A Supposedly No-Kill Operation in Marblehead Betrays Sally and Snuffs Out Her Life Instead of Providing Her with a Home and Veterinary Care
Animal Control Officer Betsy Cruger at Sally's Memorial
"Do you know what love is? I'll tell you: it is whatever you can still betray."
-- John le Carré
Forced to spend their brief sojourns upon this earth trapped in an inescapable web of intrigue spun by killers, exploiters, and false-hearted friends, it is virtually impossible for any cat to ever come out on top. This simply outrageous lack of respect for their inalienable rights as sentient citizens of this planet manifests itself in a myriad of different ways but perhaps is nowhere more poignantly reflected than in the duplicitous behavior of rescue groups, especially those that falsely claim to be no-kill.
In Marblehead, Massachusetts, twenty-six kilometers north of Boston, a gray cat named Sally lived her entire sixteen years in back of the Friends of Marblehead's Abandoned Animals' (FMAA) shelter at 44 Village Street. During that period, FMAA and the Marblehead Animal Control Department, which is a division of the Marblehead Police Department, provided her with a bare minimum of care that included only food and water.
Despite Massachusetts' deadly cold and snowy winters she was forced to tough it out in a pile of rocks behind the shelter. Although it would have been simple and easy enough for FMAA and Animal Control to have built her a shelter and furnished it with heat, both groups were too cheap, lazy, and uncaring to do even that.
Rather, they appear to have derived a certain amount of perverse pleasure in seeing just how many deprivations that she could endure and yet somehow still manage to survive. Half-hearted, insincere inquiries such as "Had anyone seen Sally?" seem to have been pretty much the outer limit of their concern for her welfare. (See Marblehead Patch, July 9, 2012, "A Fond Farewell to a Furry Friend.")
In spite of both groups' gross dereliction of duty, Sally amazingly made it through quite a few of Massachusetts' rugged winters and that is a claim that not too many homeless cats are able to make. For example, a thirteen-year-old tuxedo named Annie from Norfolk, thirty-four kilometers outside of Boston, came with a hairbreadth of freezing to death a few years back when she became stranded outdoors in a blizzard. (See Cat Defender post of January 21, 2010 entitled "Trapped Outdoors in a Snowstorm, Annie Is Brought Back from the Dead by the Compassion of a Good Samaritan and an Animal Control Officer.")
Sally's physical safety was another grave concern that neither group was willing to address. In particular, since her den was located near busy Village Street it is a wonder that she was not run down and killed by a motorist.
Additionally, there is not anything in the record to indicate that she even was provided with veterinary care. That oversight was exacerbated by the shelter's refusal to socialize her which in turn meant that no one was able to get close enough to her in order to remove the parasites from her fur and to attend to minor injuries.
Her lack of socialization likewise made it virtually impossible for FMAA to adopt her out even if it had been willing to have made the effort. Overall, the shelter and Animal Control seem to have been content to keep her at a distance.
She was a feral cat who would come when called, according to Betsy Cruger, one of the city's Animal Control officers, but that is as far as her domestication ever progressed.
The attitude of both FMAA and Animal Control can best be summed up as one of benign neglect coupled with a self-righteous, egomaniacal belief that they were doing her a tremendous service by simply feeding and watering her. As things eventually turned out, callous indifference, notorious neglect, and a morbid curiosity concerning her welfare, were the least that she had to fear from them.
As they grown older cats need an easier lifestyle and access to topnotch medical care. If either of those essential elements are lacking they are not going to survive for very long because sooner or later all animals, man included, need the assistance of others as well as the wonder drugs and surgical interventions that only modern medicine can provide.
In spite of those obviously pressing needs, Sally's caretakers did absolutely nothing in order to make her life any more comfortable. Sometime in late April she suffered a stroke and instead of providing her with the emergency veterinary care that she so desperately needed and richly deserved, FMAA and Animal Control immediately had her killed off by an unidentified local veterinarian.
Since her caretakers were so unwilling to provide her with shelter, veterinary care, socialization, and a permanent home while she was young and healthy it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that they were not about to care for her once she became old and sickly. That is in spite of the fact that strokes in cats are not nearly as serious as those that their human counterparts suffer and are, above all, preeminently treatable.
Admittedly, feline strokes are not only scary but painful to witness. Immobility, a wobbly gait, lethargy, vomiting, a loss of appetite, abrupt changes in behavior, and a precipitate drop in body temperature are just a few of the observable symptoms.
A cat in the throes of a seizure may appear at first to have given up the ghost but that is rarely the case. Instead of tossing it out in the rubbish, it needs to be kept warm, provided with plenty of food and water so as to keep its vital organs functioning, and proper sanitary standards maintained because it will be unable to use a litter box under such circumstances. In particular, it needs to be turned often in order to prevent urine scalding.
An elaborate series of diagnostic tests are required in order to determine if indeed a cat has suffered a stroke in the first place and whether it is ischemic or hemorrhagic in nature. The victim's medical history is first examined followed usually by blood, fecal, and thyroid tests, a urinalysis, and an x-ray. None of those tests are conclusive, however, and for absolute certainty either a CT scan or an MRI is required.
Sedatives, antiemetics, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and anti-seizure medication are used to treat the attack itself. Dealing with the underlying cause is a good deal more complicated.
Heart disease and Hyperthyroidism are two of the more common causes of feline strokes but they also can be triggered by trauma, diabetes, hypertension, blood clots, and kidney problems. In spite of the wealth of diagnostic tools available, sometimes the cause remains idiopathic.
Cats generally begin to show signs of recovery within seventy-two hours after treatment has been initiated and most return to normal within two to three weeks although some victims may continue to experience difficulties walking. Best of all, these attacks usually do not reoccur.
Clearly, Sally did not have to die and in all likelihood still would be alive today if FMAA and Animal Control had been willing to have taken her to a competent veterinarian for treatment. She might even have pulled through on her own with home remedies if FMAA had been willing to have cared for her.
Worst still, what happened to Sally is more or less the norm with feline stroke victims. For example, on December 16th of last year Brian Burgess of Sandyford in Staffordshire callously had his sixteen-year-old cat killed off by a veterinarian after she, too, had suffered a stroke.
Just as FMAA and Animal Control turned their backs on Sally in her hour of greatest need, he, too, apparently never even considered for so much as a split second summoning emergency veterinary care for her. "Do I take her home and watch her die in agony, take her down to the canal with a brick around her neck, or simply belt her across the head with a hammer?" is how he delineated the range of alternatives that coursed through his perverted gourd to The Sentinel of Stoke and Staffordshire on January 10th. (See "£141 Put My Pet Cat to Sleep.")
The No-Kill Death House in Marblehead
Equally disturbing, without either a CT scan or an MRI neither FMAA and Animal Control nor Burgess could have been absolutely certain that their cats even had suffered strokes. The tremendous haste that both parties demonstrated in getting rid of their cats strongly suggests that they view members of the species as little more than inanimate objects, such as a pair of broken-down shoes, to be discarded as quickly and as inexpensively as possible once they cease to perform up to expectations.
Even more outrageous than categorically refusing to provide Sally with prompt veterinary care was the way in which FMAA and Animal Control exploited her weakened condition and betrayed her trust. Specifically, even before she suffered the stroke she had begun to lose weight and to weaken and therefore unwittingly consented to allow staffers to handle her. She even was able to overcome her trepidations long enough in order to venture into the basement where she reclined on a blanket.
That is what ultimately proved to be her undoing because instead of exploiting her vulnerability in order to treat her, FMAA did just the opposite and had her killed. Acts of betrayal supposedly committed in the name of love bring to mind a profound conversation that takes place in John le Carré's 1965 novel, The Looking Glass War.
"Do you know what love is?" veteran spy Adrian Haldane asks neophyte John Avery. "I'll tell you: it is whatever you can still betray."
A handsome black-reddish-brown and white tom named Marvin lived most of his sixteen years on this earth in a parking lot on Stone Pine Road in Half Moon Bay, California, and likely still would be alive today if he had not committed the same fatal faux pas as Sally. In his case, he unwittingly placed his trust in the hands of a no-good, rotten journalist named Jane Ganahl who in turn sold him down the river to the knackers at the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo. (See Cat Defender post of September 28, 2011 entitled "Marvin Is Betrayed, Abducted, and Murdered by a Journalist and a Shelter Who Preposterously Maintain That They Were Doing Him a Favor.")
In what ultimately turned out to be the culmination of a lifetime of abandonments and betrayals, Bill Clinton's cat, Socks, met with a similar fate. (See Cat Defender post of March 12, 2009 entitled "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned.")
Even her international fame was not enough to ensure that a brave, heroic, and long-suffering female named Scarlett would be allowed to make her quietus on her own terms. (See Cat Defender post of October 27, 2008 entitled "Loved and Admired All Over the World, Feline Heroine Scarlett Is Killed Off by Her Owner after She Becomes Ill.")
Both their advanced years and declining health made Sally and Marvin amenable to the siren call of domestication but they, like all homeless cats, are ill-prepared to deal with the machinations and deadly intrigues that accompany such an abrupt change in lifestyle. That alone makes socialization a double-edged sword.
In addition to living under the constant threat of being betrayed by those that they have come to trust, homeless cats are more susceptible to other forms of abuse once they lose their fear of humans. On the positive side of the ledger, socialization makes them candidates for adoption and also allows their caretakers to treat minor ailments.
There is not any easy solution to this dilemma but generally speaking socialization should only be undertaken as a prelude to adoption. That is because a healthy fear of humans is beneficial for cats that are forced to live outdoors and without the protection of full-time guardians.
After betraying and extirpating Sally, FMAA and Animal Control established a simple memorial out back that consists of her feeding dish, a photograph, and her cremated ashes. For the sake of appearances, staffers from both agencies parted with a few crocodile tears.
The icing on the cake, however, is FMAA's declaration on its web site, in bold lettering no less, that "We are truly a no-kill shelter." In support of that avowal, it claims to have found homes for one-hundred-seventy-two cats, ten dogs, two guinea pigs, eight birds, one ferret, and five rabbits during 2011.
Since it did not think so much as twice about killing Sally it is obviously lying about being a no-kill operation. Therefore, its adoption statistics are meaningless without a detailed accounting of all the animals that it and Animal Control picks up and kills.
While it is remotely conceivable that there could be some no-kill shelters that operate on the level, the vast majority of them are complete frauds. That is because to falsely claim to be no-kill is not only a perversion of language but blatantly dishonest as well. Secondly, they have so many hidden exceptions in place so as to make the no-kill designation totally meaningless.
For example, the Benicia Vallejo Humane Society (BVHS), located west of San Francisco, lays claim to that lofty status while simultaneously fobbing off all animals that it considers to be unadoptable to Solano County Animal Control in Fairfield to kill.
Kitty City in La Luz, New Mexico, likewise claims to be a no-kill operation but yet it only takes in cats that Animal Control in Alamogordo arbitrarily designates as being adoptable; the remainder are summarily slaughtered. (See Cat Defender post of July 29, 2010 entitled "Benicia Vallejo Humane Society Is Outsourcing the Mass Killing of Kittens and Cats All the While Masquerading as a No-Kill Shelter.")
Every bit as odious and pervasive as the ruses practiced by BVHS (now known as the Humane Society of the North Bay) and Kitty City is FMAA's policy of killing treatable cats. No-kill operations, like all conventional shelters, also kill scores of cats and other animals each year simply by impounding them.
That is due primarily to the myriad of diseases that accompany the warehousing of large numbers of animals under crowded and unhygienic conditions. The emotional stress brought on by being incarcerated on death row also has a debilitating effect on their health.
Even the disinfectants used and the placing of litter boxes alongside their food dishes in their already cramped cages takes its toll on their overall health. (See The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 2011, "Shelter Shock.")
The members of the general public willingly play along with the evil charades concocted by no-kill shelters because they, too, do not care very much about what happens to the animals that they surrender at these dressed-up death camps. A no-kill shingle out front may help to assuage their guilty consciences but deep down they fully realize that they are condemning their cats and dogs to die on the gallows.
The central role that veterinarians play in enabling both shelters and individuals to so easily liquidate cats and dogs is nothing short of criminal. Since they earn a sizable portion of their income by killing animals, it is high time that the public started referring to the members of this disgraceful profession as butchers and their surgeries as abattoirs.
Sally's cold-blooded and deliberate murder at the hands of FMAA and Animal Control once again raises the question of exactly what does mankind owe to cats and other animals. First and foremost of these obligations is an uncompromising adherence to their inalienable right to live.
Secondly, their lives must be free of abuse, exploitation, confinement, and electronic snooping. Thirdly, they have an unqualified right to competent veterinary care.
Perhaps most important of all, they have a right to die on their own terms and at a time of nature's choosing. Accordingly, all forms of so-called euthanasia are the equivalent of murder and contravene the anti-cruelty statutes.
It is not about to happen in a million years but it nonetheless would be significant step forward if both shelters and individuals could be prevailed upon to put an end to all of their lies and betrayals. The health and well-being of cats and all other animals should be a sacred trust and not a fiefdom for killers, exploiters, and inveterate liars to do with them as they see fit.
Photos: Terry Date of the Marblehead Patch (Cruger at Sally's memorial) and FMAA (exterior of the shelter).