"I'm working on a pitch about the types of medical tests animal shelters/humane societies do and do not do on animals they adopt out. Recently adopted a 5-year old cat and nine days later put it to sleep b/c it was in acute liver failure. The shelter only looks for obvious signs of illness - didn't run blood tests so they missed whatever underlying illness the cat had. I'm interested in hearing from others who have similarly adopted an animal from a humane society only to find it's incredibly ill."
I have no idea who you think is going to publish an article like this, but I can assure you it will be flooded with nastygrams and lost subscriptions.
As an independent cat rescuer for 13 years, I'll share the humane society perspective.
The blood tests necessary to accurately diagnose a condition like liver failure are prohibitively expensive for humane societies and rescue groups. The first test you would give a cat with an unknown medical history is a full blood panel (my vet calls it a "SuperCHEM"), which includes a CBC (complete blood count), T4, urinalysis and more. My vet charges $90 for this. For the CBC alone, my vet charges $36.
To recover the cost of such expensive testing, humane societies would have to drastically increase their adoption fees. In metro Atlanta where I live, most already charge $75 to $100 to cover the costs of spaying or neutering, feline leukemia/feline AIDS testing, routine vaccines (rabies, distemper and possibly feline leukemia) and treatment for common parasites (roundworm, tapeworm, ringworm, fleas and ear mites) and illnesses (upper respiratory).
If humane societies doubled their adoption fees, there would be a lot more dead cats, period. Adoption rates, which are already too low, would plummet. So instead of the one cat in 500 or more that dies of some undiagnosed illness like yours, we could easily have 250 dead cats. So what do you think the humane society should do?
Many shelters are run completely on extremely limited taxpayer dollars. The one in my home county is funded in this way and the cats there get no vet care at all. Adopters are told this in advance.
A full blood panel is not normally indicated for cats under 7 years old unless illness is suspected. I have never heard of a humane society, rescue group or shelter undertaking this kind of testing on a routine basis, nor have I ever seen it recommended.
Cats are widely known to be expert at hiding symptoms of illness from even the most knowledgeable and doting caretaker. In the wild, the weak become prey. My personal cat was acutely hyperthyroid before I recognized his condition. My mother, who has managed a vet clinic for more than 20 years, had a cat who had advanced cancer before she suspected anything was wrong. So you cannot blame a humane society volunteer or rescuer, who may be caring for a dozen or more cats at a time, for failing to see symptoms of a chronic condition such as liver failure.
Animals are not manufactured. Whether you adopt, buy or breed, you run the risk of obtaining an animal with a disease or genetic defect. Unless the humane society or rescue group can be proven negligent, they are not to blame in rare cases like this. You could just as easily collect horror stories about breeders and pet stores, and they have less excuse because they are for-profit businesses.
If you really feel all cats adopted from a humane society or shelter should have extensive blood work, it would be far more positive for you to put your money where your mouth is and donate to make it possible, rather than bashing these caring volunteers for the relatively few times they fail.
Or why don't you write an article about humane society volunteers who pulled an animal from a shelter KNOWING it was "incredibly ill" and nursed it back to health at great personal trouble and expense only to place it for adoption in a new home? You'd get tens of thousands of those. I've done it myself many times.
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