MSPCA: Petition on Euthanized Cat Doesn’t Tell Whole Story

The MSPCA euthanized Dryden, a cat belonging to Jamaica Plain's Benjamin Day, within 48 hours of a neighbor bringing the cat to the clinic.

Benjamin Day

The MSPCA euthanized Dryden, a cat belonging to Jamaica Plain’s Benjamin Day, within 48 hours of a neighbor bringing the cat to the clinic.

A petition drive launched by a Jamaica Plain cat owner after the MSPCA euthanized his pet leaves out key information about the elderly feline, the JP-based animal advocacy organization announced Wednesday.

All parties agree that Dryden, who had six toes on each front paw, was old and sick. He didn’t come back home the night of Sunday, Aug. 3. The cat’s owner, Benjamin Day, went to the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that Tuesday. He found that a would-be good Samaritan had brought the 14- or 15-year-old Dryden to the organization’s JP clinic — and that vets had just put the cat down.

The MSPCA has taken heat over the incident. As of Wednesday afternoon, 4,661 supporters had signed on to Day’s change.org petition titled, “Don’t Euthanize Cats Like Dryden Whose Owners Are Searching For Them.”

After an internal review of the case, the MSPCA released this statement:

Unfortunately, the information given about Dryden by his owner is incomplete. Dryden was brought to the MSPCA-Angell by a good Samaritan who believed the cat was homeless. He was in extremely poor condition upon his arrival.

Upon exam by a veterinarian Dryden was found to be emaciated and dehydrated. We conducted laboratory tests and found that he was suffering from advanced kidney failure, in addition to hyperthyroidism that was not being controlled. Moreover, Dryden was also urinating substantial amounts of blood. He had no identification tags or collar, nor was he microchipped—making it impossible for us to know if he had a home.

We held him for 48 hours and provided supportive care during that time to keep him comfortable, but his health continued to decline and our veterinarians felt that it was inhumane to continue to hold him because of his incredibly poor condition. Cats being treated for hyperthyroidism need medication every 12 hours to control this condition. We held Dryden for 48 hours in the hope that if someone was providing him with the care he needed that they would notice his absence within 12 hours and report him missing or come looking for him. During this time we reviewed all of our lost animal files and found no reports of missing cats matching Dryden’s description.

Dryden’s overall condition, combined with the results of laboratory tests performed by veterinarians, led us to conclude that euthanasia was the most humane option. The decision to euthanize an animal is always difficult, never made lightly and only ever made after all other options have been exhausted. We encourage all pet owners to have identification (tags, collar and microchip) on their pets at all times and to call their local animal shelter immediately to report a lost pet.

Day, the cat’s owner, previously told Jamaica Plain News that he couldn’t keep a collar on Dryden and, as the cat never left the yard, he hadn’t microchipped him.

While stray dogs in Massachusetts must be held for a week before they are euthanized, no such law protects cats. Each shelter or clinic must make its own policies, according to research a shaken Day did in the wake of what happened to Dryden.

Day said the MSPCA’s response falls short.

“The MSPCA has chosen not to engage in a discussion of why they have no policy for holding cats before euthanizing them so their owners have adequate time to find them,” Day said in an email to Jamaica Plain News, “but this is exactly what almost 5,000 signers of my petition are asking them to consider. The fact is that my cat Dryden would be alive today if he were a dog, but the MSPCA has a double-standard for what they consider humane treatment for cats and dogs.”

Previously, Rob Halpin, spokesperson for the MSPCA, explained that given the volume of surrendered cats, tough decisions like the one made in Dryden’s case will continue. The MSPCA accepts all animals surrendered to it, but it is not a “no kill” shelter. Between the MSPCA’s three adoption centers, about 13,000 animals are brought in each year. The most recent statistics show 79.9 percent of those are adopted back out.

The MSPCA strongly recommends that cat owners microchip their felines and keep them indoors.

Day said at least seven of the nearly 5,000 people who have signed the petition reported similarly quick euthanization of cats at either the MSPCA or other animal shelters, so the issue isn’t simply what happened to his cat.

“We are all supporters of the MSPCA and the good work they do,” Day wrote in an email to the Jamaica Plain News, “and we’re interested in a step forward for the treatment of cats, not PR spin or attempts to blame the victim.”

[Editor’s note: I significantly updated this post on Thursday, Aug. 28 with a response to the MSPCA from the cat owner, Ben Day.]