A Family in Wiltshire Turns to Social Media and Leaflets in Order to Shame a Veterinary Chain and a Foster Parent into Returning Tazzy
"We acted in the best interests of the cat and always put its welfare as a priority. We provided all the necessary treatment and, after a reasonable time, with no owner coming forward, we arranged to rehome the cat."
-- Alasdair Moore of Bath Veterinary Group
Of all the myriad of ways in which to lose custody of a beloved cat, to have him confiscated by a veterinary chain and given to a third party has to be one of the most outrageous. Nevertheless, that is precisely what recently happened to Richard Smith and his nineteen-year-old son, Rowan, of Primrose Drive in Melksham, nineteen kilometers south of Bath in Wiltshire.
On March 24th, their seventeen-year-old oriental-spotted cat, Tazzy, mysteriously disappeared only to later turn up unbeknownst to them injured, unconscious, and shivering at Clackers Brook, a scant one-hundred-fifty yards from home. His unidentified rescuer took him to Chapel Surgery on Forest Road in Melksham which in turn fobbed him off onto its parent company, Bath Veterinary Group (BVG), which operates several surgeries in and around Bath.
It has not been disclosed either what was ailing Tazzy or how he came to wind up at Clackers Brook. All that is known for certain is that as soon as he recovered he was placed in foster care with Joe Fenton of Ashley Avenue in Bath.
While all of that was occurring the Smiths were working the telephones and combing their neighborhood in an effort to locate him. Their efforts eventually bore fruit but it is unclear just how long it took them to locate Tazzy and that is a crucial point in this inquiry.
According to the elder Smith, once he contacted BVG it readily acknowledged treating Tazzy and promised that he would be returned to him and his son before the end of the day. In the interim, however, Fenton telephoned Rowan and nixed the deal.
"He accused us of abusing the cat," the elder Smith told the Wiltshire Times on April 28th. (See "Missing Tazzy Given to Foster Carer after Being Discovered Unconscious and Shivering.") "Basically, he said we're not getting the cat back."
When Smith reported this outrage to BVG he was shocked to learn that the surgeons had done an abrupt about-face and now were solidly in Fenton's corner. "What I didn't like was that the vets seemed to want to wash their hands of it very, very quickly and that aggravated the situation," he added.
For its part, BVG blames the Smiths for failing to demonstrate a timely interest in reclaiming Tazzy. "We acted in the best interests of the cat and always put its welfare as a priority," the organization's Alasdair Moore wrote to them in a letter. "We provided all the necessary treatment and, after a reasonable time, with no owner coming forward, we arranged to rehome the cat."
Moore's blanket exoneration of his surgery raises more questions than it answers. First of all, when did Tazzy arrive at BVG and, more importantly, when did the Smiths contact the surgery?
|Rowan and Richard Smith Searching for Tazzy|
In that respect, it is imperative that "a reasonable time" be defined in concrete terms. Since most shelters around the world are legally bound to hold all impounded animals for three days or longer before either killing or adopting them out, surgeons should be held to comparable legal constraints. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to dispose of any animal, domesticated, homeless, injured, sickly, or otherwise, as they see fit.
There also is a huge difference between placing a cat in foster care and rehoming it. Although foster parents sometimes take a liking to a particular cat and therefore would like to hold on to it, that is not always a valid legal argument.
In spite of the unassailable fact the Smiths never at any time relinquished their ownership of Tazzy, BVG continued to obdurately maintain that it was justified in giving him to Fenton. "Vets are not in a position to decide on a matter of ownership," Moore had the insolence to lecture the Smiths in the letter cited supra. "We therefore cannot offer any more help in resolving the situation and suggest you seek your own legal advice."
As it was to be expected, Fenton was in full agreement with BVG. "If Mr. Smith believes there has been any wrongdoing, he should report it to the police and go down the proper sources," he threw down the gauntlet in the Wilthire Times' article cited supra.
For whatever reason, cost most likely, the Smiths declined that option and instead brought the matter to the attention of the RSPCA. Although it has not been publicly disclosed how that organization responded, it is doubtful that it provided any worthwhile assistance, especially considering the extraordinary lengths that it is prepared to go in order to not only steal but to kill cats with impunity. (See Cat Defender posts of June 5, 2007 and October 23, 2010 entitled, respectively, "RSPCA's Unlawful Seizure and Senseless Killing of Mork Leaves His Sister, Mindy, Brokenhearted and His Caretakers Devastated" and "RSPCA Steals and Executes Nightshift Who Was His Elderly Caretaker's Last Surviving Link to Her Dead Husband.")
They next turned to Facebook and Twitter in order to expose and denounce both BVG and Fenton. That was followed up by extensive fly-posting in Bath.
The pen apparently is indeed mightier than both the sword and the pocketbook because on May 12th Fenton wilted under the Smiths' public relations barrage and threw in the towel by returning Tazzy to BVG. Stung by all the bad publicity and not about to feed and shelter Tazzy without recompense, BVG shortly thereafter returned him to his rightful owners.
"I'm so pleased he's back with us," Smith told the Wiltshire Times on May 13th. (See "Tazzy Cat Home at Last.") "We're much happier."
He and BVG also appear to have buried the hatchet. "We'd like to thank everyone involved, particularly the person who found Tazzy and the vets for their help on the positive side of things," he added.
|Tazzy Is Reunited with Rowan Smith and, Presumably, His Brother|
As for Tazzy, he reportedly is doing well and has settled back into his old routine. Nevertheless, being injured, rescued, and shuttled back and forth between BVG and Fenton was quite an ordeal for a senior cat to endure.
It has not been disclosed who picked up Tazzy's not inconsiderable veterinary tab but it is assumed that the Smiths and BVG reached some sort of amicable compromise.
BVG's callous and totally irresponsible behavior should not come as any surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the total lack of scruples displayed by the majority of practicing veterinarians. Chiefly among these is the profession's steadfast refusal in most circumstances to minister to homeless animals and the companions of the impecunious. (See Cat Defender post of July 16, 2010 entitled "Tossed Out the Window of a Car Like an Empty Beer Can, Injured Chattanooga Kitten Is Left to Die after at Least Two Veterinarians Refused to Treat It.")
To put the matter in its proper perspective, if MDs were allowed to do likewise the streets would be overflowing with the corpses of both poor children and adults. It thus seems clear from their callous behavior that most veterinarians have little or no respect for the sanctity of all animal life.
That point is buttressed by the eagerness of small animal veterinarians to serve as the hired guns of shelters, rescue groups, and pet owners unwilling to care for elderly and sick animals. (See Cat Defender posts of December 22, 2011 and May 12, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Rogue TNR Practitioner and Three Unscrupulous Veterinarians Kill at Least Sixty-Two Cats with the Complicity of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals" and "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned.")
In that regard, it actually is highly commendable that BVG chose to treat and rehome Tazzy, presumably, free of charge. If he instead had wound up at Blythman Partners in the Gosforth section of Newcastle-upon-Tyne the outcome likely would have been altogether different.
For example, on October 13th of last year, Beverley Hume allowed her twenty-five-year-old cat, Ginger, out into her garden to play where he shortly thereafter was abducted by an unidentified local resident who delivered him to the Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter on Benton Road. The shelter then gave him to Blythman which promptly snuffed out his life because he allegedly was thin and in pain as well as being old.
"Ginger was put down without consent, without giving us a chance to find him," a brokenhearted Hume later lamented. "We should have been given at least twenty-four hours to find him. We believe our rights have been taken away by the vets."
Instead, Ginger was dead a scant three hours after Hume last saw him. (See Cat Defender post of January 11, 2012 entitled "A Deadly Intrigue Concocted by a Thief, a Shelter, and a Veterinary Chain Costs Ginger the Continued Enjoyment of His Golden Years.")
Incompetence and malpractice are rampant within the profession and tolerated only because pet owners and others are too cheap and uncaring themselves in order to hold these charlatans accountable in a court of law. Some veterinarians are so incompetent that they even botch routine sterilizations and allow cats to escape through open windows. (See Cat Defender post of July 2, 2010 entitled "Lexi Was By No Means the First Cat to Be Lost by Woosehill Vets Any More Than Angel Was Their Last Victim of a Botched Sterilization.")
The profession likewise does not have any qualms about implanting cancer-causing microchips in cats and dogs and in that regard BVG even has made a convert out of the elder Smith. "We really want to make people aware that getting your animal chipped is not just a case of finding your pet when they've (sic) run way, but would have stopped the problems we had," he bellowed with all the fervor of an acolyte to the Wiltshire Times in the May 13th article cited supra.
Practitioners also make a mint by administering all sorts of unnecessary vaccinations that sometimes lead to the onset of injection-site sarcomas. Their cozy relationship with pet food purveyors also presents them with a golden opportunity to sicken perfectly healthy animals by fobbing off on their gullible owners unhealthy products. The veterinarians then turn around and cash in a second time once they are called upon to treat the same animals that they deliberately sickened in the first place.
Professional oversight bodies, such as state veterinary boards, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and the Conseil de l'Ordre des vétérinaires, are little more than pompous, highfalutin shills for a thoroughly corrupt and immoral profession. (See Cat Defender posts of June 17, 2010 and January 19, 2012 entitled, respectively, "Veterinarian Gets Away with Almost Killing Felix but Is Nailed by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for Not Paying Her Dues" and "Veterinary Watchdog Group Not Only Allows an Incompetent Substitute Practitioner to Get Away with Killing Junior but Scolds His Owner for Complaining.")
The profession also works hand in glove with vivisectors, factory farmers, and slaughterhouses in the commission of crimes that are so gargantuan and diabolical that they even dwarf the practice of genocide. Other practitioners lend their expertise to those individuals and businesses that nakedly exploit racehorses, camels, sled dogs, and Greyhounds for profit. Veterinarians also are guilty of aiding and abetting circuses, zoos, captive-breeding facilities, and the entertainment industry in enslaving and exploiting both exotic and domestic cats.
In the final analysis, there is precious little to be said about the practice of veterinary medicine that is complimentary. While it is true that major advancements have been made of late in the discipline that enable knowledgeable pet owners with deep pockets to sometimes procure expert care for their sick and injured companions, on the whole the profession kills and abuses far more animals than it treats and saves. As such, veterinarians are the archenemies of all those who truly love and care about animals.
BVG's mistakes in judgment aside, the question of what responsible and caring individuals should do with cats that they rescue from the street is a good deal more involved. That is especially the case if they suspect that one of them has been either neglected or abused.
For example, in February of 2010, Tom Neville of San Francisco rescued a pug-nosed Himalayan named Samantha who had matted fur and was covered in fleas in sores. Worst still, she was tied up and left all alone underneath a freeway overpass at a makeshift homeless camp where she was being menaced by dogs.
|Giroux and Guay with Letter|
He admittedly rakes in $975 from Social Security each month and that alone is more than sufficient for him to put a roof over both his and Samantha's heads. On top of that, he has his take from panhandling and Food Stamps. Soup kitchens abound in the "sewer by the bay" and groups such as Food Not Bombs hand out free victuals in the street every day. Clothing also is free and plentiful.
Neville, quite obviously, did not want to contend with Harlan and his supporters but it is difficult to understand how his decision was in Samantha's best interests. (See Cat Defender post of March 2, 2012 entitled "Homeless Man in Washington State Pauses in Order to Take a Snooze and It Ends Up Costing Him His Beloved Cat, Herman.")
Rightly or wrongly, an unidentified woman in Ottawa chose to do the exact opposite when she rescued a seventeen-year-old longhaired tuxedo without a tail named Slim in 2007. That was in spite of the fact that the cat was wearing a collar with a tag.
Because Slim was hungry and thin, his fur matted and dirty, and his body covered in sores, she concluded that his owners, Michel Giroux and Tanya Guay, were guilty of neglecting him and therefore unfit guardians. Instead of returning him she sent them a defiant, anonymous letter.
"Obviously, I have no intention of returning him to the city streets to be neglected again," she informed them in no uncertain terms. "If you really do care about his well-being, you'll be happy that he now lives a safe, sweet, peaceful, happy life."
Slim's rescuer concluded by stating that he now was living in the country by a lake, eating all-natural cat food, and had a girlfriend. Above all, she declared that he was "incredibly happy and healthy."
To say that Giroux did not appreciate either the woman's thievery or patronizing attitude would be a gross understatement. "Who does this person think she is to decide this cat is neglected?" he fumed. "This person has taken it upon themselves (sic) to think that they have saved a cat when in point of fact, this cat is not neglected and he's loved and we just want him home."
Adopted from a shelter when he was only three-months-old, Slim had been allowed by Giroux and Guay to roam the streets all of his life. He often would stay away from home for two or three days during which time neighbors would feed him. As far as it could be ascertained, his only previous misadventure involved losing his tail.
"This watching the sun set while eating organic cat food -- I don't really think this is his thing," Giroux scoffed. Rather, he fervently believes that Slim would be happiest roaming the streets of Ottawa.
The debate over whether cats should be allowed outside is every bit as much of a philosophical one as it is an animal welfare issue. Specifically, whereas some individuals consider it negligent for owners to allow cats outdoors, others feel just as strongly that it is cruel and inhumane to imprison them inside as lifelong couch potatoes. Being a proponent of either policy does not necessarily make an individual an unfit guardian and it certainly does not constitute valid grounds for stealing a cat.
Besides, cats escape from houses and pet carriers all the time and few individuals would dare to declare their owners to be unfit guardians. For instance in September of 2004, a Russian Blue named Oliver disappeared from Chavissa Woods' walk-up apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was found by an unidentified person who delivered him to KittyKind on Union Square where he subsequently was adopted by a female attorney identified only as Jane Doe who changed his name to Gatsby.
Woods somehow traced Oliver Gatsby to KittyKind and then filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan in an effort to force the charity to reveal Jane Doe's real name and address. By that time the attorney had been caring for him for more than a year and, quite understandably, did not want to relinquish custody.
At first, she contended that Woods was an unfit guardian because she had been out of town when her blind roommate carelessly had allowed Oliver to escape. She ultimately elected to abandon the fight and Oliver eventually was, for better or worse, returned to Woods. (See Cat Defender post of January 3, 2006 entitled "Manhattan Court to Rely Upon 1894 Dog Law to Decide Custody over a Russian Blue Cat Named Oliver Gatsby.")
Kindhearted individuals who care about cats should be encouraged to feed, water, shelter, and medicate those that turn up on their doorsteps. They also should keep an eye out for Lost Cat posters and, if a match is found, normally return the cat to its rightful owner.
If, on the other hand, there is evidence of abuse and neglect, rescuers need to take it upon themselves to surreptitiously investigate the cat's owners in an effort to determine if returning it would be advisable. In most cases, however, insufficient information is available in order to make such a determination.
Consequently, the decision to either keep or return a cat most often boils down to intuition. In that respect, rescuers need to be mindful that there occasionally can be some rather costly legal repercussions involved in seizing someone else's cat.
Be that as it may, under absolutely no circumstances should lost cats be turned over to Animal Control officers, shelters, rescue groups, and veterinarians because none of them can be trusted to respect the sanctity of feline life. Despite the numerous complications involved in rescuing a cat, all moral responsibility, like charity, begins at home and cannot under any circumstances be delegated.
As far as the Smiths are concerned, there simply is not not enough information available in the public record in order to make a proper determination as to their worthiness to be entrusted with Tazzy's life. If however they are banking on an implanted microchip in order to compensate for their lack of attentiveness they are destined to be sadly disappointed because that technology only comes into play whenever a lost cat is delivered alive and breathing to either a shelter or a veterinarian that is willing and skilled enough to look for and properly read them.
Above all, once a cat disappears time is of the essence and an owner must act promptly, decisively, and intelligently. On this particular occasion, the Smiths got away with dilly-dallying around but next time neither they nor Tazzy may be quite so lucky.
Photos: the Wiltshire Times (Tazzy, Smiths with cage and Tazzy), Tanya Guay (Slim), A.D. Wilson of the Ottawa Sun (Giroux and Guay), and Chavissa Woods (Oliver Gatsby).