While Sandy Suffered, Rescue Group Exploited Him

I’m for no kill.  I’m for rescue.  But this is neither.

The SPCA Los Angeles conducted an investigation into the care of a cat named Sandy based upon a tip.  Sandy lived in a warehouse rescue facility operated by Furrever Grateful Rescue (FGR) in Long Beach, CA. Medical records indicate FGR began taking Sandy to veterinarian Ryan James Whitney in September 2014. Sandy had a tumor on the side of his face. Over the next 6 months, Whitney performed multiple gruesome surgeries on Sandy, gouging away at his eye until it was finally gone as well as portions of his nose and mouth. The deeply invasive tumor continued to grow and Whitney continued to drain the cat’s face of massive infection in between the surgeries. Whitney never submitted any of the surgically removed tissue to a lab for testing. Sandy was never diagnosed or given any prognosis. He was unable to eat normally and was suffering tremendously. He wasted away.

In February 2015, FGR took Sandy to a different vet. The second vet saw the giant tumor consuming Sandy’s face, his emaciated frame and his inability to eat adequately and diagnosed him with end stage squamous cell carcinoma. The prognosis was grave as the cancer is untreatable. Combined with Sandy’s immense suffering and extremely poor quality of life, the vet recommended immediate euthanasia to end Sandy’s needless agony.

Instead of releasing Sandy from his suffering, FGR took him back to the warehouse and continued posting photos of him on Facebook, soliciting donations. The second vet, deeply disturbed by Sandy’s condition, contacted SPCA LA and the state veterinary board.  The SPCA LA notified FGR that they needed to have Sandy euthanized immediately.  FGR took Sandy back to Whitney for the euthanasia.  An investigation was conducted:

In its investigation, spcaLA discovered that FGR had been using Sandy’s worsening condition for fundraising for Sandy on social media, a practice not uncommon, and meant to pull at the heart and purse strings of donors. “It is unclear why Whitney or Furrever Grateful Rescue allowed the miserable suffering of this animal,” said spcaLA President Madeline Bernstein. “Whatever their intentions, whether motivated by naiveté or greed, this kind of cruelty is beyond words. No living being should ever suffer like that.”

The California Veterinary Medical Board revoked Whitney’s license so he can’t harm any more animals under the guise of “medical care” in the state.

FGR however, may face no legal consequences for their part in Sandy’s extended suffering:

Because the rescue is within the letter of the law and “provided medical care,” there are no animal cruelty charges pending against FGR at this time, however the Attorney General is looking into whether they are compliant with annual nonprofit regulations.

Get them on that, if they are in violation. Get them on any legal thing where they are found to be in violation. Kind of like sending Al Capone to prison for tax evasion – do what needs to be done within the law in order to stop these horrible people. How many other animals are in that warehouse of horrors right now? Are they too receiving “medical care”?

There are photos of Sandy at this link but the reason I am posting it here on its own is because readers need to be warned:  these photos are upsetting.  I didn’t make it past the first few myself so I can’t say specifically how many or how awful they are as a whole but knowing how Sandy suffered and that he was used in these photos as a fundraising prop for a so-called rescue, it’s almost too much to bear.  Click with caution.

Animals advocates work with a lot of rescues, many of which are known only via social media.  It feels natural to assume that the people saving animals from pet killing facilities are the good guys.  Usually, they are.  Let this serve as a reminder that there are evil people in all walks of life.  They are a tiny minority, thankfully.  But it is on us to perform our due diligence when donating or otherwise supporting animal groups.  That can be tricky, especially when faced with certain death for an animal at a pound.

It’s completely unacceptable that our public animal shelters put us in this position.  We need our government shelters to be safe havens for pets.  That is not at all the case in far too many facilities across the country.  Which leaves animal advocates in constant crisis mode, forever scrambling to find someone, anyone with an open space for a pet we are desperate to save.  No animal advocate wants a shelter pet killed.  No animal advocate wants what happened to Sandy to happen to any sentient being.  These should not be the choices we face.

Shelter reform, now.

(Thanks Clarice.)

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16 Comments

  1. bestuvall

     /  September 2, 2016

    Horrendous but the wrong person got the heave ho..vets do pretty much what clients want or are willing to do.. and rescues are some of the worst.. this one used the cat for money. My guess is that the vet did not send the tissue out because the rescue did not wan to pay for it.. he did not euthanize the cat because the rescue did not want the cat to die because they were getting cash. Many vets are tired of rescues asking for free or heavily discounted fees just because they wear that rescue hat ( or halo). Some people will want to take their animal home to die. That is their right. In this case the at belonged to the rescue.. they are ones that should be shut down..

    Reply
    • If you read the veterinary board’s decision, it will give you a better understanding of the vet’s actions. I think it will change your mind. He appears to be criminally negligent. He’s lucky he got off with just losing his license.

      Reply
  2. bestuvall

     /  September 2, 2016

    “Over the next 6 months, Whitney performed multiple gruesome surgeries on Sandy, gouging away at his eye until it was finally gone as well as portions of his nose and mouth. The deeply invasive tumor continued to grow and Whitney continued to drain the cat’s face of massive infection in between the surgeries. Whitney never submitted any of the surgically removed tissue to a lab for testing. Sandy was never diagnosed or given any prognosis. He was unable to eat normally and was suffering tremendously. He wasted away.”
    lots of assumptions here “gouging away at his eye” how do you know this “never a diagnosis or a prognosis ” how do you know that? You would think the rescue that cared for the cat day and night would figure it out.. maybe the vet said I can send this in to the lab but the cost is xxxx” and the rescue said no thanks we cannot “afford” that..”multiple gruesome surgeries”? how do you define that? most surgeries are pretty gruesome to most people even a spay.. I don’t blame the vet..

    Reply
  3. I looked at all the photos and the worst are probably the first few. I also read the boards decision to revoke his license. He was given multiple opportunities to retain it and blew every single one. He also was his own worst witness and I almost felt bad for him. Good news I guess is that if he ever decides to try to get his license back he’ll have to reimburse the state for the 20 grand they spent on the investigation. What a mess. And the poor cat, ugh! Why they didn’t get a second opinion sooner is a head shaker. Always, ALWAYS get a second opinion when there’s surgery involved or something that is this serious. ALWAYS.

    Reply
  4. Donation-funded rescues USING animals to make money so that the primary players can continue to make rescue their CAREER is nothing new now that social media allows them to reach out for donations around the world.

    However, as cruel and heartbreaking as Sandy’s situation was, there is a 180 degree opposite trend occurring that is also a cruel USING of animals that are supposed to be rescued; animals rescued with donation money, they are “sorted”, animals that can be sold are kept alive, but those deemed by the rescue, often called a “shelter” by its opportunist operators, to be unadoptable because of non-linear threatening issues are killed, or they simply disappear.
    The really shady aspect of this scam is that although the rescue often “says” their vet says the animal “needs to be euthanized”, the rescue/unregulated shelter rarely, if ever, will post vet and/or euthanasia reports, even when asked to by their donors and followers.
    In fact, if someone asks too many questions, they frequently are attacked by the rescues enabler, sheep followers.

    So where exactly does the designated donation money for a crisis rescue of an animal go that was supposed to be for the rescue and care of the animal/s go? How about the founder of the rescue, the president, and the BofD’s vacation fund.

    Because of the lack of regulation in Donation-funded rescue, and also the publics short attention span after the entertaining and adrenelin “crisis rescue” is over, healthy, or reasonably healthy animals that are supposed to be rescued using designated donation money are being killed instead.

    Once social media made it free and easy for rescues to market themselves and also collect donation money doing crisis rescues, the fraudster opportunists came out of their holes and are USING animals take a fine living.

    And while some rescued animals need to be euthanized to end their sufffering, many animals that are supposed to be rescued using donation money are instead being killed or disappeared and the money collected for their rescue and care is being pocketed by animal dealers posing as rescuers.

    RIP Sandy, you didn’t deserve the horrific torture you endured at the hands of greedy monsters.

    And RIP all of the animals that are supposed to be safe in rescue, but instead were cruelly killed by scammers even though you wanted, and deserved to LIVE.

    Reply
  5. mikken

     /  September 2, 2016

    Damn. I won’t look at the photos, but the fact that the vet lost his license (which is a hard thing to do, apparently), speaks volumes. It’s a monstrous thing to use an animal’s suffering for fundraising.

    And sending a biopsy off to the lab after the first surgery has got to be cheaper than multiple follow up surgeries, so I don’t buy the idea that they couldn’t pay for the lab results.

    You think about all of the nerves in the face and all I can do is hope that that poor cat got all kinds of pain meds.

    Greed or some kind of mental defect? Either way, they should NOT be in the rescue business.

    Reply
  6. bestuvall

     /  September 2, 2016

    I read the transcript.. looks like the vet did not adhere to previous disciplinary actions he did tell the rescue the cat was terminal but they chose to take him home.. no matter what.. the cat is their property.. they should be the ones investigated and charged for fraud and cruelty to animals..but they are off on a technicality.. geez I hope they enjoyed that cash while warehousing a terminal cat.. on another note.. one animal rights vet in New York reported another cat owner who decided to take their cat home and allow it to die there..they charged the owner took his cat and killed it .. is that what we want? at least this is an expose on some so called rescues.. also note that it looks like the vet did not charge the rescue any money for treatment.. is it cruelty to refuse a biopsy and subsequent lab work? I don;t know

    Reply
    • There are going to be gray areas where euthanasia is concerned. To me, this case doesn’t fall into any gray area. The point of the biopsy is to identify the type of cancer which then gives the vet the ability to recommend treatment or, if untreatable, to let the owner know that too. For the vet to simply keep chiseling away at this cat’s face, never knowing what the tumor was and thereby having no means of knowing if surgery was even a reasonable treatment, is negligent, particularly when the cat kept developing massive infections, was wasting away, and clearly had no quality of life.

      Reply
    • I’m not sure if I am understanding you when you ask about refusing the biopsy being cruel but *if* you are asking generally (not specific to Sandy) about owners who can not afford lab work, no I certainly wouldn’t think that qualifies as cruelty. There are circumstances to be considered with every case. Aside from cost, there is the risk of anesthesia for example, which the vet may recommend against for a particular animal.

      Reply
      • bestuvall

         /  September 3, 2016

        there are vets who refuse to treat any animal without lab work.. I guess that is their right but if an animal is sick and the owner cannot afford extensive lab work then what should the vet be charged with cruelty or are they just doing what is their right .. refusing treatment? I get that this vet was under previous charges i think hat is why he lost his license.. a multiple bunch of things.. I do not think a vet can kill a persons animal without their permission.. if the rescue did not want the cat killed ( and they didn’t) but the vet recommended it.. then who has the rights? I am pretty sure ( just assuming) that any qualified vet would know this was a tumor that was growing but if the owner did not want the animal killed then what is the vet to do? This is not specific to this case but to ownership in general

  7. mikken

     /  September 3, 2016

    “I do not think a vet can kill a persons animal without their permission.”

    Yes, they can euthanize for compassionate reasons. As is the case when you bring an injured stray to a vet – if the animal is suffering and in immediate need of euthanasia, a vet can euthanize. Indeed, is ethically compelled to euthanize.

    “if the rescue did not want the cat killed ( and they didn’t) but the vet recommended it.. then who has the rights? ”

    I would appreciate it if you used the words “killed” and “euthanasia” appropriately. What is being discussed is NOT killing. It is euthanasia.

    As for “who has the rights”, the owner has a right, but the vet has an obligation to report any suspected cruelty. As did the second vet.

    “I am pretty sure ( just assuming) that any qualified vet would know this was a tumor that was growing but if the owner did not want the animal killed then what is the vet to do? This is not specific to this case but to ownership in general”

    We had a similar case in our county. Dog was in bad shape, neighbor reported it. Owner knew dog was riddled with cancer (large open, horrible bleeding tumors, maggots, emaciation, reeking of decomposing flesh, the works), but “wasn’t ready” to “let him go”. The humane officer sat down and discussed it with the owner. The owner knew the dog was suffering, but was not emotionally prepared to euthanize. The humane officer assured the owner that she would bring this dog straight to the vet, that the dog would feel no pain or fear, that it would all be for the best, that it was a kind thing to do.

    In the end, the owner agreed and relinquished the dog.

    If you have someone willing to counsel an owner, find out the real reason they are not euthanizing when euthanasia is obviously needed, and try to help them get on that path, you can usually work things out. Some people may need a euthanasia at home option, some don’t want to be there for the euthanasia, some just can’t afford it, etc. Find out what is needed and fill that need. For both the person and the animal.

    Reply
  8. bestuvall

     /  September 4, 2016

    well the real reason here was money.. the vet loses his license and so far the rescue walks away to do this again. thanks for the lecture too.. note I said a “persons animal” not an unowned animal I find it ironic that when my friend wanted her elderly dog put down ( the dog was 19) the vet refused..until she had a complete set of blood work and other tests.the poor dog could hardly walk. when my dog was in convulsions the vet wanted to do the same ( she was 15) I had to convince them to let her go ( do you like that terms better..gee I hope so)

    Reply
    • mikken

       /  September 4, 2016

      Some vets are assholes, no question. We’ve run into a similar situation when my sister moved to a new state. Her cat, in renal failure with a diagnosed heart condition, was non-stop seizing and the vet, because this was a cat unknown to him, wanted to do all sorts of tests. I had to tell them over the phone that they were to euthanize immediately and stop screwing around with this poor animal. It made an extremely difficult day worse to have to fight to get the right thing done for her cat.

      So I get it, I do.

      But it’s important to call things what they are. Sandy was euthanized. Your dog was euthanized. Euthanasia is what is done to end suffering. It is a kindness.

      Killing is not euthanasia. They are two very different things.

      Reply
  9. vida

     /  September 4, 2016

    Glad they got the vet, wish they’d gotten justice regarding the rescue but that may come. At least their name is out there and people know they are not to be trusted with animals or donations.

    Reply
  10. Anne Thomas

     /  September 4, 2016

    Bestuvall, I’m sorry about your dog. The concern about terminology concerned using “euthanasia” appropriately; in your dog’s case, it was certainly euthanasia.

    Reply
  11. Marisa

     /  April 5, 2017

    This whole story saddens me to the core. The needless suffering of poor Sandy, the rescue getting off scott free, and Dr. Ryan losing his license. Dr. Ryan was my elderly cat’s vet for about 2 years. He was amazing. It’s difficult to reconcile my experiences with him as the person who allowed this cat to suffer so much. He treated my cat so sweetly and with such compassion.

    Reply

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