Dina Garcia’s family was providing care for 2 mama cats and 10 kittens who were living near their place of residence in Texas. Their landlord asked the family to remove them from the property. Mrs. Garcia asked friends if they would like to have a cat but some already had cats and others were allergic. She let teachers at her son’s school know about the cats in need of homes too. Ultimately, she was unsuccessful in placing any of the cats and didn’t want the population to grow out of control so earlier this month, she took them to a local shelter she was familiar with via its advertising.
“I wanted them to have a home,” she said.
When she arrived at the Harlingen Humane Society, the staff met her and her husband in the parking lot. They never went inside.
“The people looked like they were bothered. They asked 3 times for a donation.” She explained that she was not in a position to make a donation at that time but would make one after her husband got paid later in the week.
One of the mama cats scratched a staff member and ran away. (I guess it’s not such a good idea to take pets from people in your parking lot after all.) The staff took the remaining cats and advised Mr. and Mrs. Garcia that they would only be given 3 days before they were killed. The Garcias were very upset but did not know what else to do at the moment so drove home.
Mrs. Garcia called her sister in Austin as she was very distraught. Her sister made some calls and found a local shelter willing to accept the cats for rehoming. The Garcias called the Harlingen Humane Society to ask if they could pick up the cats they had dropped off a few hours earlier. They were advised that all 11 cats had been killed because 3 of the kittens had eye infections. The Garcias were extremely upset.
Mrs. Garcia explained that she had taken them to the shelter because she thought they would be vaccinated and adopted out – not killed.
“It’s supposed to be a humane society,” she said.
I contacted Frank Quinones, the Shelter Manager at HHS to ask about the incident. He replied as follows:
I did speak to the gentleman that dropped the cats and kittens off. I did inform him that they had been euthanized. When they signed over the cats and kittens as the owners earlier in the day they were advised that the outcome could be euthanasia. They signed the card and left them here anyway. They didn’t say they would be back and if they did they would have been advised to keep them.We have a high volume of intake and not a lot of space. Unfortunately we could not keep them. Several of the kittens had eye infections and we do not have a vet on staff nor the resources to cure them. We do not have many foster homes for cats. Maybe 2. Even I took a kitten home to bottle feed 2 weeks ago. Several of our kennels would have to have been opened meaning that healthy adoptable cats would have to be euthanized. It is a hard decision to make but it was made. We face these kind of decisions every day. There aren’t a lot of resources in this area and people continue to allow their cats to breed and when the kittens are to much to handle they bring them here along with their mothers. We opened a low cost spay/neuter clinic in April last year and we are trying to get the word out about spaying and neutering. When someone brings in a litter and they will be keeping the mothers or fathers we let them know that we will take them but in return they need to fix their pet so that we don’t go through this a few times a year. It isn’t easy or something that we want to do and we don’t take any kind of pride in knowing that many of these pets are put to sleep.
Who diagnosed the eye infections and how many kittens had them? Why were the mother cat and the other kittens who didn’t have eye infections killed?
Mr. Quinones responded:
We do not have a vet on staff. 4 kittens had signs of eye infection and the choice was made for the entire group to be euthanized. As a public shelter those kinds of decisions are made daily. Owners and citizens surrendering pets are advised of this and are given the option to not drop them off at all. Many of them just leave it up to chance.
Since HHS has a low cost neuter clinic and is “trying to get the word out”, I asked Mrs. Garcia – who would obviously be in the target market – if anyone from the shelter had told her about the clinic. She said they had not. In fact, she was surprised to learn that there was a low cost neuter clinic in her area.
Mrs. Garcia told me that her 13 year old son is still looking out for the mama cat who escaped in the shelter’s parking lot, hoping she’ll return home.