old black and white kitten named Ronaldo survived a three-day trip by truck from Portugal to Northamptonshire. Like Ally, he arrived famished and dehydrated but any kitten deprived of its mother's milk for such a long time would have arrived in the same condition. (See Cat Defender post of August 18, 2008 entitled "Ronaldo Escapes Death after Retailer Coughs Up the Exorbitant Bounty That Quarantine Officials Had Placed on His Head.")
Even more disturbing, it also is likely that one of Albertsons' employees somewhere along the way was responsible for Ally's back and hip injuries. Furthermore, if one of them had dropped a pallet on her it is likely that she would have cried out in pain and run for cover.
It therefore is not only clear that someone at Albertsons is lying but an employee also knowingly left Ally to suffer all alone from the injuries that either he or she so callously inflicted. Although there are plenty of exceptions to the rule, delivery drivers and and warehouse personnel generally are not known for their humane treatment of cats. (See Cat Defender post of April 8, 2010 entitled "Frozen Food Purveyor Knowingly Condemns Frosty to Spend Five Weeks in Its -28 Degree Fahrenheit Warehouse Without Either Food or Water.")
Upon arrival at YVAS, Chris Anderson had Ally, shorthand for Albertsons, examined by a veterinarian and then placed in a warm cage. She was given plenty of food and water and since she had a good appetite it looked for a while that she was going to make a complete recovery.
In fact, Anderson even had made tentative plans to either put her up for adoption or to keep her around as an office mascot. (See photo above of Ally and her.)
For reasons that are not exactly clear, YVAS did an abrupt about-face and immediately placed Ally in foster care. Two days later on March 5th she became anemic and was returned to YVAS.
Blood tests performed by a veterinarian disclosed that she had contracted an unidentified parasite that normally is not found in Montana. She was given antibiotics and returned to foster care where at 7 a.m. on March 9th she sadly died.
Because of the Gazette's elliptical reporting, it is not possible to say with any certainty what exactly killed Ally. It does seem rather strange, however, that a cat with back injuries, a broken hip, and a deadly parasite in her system would be so quickly placed in foster care.
Considering the extent of her health problems, she needed around-the-clock veterinary care. In particular, an emergency blood transfusion may have been warranted in order to have stabilized her anemia.
It also is conceivable that the attending veterinarian inadvertently hastened her demise by administering a lethal cocktail of drugs designed to alleviate her multiple maladies. Ally's system may not have been strong enough to have dealt with the parasite, a broken hip, and back injuries after all that she had been put through recently.
This case bears a striking resemblance to that of a kitten named Malli who arrived in Cleveland following a lengthy sea voyage from Malaysia in 2008. In that case, he seemed to be doing fine until he was released into foster care. (See Cat Defender posts of March 21, 2008 and April 25, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Malli Survives a Thirty-Two-Day Voyage from Johor Bahru to Cleveland Trapped Inside a Shipping Crate" and "After Surviving a Lengthy and Hellish Confinement at Sea, Malli Dies Unexpectedly in Foster Care.")
Despite her glaring lack of attentiveness, Anderson already has shrugged off Ally's death. "The last three or four days of her life, we know that she was well cared for, well fed, watered, and warm," she crowed to the Billings Gazette on March 10th. (See "Parasite Deadly for Stowaway Cat.")
That is not good enough. Acts of beau geste accompanied by the usual platitudes and self-serving rationalizations do not save lives.
Admittedly, money, space, and expertise are always in short supply when it comes to rescuing cats. Nevertheless, half-hearted veterinary care is totally inexcusable; closeness only counts when pitching horseshoes.
Cats that have undergone extended periods of deprivation, such as those trapped in delivery trucks and the cargo holds of ships, require special attention and monitoring. Anyone who is either too lazy or cheap to provide such care does not have any business being either a veterinarian or operating a shelter.
It also is revealing that YVAS rebuffed numerous entreaties not only from local residents but from concerned cat-lovers as faraway as Salt Lake City, Connecticut, and Georgia to both adopt Ally and to foot the bill for her veterinary care. That is not the least bit surprising in that Snowshoe Siamese cats are not only expensive and attractive, but affectionate, vocal, and intelligent as well. They additionally get along well with children and dogs.
The breed, which only has been in existence for about forty-five years, was started by Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty of Philadelphia by breeding Seal Point Siamese to bicolor American Shorthairs. Today, Snowshoes are bred to Snowshoes but reproducing the desired markings is a difficult task and that accounts for their rarity.
Considering the numerous funding options available to it, YVAS therefore does not have a valid excuse for scrimping on Ally's care by fobbing her off to a foster home. Now that it is too late to either save her life or to take advantage of those offers, YVAS is badgering the public to cover the outstanding balance due on Ally's veterinary bill.
There are not any heroes in this story. Both Albertsons and YVAS failed Ally miserably. If either of them had acted promptly, humanely, and with compassion there is a good chance that this lovely female would still be alive today. As it is, her premature death is a shame that borders on criminality.
"She wants to live," Anderson said of Ally in the March 3rd article cited supra. "She wants to live in the worst way."
Sometimes wanting to live is not enough, however. Mistreated, abandoned, and sickly cats require compassion from the business community and competent veterinary care from shelters.
Following her death Ally's corpse most likely was either unceremoniously tossed out with the trash or burned. Her existence already most likely has been forgotten by both Albertsons and YVAS.
This world is chock-full of Allys, however, and they are going to continue to turn up at both businesses and shelters alike. It would be comforting to believe that the next wayward feline would be treated differently but that would be to engage in wishful thinking.
Photo: Larry Mayer of the Billings Gazette.