Aurora Animal Shelter Refuses Offer of Hospice Care for Cat

When animal advocate Joan Ogner saw a Petfinder photo of a senior female cat at the Aurora Animal Shelter in CO this week, she felt moved and wanted to help get the pet transferred to a rescue group.  While working on that, she learned the cat has some serious medical issues. Specifically, the cat is partially paralyzed, has an acute URI, no teeth and an abdominal mass. She is being housed in isolation at the shelter.

At that point, Joan felt compelled to help this cat herself by providing hospice care at her home. She contacted the shelter to ask about adopting the cat and was refused. She subsequently contacted the manager via email to reiterate her offer and to advise that she works with another municipal shelter which would gladly do an official shelter-to-shelter transfer if the manager deemed that more appropriate.

The manager replied that the cat was receiving treatment at the shelter and that the vet staff had recommended euthanasia and so the request to transfer was refused. Joan asked the manager to reconsider, explaining that she was offering to care for the cat at home and even if euthanasia was the most humane option, to offer that in the quiet comfort of her loving home and not in a shelter environment which is highly stressful for cats.  She stated she would not allow the cat to suffer.

The manager again refused the offer to get the cat out of her cage at the shelter, citing the “five freedoms”, which she says are being provided to the cat there and stating that she didn’t feel comfortable sending the cat to an “unknown” situation.  Joan explained that she has adopted from the Aurora shelter before so she is not “unknown” and that she could provide immediate references if desired, including the director of the shelter who is willing to do the transfer, her veterinarian of 20 years, and local rescuers.  She again promised to provide loving hospice care and not allow the cat to suffer.

That was yesterday.  The manager has not replied since and the cat’s listing has been removed from Petfinder.  This is the post Joan put on her Facebook page in hopes of being allowed to give this poor cat peace and love in a quiet home environment for whatever time she has left.  Joan has named her Miss Kitty:

Screengrab from Facebook (provided by Joan Ogner)
“PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL ASAP THE AURORA SHELTER TO TRY AND SAVE MISS KITTY (I named her, they only know her by her shelter ID number A172673). Tell the Shelter Manager that this kitty deserves to live her last days in a hospice setting, rather than in the shelter. The Shelter Manager information is: Manager is :Jenee N. Shipman
Manager of Animal Care | City of Aurora Office 303.326.8299 | Mobile 720.409.2474 .
THIS IS URGENT as there is only a short time before they euthanize her. Let’s see that in her last breath she is not experiencing the smell of death in the Euth Room but instead feeling the love and peace of my home. THANKS”
(Screengrab from Facebook provided by Joan Ogner)

While it is humane to offer euthanasia to a pet who has been determined medically hopeless and suffering by a veterinarian, it is not humane to leave the animal in a cage at a shelter while typing out repeated refusals for an offer of home hospice care from a compassionate person.  If this cat is truly medically hopeless and suffering, she should have been euthanized to relieve her suffering as soon as the determination was made.  If not, the cat should be released – either directly to the person offering the hospice care or to the shelter offering to do the official transfer.  I simply don’t understand this refusal nor the reasons behind it.  Just because a shelter is able to meet the so-called “five freedoms” does not make sitting in a cage in isolation any kinder for this cat.  I hope the Aurora Animal Shelter manager reconsiders and accepts the offer of hospice care for Miss Kitty.

23 thoughts on “Aurora Animal Shelter Refuses Offer of Hospice Care for Cat

  1. I can understand the hesitation to release an animal to Joe Blow off the street, BUT…this woman had references and was ready to provide them. There should be no question that the cat should be released to her.

    But again, if the cat is suffering, WHY IS THIS CAT STILL ALIVE, THEN? What is being accomplished by providing your Five Freedoms? Either the cat is suffering and should be put down or the cat is not suffering and should be adopted out to someone who can provide care. IT CANNOT BE BOTH. Because I’m pretty damn sure that a home with care kicks your Five Freedoms’ ass seven days a week.

    So, I have questions. What “treatment” was the cat receiving at the shelter? How long between determination of suffering requiring euthanasia and actual euthanasia. Because if you make that determination, you’d better act on it quickly – otherwise, what you’re doing now is continuing suffering, by your own determination.

  2. At first I thought, “Bureaucrat” (meaning the shelter director, obviously). Then I looked up Joan, and it seems as if she’s a No Kill Advocate. So I can’t help but wonder if there’s a political element to this refusal. It’s shameful, regardless of the reason.

    1. It is shameful, and the fact that this senior girl will spend her last days (hours, whatever) in the stress of a “shelter” environment rather than a loving home makes no sense. EGO? POWER PLAY? Clearly it’s not about providing this cat with what’s best for her.

      1. Just called and left a message for the manager. I suggest that any of you who are outraged about this do the same. She needs to hear that she is way off base with this decision.

  3. It’s weird because I received an email response from the manager almost immediately. she explained that euthanasia was the most humane option – which I completely understand. However, the issue in question isn’t whether or not to euthanize Miss Kitty – it is about allowing the euthanasia to occur in a home because the rare opportunity to do so presented itself when Joan offered the hospice care.

    1. I so appreciate your emailing her and supporting Miss Kitty. You are spot on in your observation that she missed the point. And, just so you know, what you received back was most likely a form letter that she began sending out when the deluge of emails and calls escalated. So many people forwarded their emails from her to me – and it was exactly the same as the first email that she sent me. Again – I cant thank you enough for writing the email to her.

  4. it’s hard to know what is right here. None of us has seen this poor kitty in person. What if she is vomiting constantly, not eating, bleeding internally from the mass, showing signs of pain or distress? Perhaps the shelter wanted to put her to sleep immediately but had to keep her for her stray hold by law (sad, but yes, this happens). I, too, am a no-kill advocate, but it’s hard to be the judge here. Maybe the shelter really did have the kitty’s best interest in mind by not releasing her to the public and instead putting her to sleep as soon as they were permitted to, by law. I could be wrong, but I won’t be led to jump to conclusions.

  5. R.I.P. Miss Kitty
    I just wanted to let you know that at 5pm Thursday, the Aurora Shelter euthanized Miss Kitty. This in spite of emails and calls from around the world pleading for the Shelter to allow Miss Kitty to be euthanized in a loving home rather that at a cold and impersonal shelter. References for me came in the form of emails and calls as well. The Shelter Manager sent out form emails to everyone that chose to get into contact with her, rather than addressing each email individually. I did not get return calls/emails after I made 2 calls and sent 2 emails.,I was asking for reconsideration and ultimately, just the status of Miss Kitty. In the very last voice mail that I made, I requested that she email or call me to confirm what I had heard – that MIss Kitty had been euthanized. She did send out a general email to everyone that had corresponded with her to let them know that Miss Kitty had been euthanized.

    By the way, I sent this blog to a Denver TV reporter. He tried to get into contact with them. However, they chose to return his call after they had euthanized little Miss Kitty.

    Based on the support that this issue seems to have raised in the animal advocacy community, I feel that this is something that merits attention in Colorado. Outdated policies that were meant to protect the Shelters, are preventing the shelter pets from living their last days in a loving home environment, . And these policies are thwarting pets like Miss Kitty from being euthanized at home by someone that specifically adopted or fostered the pet in order to help them transition “over the bridge” somewhere other than a shelter. If there is an opportunity for the pet to get this home hospice care, it should be readily available and acceptable. Hospice programs where caregivers are trained to provide this care could be developed by the shelters, they could look to external groups for these services , or – have a quick vetting process for people that step up in a certain situation to provide this, like I did for Miss Kitty.

    Thank you all for your support through this arduous and emotional journey with Miss Kitty.

    Joan Ogner

    1. I don’t know if it would be helpful, but the Sonoma Humane Society has a ‘fospice’ – foster/hospice – program designed for pets who need hospice care. There’s no immediate link to it, so this is a link to the ‘Volunteer’ page, which has a blurb for it lower down under ‘Explore Fospice,’ along with some contact info:

      I’ve not participated. I’d like to, and I hope someday we can. So if you do try and set something up – or a group to promote the concept – I’d love to hear about it.

      1. That is so helpful! I knew something like this existed. It is nice to have the model to refer to. Hard to argue with an already tried and established practice. Well, I guess people can argue about anything. THANKS FOR THE INFORMATION!

      2. You’re welcome, Joan! SHS has had their fospice program running for about two years now, and I gather it’s working well.

    2. Thank you for caring so much to fight for a gentle passing in a quiet loving home for this beautiful soul. In my opinion, the director who, for reasons known only to her, refused to grant this cat a final dignified death needs to take a long, honest look at whether she should be working with animals. She showed no compassion for the cat or for those who cared enough to give her a final gift. I hope that this will be followed up and something done to prevent this from happening again.
      I have a hospice vet who is taking amazing care of my boy with CLL and will allow him to die in my arms at home. When mine are gone to the Rainbow Bridge, I hope to do hospice care for those who would otherwise languish and die at “shelters”.
      RIP Miss Kitty You are loved and you will be missed.

      1. And thank you for calling the Shelter Manager. I know that somehow Miss Kitty was feeling the love and energy being sent her way.What you did was an act of compassion and kindness. I very much appreciate it.

  6. Dear Joan Ogner –

    Thank you for your heart of gold. I called the manager today and left a polite message that the interests of Miss Kitty were not taken into consideration. I also said its about who has the power and that is wrong (in this case with Miss Kitty) – it should be working with the public (and taxpayers) – and above all it should be about the animals.

    We are all in this together. (or should be)

  7. It’s hard to argue with stupid, heartless people! This is terrible, but people have stopped thinking about the right thing to do for the animal! Ignorant bastards! I’m so sick of their flawed thoughts!!

  8. VERY DISAPOINTED IN THIS BLOG! How dare you call the people at the shelter heartless. Those who are sitting at home and not doing anything to help. It is never easy to
    euthanize any animal! Those who have that job to do have to compartmentalize their feelings otherwise they could not do their job.
    The animal is in the same conditions as a person in the hospital they are treated respect, kindness, sympathy and love. They are kept clean and safe in a controled environment. Moving a defensless animal to an unknown situation witch may or may not stress them is not always the best solution. Hospice is a great idea. Don’t get me wrong, but abusing people who are on the front lines every day is not the solution.
    The shelter needs to put in the most effort for the younger animals who have lives to live. How do you think they feel when younger animals don’t get rescued and have to be euthanized and a spot in your home is taken by an animal with days to live.
    If you want to help keep caring loving people in those positions give them suport for the good they do not always criticise. Call or email thanks for all of the hard decisions they make every day.

    1. Sorry, but I have to respond to your post. There are a few things we will have to disagree with.

      1. Most of us are involved with rescue in our own communities. So, please don’t accuse us of sitting behind our computers doing nothing but talking.
      2. This old cat had the choice of spending her last days in the loving arms of someone who would care for her in the peace and quiet of a home. If we follow your comparison with people, then you are implying that it’s okay to leave people in a busy, noisy hospital bed rather than allow them to go to a hospice facility or home to die. I know which I would prefer.
      3. I agree that it is hard to kill animals. But compartmentalizing feelings causes people to become insensitive to what they are doing and it often leads to apathy. So the killing becomes routine and just part of the job. There is much research on what killing animals does to the humanity of the killer. True euthanasia is a different story.
      4. The younger, healthier animals deserve a home, and the fact that an elderly dying animal be killed to make the room for the younger one is not true. There are shelters all around the country who would not see this as an either/or. They give each animal what that animal needs (not just the “five freedoms”) as an individual. They aren’t merely following rules, they consider the whole animal. Hopefully this attitude does not carryover to humans who feel the need to do away with the elderly and dying.

      I would hope that you take a good long look at what you all are doing. Just because you are following the letter of the law does not mean you are doing all you can for the animals who are in your care. There was room for compassion for this old girl, actually freeing up space and resources for a younger, healthier animal. My complaint is that someone made the decision to keep her in a facility to die when she could have died at home.

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