When Rescuing Really Means Killing: The Unanswered Questions

On Tuesday, February 10, 130 cats were “rescued” by the Animal Humane Society (AHS) from a hoarding situation in St. Anthony, Minnesota. AHS received multiple offers of help from other shelters and rescue organizations. AHS senior staff told the public and media that the cats would be kept for two to three weeks to complete medical and behavior evaluations. However, for the next few days, AHS executive director, Janelle Dixon was quoted as saying the cats were, “unlikely to be adoptable.” On Saturday, February 14, Dixon appeared on WCCO television and announced that the cats had been killed and cited common, treatable, and manageable ailments as the rationale for killing the cats.

Early the following week, KSTP Eyewitness News broke a story in which a shocking timeline was uncovered. In the story Eyewitness News reported that Kathie Johnson, AHS Director of Veterinary Services, had told reporters that it would take weeks to determine the cats’ health: ” ‘We’re giving them time to settle down and we’re hoping after a few days, we can start fully evaluating them,’ Johnson said on February 11. But now, the Humane Society said they were euthanized-not weeks later, not days later-but just hours later that same night.”

Most of the media that originally covered the “rescue” gave no coverage to the revelation that AHS had grossly misled them. But even after that revelation, there remain other questions that need to be asked to get to the full truth behind this story:

1) Why has no one interviewed the veterinarian in charge of the case?
2) Has the AHS Board of Directors asked for, or been given, a full briefing by the veterinarian in charge of the case?
3) Have reporters investigated the credentials of the Director of Veterinary Services, Kathie Johnson, who is not a veterinarian? Why is Ms. Johnson allowed to make life or death decisions for animals when she is not a veterinarian?
4) The 2/17 press release issued by AHS said that the cats were euthanized because “Clinical diagnosis and medical testing provided evidence of multiple health issues within the group of cats. The issues included upper respiratory infection (URI), ringworm, the herpes virus, and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).” Why have no reporters questioned whether there is an accurate veterinary basis for this statement? For example, it is not possible to definitively diagnose ringworm within 24 hours. A ringworm culture must be done and it takes at least 10 days to obtain results from this culture. Another example: a positive FIV test result does not indicate that a cat has FIV, only that a cat has been exposed to the virus. How many cats were tested and how many positives were there?
5) If the St. Anthony cats were as unsocialized as AHS claimed, how was it possible to thoroughly examine 130 cats in a matter of a few hours before the cats were killed?

As of yet, there has been no public comment by AHS to the KSTP Eyewitness News discovery that AHS misled both the media and the public. We encourage the AHS Board of Directors, the media, and the public to ask the hard questions listed above so that all the facts in this disturbing case can be brought to light.