I was scrolling through Facebook tonight when I found this story “Justice for Mistoffelees” in my newsfeed from Life With Cats. Being the bleeding heart that I am I of course had to read it. To summarize, Mistoffelees was a 19 year old cat who managed to slip out of the house one day while her person was out of town. A caring neighbor called animal control, thinking it was the best option for this sweet cat outside. She was killed within hours of arriving at the shelter. (After you read the story, or even before, go sign the petition, so maybe some good can come of Mistoffelees tragic death)
My heart breaks for that poor cat, who surely knew nothing but fear and confusion in her final hours. To suddenly be taken away from your home, the only human who has loved you for 18 years of your life, and to be overwhelmed by the surrounding noises, sights and smells (including, most likely, the smell of death) what animal wouldn’t be petrified? My heart breaks even more for her grieving human who didn’t get to say goodbye and doesn’t even get her remains to bury or cremate as he wishes.
As horrifying as I find this situation to be, and as much as my heart breaks for Robert and the loss of his beloved Mistoffelees, I can’t say I am surprised by this. If you read my previous posts on Maddie’s Institute’s webcast and Alley Cat Allies’ “Common Sense for Cats” tour you know that things like this happen. Sweet, lovable cats and dogs are put down all the time. Cats are killed under the excuse that they are “feral.” Even if Mistoffelees was feral, which she clearly wasn’t based on the fact that she was PICKED UP by the person who called and was sitting right outside his house, there are other options.
This is why we need to change the mindset of people working in the animal control and “humane societies” of our country. Chances are that Mistoffelees was killed because she was too skinny (being 19 and all) or because she growled, or maybe she sneezed, or maybe she just happened to be in the wrong cage that day and was nearby when someone decided it was time to clear out the cages. We won’t even bother with the fact that the humane society ignored the law about holding cats for a set period of days to be claimed by owners. I can almost guarantee that a microchip would not have helped save this poor cat.
If shelters and animal control organizations think they can keep killing an animal because it is labeled “aggressive” when it swats at a person, or growls, or expresses understandable signs of fear at being in a scary new place (and NOT given a chance to calm down) then of course they are going to kill someone’s pet.
This is not the first time a beloved family pet has been killed by shelters while the pets’ family was looking for it, this is perhaps just one of the stories to make it to the media. Back in 2010 Target, a dog who survived the war in Afghanistan was “accidentally” killed at a shelter. There is the story of Toothless, a black cat who was actually claimed by the family, but was killed because a worker forgot to leave a note (the father couldn’t pay the impound fee that night, and the shelter was technically closed when he got there). I have also read stories in the last two years of at least two kittens who were “accidentally” killed at shelters when they did indeed have loving homes.
We need to hold our shelters, humane societies and animal control facilities accountable! I dream of a day when we will be a No Kill Nation, but I realize that is not going to happen over night. It takes work. We need to do that work now. We need to bring change to the mindset of workers and volunteers at all of our shelters. An animal does not need to be killed just because it is not “perfect” in every single way. So let’s keep speaking out, educating others and educating ourselves (especially those of us who work with animals and those who work directly with animals in shelters). If you find a cat or a dog, call the shelter or animal control agency, but also post fliers, ask the neighbors. If the animal is super friendly, there is a good chance he or she belongs to a neighbor! And please, please, try to hold on to the animal for a day or two before placing it in the shelter/animal control system, because most animals (especially cats) who enter the system don’t come out alive.
And let’s remember not every single animal who lands in the shelter system is there because the owners were stupid. Some really do have loving, worried families looking for them. Poor sweet Mistoffelees. May she rest well and may her human dad find some peace.