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 Post subject: Disastrous Pet Adoptions
PostPosted: April 4th, 2005, 2:59 pm 
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Joined: February 11th, 2003, 4:15 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Alaska
Hi All,

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, and what kinds of tests adoptors may want to have run on the animal (especially if its medical history is unknown) after adopting. I 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 - and because they are caring for so many animals didn't see that he was losing weight during the month he was in there. I'm interested in hearing from others who have similarly adopted an animal from a humane society only to find it's incredibly ill, or from vets/humane soceities on the types of tests that pet adoptors may want to have run.

Post here or email at amy.maio@alaska.com.

Thanks!

Amy


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PostPosted: April 6th, 2005, 3:23 pm 
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Joined: April 16th, 2004, 12:58 pm
Posts: 4
Location: Metro Atlanta
"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."

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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.

Kathi
Kitty Village

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Ferrari
Adopt a Feline Online! www.kittyvillage.com


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 6th, 2005, 3:51 pm 
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Joined: February 11th, 2003, 4:15 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Alaska
I was not implying anything horrible about humane societies, nor was I saying they should conduct all these tests. My article is meant to let adoptors know that humane society's cannot check for such things. You really don't expect to adopt an animal and have to put it to sleep nine days later. I certainly wasn't, and it was a very traumatic experience.

The article will be written to let readers know that there are routine tests animals in shelters get, like the roundworm and such you mentioned, and then more extensive tests that they cannot afford to do, that may reveal illness such as cancer, etc. It's not a condemnation of humane societies, just a way to let readers know that should they adopt an animal where the health history is not known, they may want to consider having these tests run. Had we made an appointment for the day after we got the cat, his illness may have been discovered and we would have been able to treat him.

It is a rarity, yes, but I wouldn't want it to happen to other people. Most people rightly have a better impression of humane societies than pet stores, and for that reason I think may erroneously think that a pet adopted from them indicates a clean bill of health (that is what I thought). It's just a means of making pet owners better informed.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 8th, 2005, 11:42 am 
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Joined: July 14th, 2004, 3:15 pm
Posts: 25
Location: MN
These are both interesting perspectives, and I agree with them both, actually. It's hard to condone anything that may push people away from rescuing and into buying from a pet store. I think a more balanced article might mention that pet stores don't conduct these tests either, and despite a piece of paper you may receive from a pet store you can still adopt an animal there that will die soon after.

We adopted a puppy from a shelter and she, at 18 months, was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Her right hip was 1/2 out of its socket and the left one was 1/3 out of its socket. We were fortunate enough to be able to scrape the funds together for her surgery, and she is quite well and strong.

It's just my opinion, but it's more important for people to realize that any pet they adopt should get an immediate checkup and that this is a living creature that depends on them, not a piece of bric-a-brac. I think that's what you're trying to get at with your article idea, but I do worry that focusing specifically on shelters could potentially do them harm when there's enough negative going around about them already.

Andrea Z

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"All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery." --George Orwell


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 8th, 2005, 12:24 pm 
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Joined: February 11th, 2003, 4:15 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Alaska
After Ferrari's comments I am planning on including any animal you get, pet store or no, you may want to have tested after adoption. Not really an expansion, since I never planned to rip on humane societies, but I guess to put a clarification in people's minds. I still think that people would more expect to get a sick animal from a pet store because of all the news articles about their bad practices, as opposed to getting a very sick animal from a humane society, so that is why my initial comments were focused there. But it's really going to be more "Here are the types of illnesses and tests pet adoption/pet stores don't test for, the tests you may want to run, and the likelihood that you need to run them."

Amy


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 15th, 2005, 9:28 pm 
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Joined: March 2nd, 2003, 1:04 pm
Posts: 595
My beautiful cat Ginger turned out to be a little older than the adoption papers said, which meant I paid $75 to get a "kitten" when an accurate estimate of her age would have had me paying $50 for a full-grown cat. I never bothered to ask for my money back the way I would with a misrepresented product - this was a shelter, not a corporation, and they could use the money.

But the big scare came when she refused to eat and had the nastiest diarrhea and a litterbox phobia. Turned out her baby teeth were stuck and her adult teeth were blocked from coming in. It cost quite a bit to have dental work done, and several more sleepless nights and battles to force-feed her until she realized food (and the litterbox) were not enemies. For awhile I honestly thought she would die. But now, she's a loving companion and a wonderful playmate for my first cat, Foo.

I don't know what the shelter could have done to diagnose her, and to tell the truth, if that would have meant they would have put her to sleep rather than send her out for adoption, I'm glad they didn't notice. She's not only incredibly sweet, but she's a long-haired blue calico, which is special to me. She's worth the money, the time, and the initial panic - she's that precious.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 15th, 2005, 9:34 pm 
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Joined: March 2nd, 2003, 1:04 pm
Posts: 595
P.S. Your initial post didn't seem to rip on pet shelters to me, and nothing in it suggested that you thought shelters should be running expensive blood work. I do appreciate your clarification, though. It sounds like a great article.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 20th, 2005, 6:01 pm 
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Joined: February 10th, 2005, 2:21 pm
Posts: 1
Location: Portland, OR
I think this could be a helpful article. I'm a big supporter of my local humane society. They do a wonderful job. I donate yearly and I've adopted three cats from them. Unfortunately, the first was sick with feline imunodeficiency virus, the cat equivalent of HIV. I didn't find this out until a month later after having some symptoms checked out by my vet. Too late, we already loved the cat.

A year and a half later, following many expensive medical procedures and experimental medications, we ended up euthanizing him because the virus got the best of him. Very painful for us.

I believe many shelters have a return policy under which animals can be checked by your vet within a specified amount of time and returned if anything is wrong that you don't want to deal with. However, we chose to keep him and try to make his life as long and comfortable as possible.

My only fear is that we could have brought a cat who was sick with an incurable virus into a home with other cats (we didn't). People need to support their shelters but be aware that they can only do so much to detect disease. We as pet owners need to shoulder some of the responsibility of quarantine and testing when we bring a new pet home.


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