The Arizona Humane Society, following its own guidelines perhaps a little too closely, euthanized a cat when its owner was unable to afford its medical care, without telling the owner it was going to do so. The public outrage sparked by the bureaucratic act has forced the animal rescue group into embarking on a crash course in crisis management.
On Dec. 8, Daniel Dockery brought his cat, Scruffy, to the agency’s Campus for Compassion so it could get treatment for a laceration it suffered on a barbed-wire fence. The cost of treatment was almost $400, which Dockery didn't have. Regulations prohibited the Humane Society from accepting payment over the phone, which Dockery's mother had attempted via a credit card, or even waiting 24 hours for his mother to wire him cash. Dockery had to surrender ownership of the cat so it could be treated and put into foster care, he said to The Arizona Republic. However, on Dec. 27, Dockery learned that Scruffy had been euthanized several hours after he left the clinic due to a lack of available doctors, he said.
The Arizona Humane Society has been hit with angry calls, e-mails and comments on its Facebook page ever since the story broke in the Republic over Christmas weekend.
Wasting little time, the Humane Society hired a publicist and mobilized a team of volunteers to respond to the calls and e-mails. In addition, in a statement, the Humane Society apologized to Dockery for “failing” him, and announced that it has made the necessary internal changes to ensure that animals that need treatment get it—free from the specter of cruel bureaucracy.