Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cats Entrusted in Vet's Care are Killed

This article is dedicated to all the cats that an owner placed in the care of a licensed veterinarian…and who were killed.

Over 3 dozen cats were killed not because they were too sick to live, but because the veterinarian in charge of the rescue operation made the choice to kill.

So how bad was the situation that would cause two-thirds of the cats rescued to be deemed too sick to save?

Only one person is talking. And she disagrees with the decisions made on that day that cost these cats theirs lives.

Dr. Lisa Deppe, DVM is both a licensed veterinarian and holds a shelters license. She was asked to assist with the placement of cats of an out of control situation in Story City, Iowa. You can read her eye witness accounts of that fateful day in her article Cutting Through the Red Tape.

The Facts
Dr. Brenda Bright, DVM, of the Story City Pet Hospital was the veterinarian that was placed in charge of the rescue operation and medical assessment of the cats. She would evaluate their medical conditions and decide their fate.

Tom Colvin, Executive Director of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and son Josh Colvin, Animal Care and Control Centers Officer and Cruelty Intervention Coordinator were on site to support the rescue operations.

Dr. Deppe was asked to coordinate the placement of the rescued cats and agreed to provide medical care for those sick, injured and those needing surgery. As a licensed veterinarian, she could provide euthanasia, if necessary. She coordinated and had on standby, licensed shelters, sanctuaries and rescues ready to receive. So, what went wrong?

The Dark Side of Dr. Bright?
Dr. Bright’s team entered the home and began capturing the cats they could and setting traps for those they could not. Outside they were briefly assessed for any obvious injuries or illness. They were then placed in carriers and sorted by those who would live, and tagged with ‘red tape’ if they were to be euthanized.

But the carriers marked with “red tape” far outnumbered those that would get to live.

As you view the photos you will notice that the cats slated for euthanasia do not show visible signs of illness or suffering. Cats can hide pain but there are no cats that are listless, lifeless or lethargic. Cats are sitting forward in their pet taxis with their heads up and alert. They are not panting from distress. They are not crying in pain. They instead are watching the world go by unaware they are about to die.

It is unknown if any blood work was done to confirm diseases. Since the cages were marked almost immediately with the “red tape”, it is assumed that no blood draws were done. Since there was no visible signs of suffering, no major injuries, no lifeless cat, or any diseases confirmed, what could Dr. Bright have seen that made her decide that these cats had to die? We don't know as Dr. Bright is not sharing any information to those who are asking.

The Red Tape
Dr. Deppe didn’t see what Dr. Bright saw. She saw cats with signs of URI and a couple injuries that she knew would require surgery. She was eager to get these felines into her clinic, where she could begin the process of giving them back their life.

But she was denied the opportunity when Dr. Bright refused to release the red tagged cats into Dr. Deppe’s care. When she turned to Tom Colvin, for support, she received a pat on the back and the assurance that things would be ok.

So the unanswered questions are: How can a licensed veterinarian be so callous that she would refuse the rights of a peer who wanted to save lives? How can the Directors of Iowa’s Largest Animal Welfare Organization stand by and allow these cats to be killed, without cause or reason, and say nothing? How can the actions of these so-called professionals be revered by Iowa’s communities as leaders?

When all was said and done, Dr. Deppe would walk away with only 12 precious lives. The rest would needlessly be killed.

Moral of the Story
Dr. Bright’s actions in this situation broke no laws. But her decision to repeatedly refuse another vet of equal status the right to save lives breaks every moral and ethical obligation of the veterinarian oath. She did not show compassion to animals. Her actions were contemptible and animals died because of it.

This way of thinking is more commonly known as the "God Complex". This woman made the arrogant assumption that her opinions on the health and welfare of these cats were superior to Dr. Deppe’s. The mindset that anything that looks sick IS sick makes you wonder how she was placed in charge in the first place. Her actions make you question if she is able to “practice her profession conscientiously, with dignity and with keeping with the principals of veterinary medical ethics.”

And the animal welfare organization that stood by and allowed this to happen is equally responsible for lives being lost. They are exactly why Iowa needs a law like the Companion Animal Protection Act which targets shelter practices and forces decision makers in cases like these to turn animals over to qualified shelters, rescues and veterinarians instead of euthanizing them. It prevents this type of egotistical decision making from happening which costs millions of animals their lives every year.

Animal Welfare Professionals have the responsibility and moral obligation to protect, provide and place animal’s needs ahead of their own self-gratifying egos and philosophies. This is one of those cases where animal’s lives were lost not because of disease or illness, but because of the arrogance of those in charge. Asking for understanding and documentation of what happened is not out of line. Dr. Bright should be willing to answer questions, so when something like this happens in the future, and it will, these same mistakes are not made and lives needlessly, lost.

Dr. Deppe’s courage to come forward and place animal welfare before personal and professional needs is not only brave but admirable. Rightly, insulted and offended, Dr. Deppe doesn’t want revenge…she wants answers. She strongly believes that cats that died that day, didn’t have too. She was qualified to help and her expertise and opinions were dismissed by people she respected. She wants to understand why she was refused the right to save their lives. We all do. And because she was refused the right to save their lives she is forced to accept their fate.

What YOU Can Do?
Changing the laws is imperative, but there are things you can do today to stop tragedies like this from happening by not supporting organizations and businesses that do not practice honest and open animal welfare practices.

Make sure those places you do support really have animal welfare at heart.

And don't look the other way...take action! Your support helps save lives by allowing those who want change…make change!

Join our blog and stay up to date on news and information.

Keep up to date with our website and our facebook pages.

We encourage you to support Dr. Lisa Deppe's work by joining her blog and sharing the information to keep people informed on how to save lives.

A special thanks goes out to Amy with H.E.A.R.T for her commtiment to tell the story and dedication to making changes happen to save lives.


  1. This was such a needless tragedy. We can't save the cats that are already dead but we CAN try to prevent this from ever happening again. Please support RVAS for their ongoing efforts, Dr Lisa Deppe for having the courage to speak out, and reputable shelters, rescues and veterinarians who truly care about animal welfare. Continue to speak out for those who can't speak for themselves! Thanks RVAS for getting this out there!!!

  2. It is a tragedy. Not only that lives were lost but by the way this was handled by professionals.

    It all might have turned out a lot different, had Dr. Bright given the courtesy and respect to Dr. Deppe's opinion and observations. Had she worked with her instead of treating her as an insubordinate. Then perhaps she would have opened her ears and heard...her eyes and seen...that some lives could have been saved.

    Mistakes were made. An apology is in order from Dr. Bright, and changes in the future HAVE to happen so that lives that don't HAVE to be lost...aren't.

    Had this been dogs, there would have been a little more thought and care in the decision of euthanasia for sure.

    May those sweet souls rest in peace.

  3. I keep sharing this story. This must not happen again. Those innocent souls did nothing to deserve the treatment they received. Oh, wait, that wasn't treatment, there was no fair evaluation. There was only their untimely death. Please share this story with your friends and encourage them to share it with theirs. It only takes one voice to make the echo that starts the avalanche and your voice may be the one that starts moving people to act.

  4. I had a healthy discussion with a rural vet once about this type of a situation. He asked me, "Why would shelters use limited resources and funding to save a "few" cats when there are hundreds that don't need medical care waiting for homes. Some are going to die no matter what, so you let those who are sick go."

    What bothered me about the statement was not that he had HIS opinion, but that he had resigned to the fact that the lives were disposable. He had stopped seeing them as individual living creatures, but instead as "cats". That removes one's heart from the fact that they are a living "thing" that deserve our compassion, not our pity.

    I can only assume that Dr. Bright has the same mentality. It's sad. That one becomes so overwhelmed with the "numbers" that they forget why they chose the profession. Perhaps she felt she did them a favor. If only someone would have stopped and "listened" to their voices, too.

    Rest in peace pretty babies.

  5. Not understanding why a vet would not embrace the offer of assistance from another vet to save as many animals (of any species) as possible. Makes me wonder why she is a vet when the wellbeing of an animal "trusted" to her care is not the most important aspect of a rescue. This action will cause other horders to opt not to ask for help when it is so terribly needed for the animals they love. They will be afraid that the animals they can no longer support will suffer the same fate. Such a shame and needless act. KKP

  6. Karlena,

    Thank you for your comments., You are right. This could prevent others from reaching out for help. \

    In the register today was a story about 5 pit bulls, abuse, owner being prosecuted. But the 3 dozen cats aren't even being mentioned.

    The mindset has to change that these lives are not disposable. We work hard at trying to get pet owners to see sets us back when the vets have it as well.

  7. Thank YOU Amy, for stepping up to save the cats, for making sure the story is heard, and for standing by those who stick their necks out to save lives.

    You are a true animal welfare professional, and we are glad our paths have crossed.

  8. This story is so disturbing!!! I am almost speechless. This vet was supposed to help these precious lives and she took the easy way out and just killed them. I know for a fact that my vet would not have done that as he has been in the news for helping a kitten that was either abused or burnt. It's been a few years ago so I don't remember the details. I for one would never take my pet to this vet. I would be worried about the care my pet would receive there. Shame on you Dr. Bright!!!!!!!!!

  9. Note: I had someone tell me they were sickened by the news in this article, but they weren't an activist.

    My response: This is about ADVOCACY not ACTIVISM. Blame is not being placed here, but understanding is being asked for.

    The vet in charge made "grave" errors. What's in question is not her competency but her ethics. We have no doubt that she used lethal injection properly. But did it have to be used at all? And since she refused another vet when questioned, she won't answer telephone calls to give others an understanding of "why", it is hard to grasp an understanding of her decisions.

    No one is asking her to "defend" herself. But those asking questions are not her insubordinates either. And that's where she is getting herself into trouble.

    She has been given numerous chances to communication and tell her version...but she refuses. It's difficult to bring understanding to someone who hides behind their actions.

  10. How completely different this outcome is then what happened here when Dan Harkins (yes of Harkins theaters) made the decision to leave his dog in the car when the temp was well over 100 and it was discovered by someone in our animal ministry. He really did not believe he was doing anything wrong, but was willing to listen and now he has become one of the biggest animal advocates we have. He was a major sponsor of the PACC911 Bowl-a-thon where many hundreds of thousands of dollars was raised yesterday to help promote pet adoptathons in Maricopa County AND provide for the animal emergency medical funds they give to rescues to help rescued pets with extreme medical needs.

    It is both advocacy and partonage as well, in my opinion. Look at the awareness you are bringing by your actions! I also have asked a big cat behaviorist to post this information to help people understand what they can do that makes such a difference!

  11. Tammy HartwigAugust 08, 2010

    I also read and commented on Dr. Depp's blog, commending her for doing all she was "allowed" to do and for offering to do more.

    THIS story should outrage everyone but being a foster home for over 6 years and being part of the animal welfare community, this absolutely sickens me! This never should have happened and one can only hope that all this attention might help the odds that it never happens again.

    As far as I'm concerned, Dr. Bright owes it not only to Dr. Depp but also to the general public to answer these questions. I also feel that this behavior could should never be legally allowed by a Veterinarian and this should be investigated by the board of Veterinary Medicine. This is all SO wrong ans she should be held accountable. If she were my own personal Vet, I would find a new on immediately...maybe even Dr. Depp who truly cares.

    Tammy Hartwig

  12. Joseph PundzakAugust 08, 2010

    How Does This Happen?
    I'd like to know who was in charge of this debacle? I can understand the local Health Department and law enforcement being involved, but who called in the ARL of Iowa and who elevated Dr. Bright to God status? Too many unanswered questions and everyone, (including the local media), isn't talking. So, what's the big secret? Come on folks, let's look at the figure behind the curtain and see who's pulling all the strings. I suggest we start a campaign to demand some answers from those Story County public officials who were involved in the seizure of those cats.
    I'd like to know who filed the initial complaint and by what authority were those cats voluntarily "surrendered" to Dr. Bright. Did those cats then automatically become her "property" to do with what she willed? Is Dr. Bright's clinic a licensed shelter or pound?
    I suggest we start with the Story County Sherrif Paul Fitzgerald (515) 382-7456 and start getting some answers. At the very least, he'll know that this episode isn't going to "just go away."

  13. CJ,

    Yes, exactly. We can all learn from mistakes. Lives are lost, but they don't have to be in vain. This is a case where no matter how you slice it up, no matter what "opinions" or at this point even facts come forth, the bottom line is that ONE vet denied another the opportunity to save lives.

    Bottom line: Two vets; two opinions on what IS sick; two philosophies on what could be saved.

    The tragedy is that ONE vet didn't even TRY to work with the other.

  14. Tammy,

    These are the answers people want. They just want answers. The cats are dead. Being angry won't bring them back...

    Everyone just wants some understanding and answers is all.

  15. Linda B hit the nail right on the head. If these were dogs it would never have happened like this. Cats are considered to be disposable and of little value. I have heard the very shelters that are funded by public donations refer to them as an 'epidemic'. But these very same shelters offer no TNR, low cost spay/neuter programs or education ways to control the overpopulation. And lets not forget Iowa's largest animal welfare organization who stood idly by and allowed this holocaust to happen. They were there for support? Support of whom? Certainly not the cats or the one person who spoke out to try to save them. They have also not provided answers to my questions. Simple questions such as how many cats total, how many dead, how many alive, did the ARL in fact take any cats and if so how many and how many of those are still alive? I have now spoken to Dr Bright, the Story Co sheriff's Dept and the ARL to try to get answers. Where do i go next????

  16. Mr. Pundzak,

    There have been some questions asked to the sheriff, but no answers given, is my understanding.

    More calls mean forced answers perhaps?