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.
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!
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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.