Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Responsibility for Risk (News Article and Comment)

(Picture Left: "Chance." Purebred, Pomeranian who was going down in shelter for "severely aggressive" behavior when rescued two years ago. He is the sweetest, most loving dog on the planet. How a dog (or cat) "behaves" in a home depends far more on the people than the animal.)

The below article is from the Daily News. Personal comment to directly follow:

Forwarded article:

A Queens woman who adopted a tabby at a Petco fair thought she was getting a friendly, housebroken cat.Instead, she says, a feral creature with a lion-sized temper moved in - and took a chunk out of her finger.

Now Karen Costa is suing the pet-supply giant and a cat-rescue service and swearing off felines forever."No more kitties for me," Costa told the Daily News after papers were filed Monday. "It really should never have been a kitty made available for adoption."

Costa, 27, had just moved back to the city after college in 2007 and decided she could use a purring pal around the house.She and her then-fiancé went to the Petco in Manhattan's Union Square and fell for a longhaired female tabby put up for adoption by KittyKind.

Rescue workers told Costa the fluffy cat came as a package deal with her shorthaired brother."We figured, 'What's one more box of kitty food?' " Costa said.Costa paid between $150 and $200 for the 1-year-old pair and named them Harry and Sally after the movie characters.

After weeks of hiding under the bed, Harry emerged on May 30, 2007, to take a bite out of her right middle finger, Costa says.

She was hospitalized for three nights, needed surgery to repair the damage and couldn't work for six months.As a result, the Astoria woman says she lost a marketing contract with a major beverage distributor.

Despite occupational therapy, she says she still can't use her hand well enough to enjoy her favorite pastimes, bike riding and Jet Skiing.

Her lawsuit, filed in Queens Supreme Court by lawyer Paul Oliveri, accuses Petco and KittyKind of negligence for mislabeling the cats as domestic. Costa "would not have adopted the cats, and would therefore not have been attacked and severely bitten, had she known that one of the cats was feral...and not domestic," the suit says.

Petco did not return calls to the Union Square store and its corporate office. KittyKind officials declined to be interviewed, though one volunteer at the store scoffed at the allegations."It's ridiculous," she said, refusing to give her name.

The nonprofit's Web site says it does not take in feral cats. "They would be unadoptable and would be miserable living indoors," it says.

In 2006, former KittyKind head Marlene Kess was convicted of animal cruelty charges for dumping 200 dead cats in the yard of her New Jersey home.Kess claimed she had become overwhelmed by the number of sick and dying cats she had rescued.


Personal Comment: The above article represents almost all that is wrong in present day animal adoptions.

Not only does the unwarranted and unearned sense of "entitlement" result in huge numbers of unqualified people demanding animals from shelters and rescue groups, but often those demands come with the expectation that the adopted animals should be "perfect" in both health and behavior. If not, then there is the option and threat to sue.

As detailed endlessly in this blog, all cats and dogs, when suddenly uprooted from one environment to another need time to adjust and learn to trust.

Granted, some animals adapt and adjust quicker than others, depending on the age, socialization status and past experiences.

But, for those cats and dogs who react or even scratch or bite when pushed too far, too soon, there should not be the option to sue the adoption organization.

Animals are not computers that we can "program" to act perfectly in every situation.

Nor, are they chemicals that we can "test" in a contained environment.

Even when sending dogs to special trainers or behaviorists for weeks or even months, that is not guarantee or predictor on how the same animals will behave when suddenly shifting to a new place with new people and new "energy."

In effort to try and avoid frivolous lawsuits like the one described in the article, many shelters and rescues now conduct so-called "Behavior Tests" mostly on dogs. But, how a dog behaves in the structured, controlled, but stressful environment of a shelter and how that same dog behaves in the unstructured, less controlled, less stressed environment of a home are often two different things. -- The same is true for cats.

Shelter dogs who fail to pass the so-called, "Temperament Tests" are usually destroyed as they are considered a possible "liability." This despite great profiles from former owners or even rave reviews from shelter volunteers and dog walkers.

Over the years, we have rescued perhaps hundreds of dogs who failed one part or another of the "behavior tests." In almost all cases, the behavior in the eventual adoptive home did not match the negative behavioral rating from the shelter. Many times adopters of these dogs have expressed disbelief and disdain that the dog could have been so wrongly "evaluated" in the shelter.

By contrast, there have been a few times when a dog with a good behavioral evaluation at the shelter later displayed problematic or even aggressive behavior (mostly towards other dogs).

In other words, the Behavior Tests conducted in shelters are mostly useless -- except from the standpoint of (hopefully) sparing the shelter (or rescue group) the misery and stress of later having to deal with unjustified lawsuits.

Instead of seeking more and better ways to "predict" or "mold" animal behavior, (and punishing by death, those animals who don't measure up to near perfection), animal organizations need to drum the message home to the public and the press that animal adoption is NOT a predictable science, but rather, an unpredictable action that entails some risk on the part of the adopter.

Just as every man or woman who enters the professional fields of shelter work, veterinary medicine, animal grooming or rescue has to realize and assume that there will be times when animals may bite or scratch, so too, must any adopter of a cat or dog assume the responsibility of risk.

The lawsuit described in the article, if successful, could have a devastating impact on offsite animal adoptions either in pet supply stores or other public locations.

It only takes one nut to make things miserable for everyone else.

On the other hand, animal organizations never should have misled the public into thinking animal adoptions are without risk in the first place.

They are not now and never will be. -- PCA



Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that the Daily News has to resort to a negative portrayal of a rescue organization in order to attract readers. It's hard to believe that someone could be hospitalized for 3 days and incapable of working due to an injury to one finger, when there are disabled veterans of war with no limbs who are able to run marathons. This definitely sounds like an ambulance chasing lawyer and a greedy money hungry client. Makes me question what this woman did to threaten the cat and cause it to bite to protect itself. Cats don't normally seek out people to bite!

amby111 said...

There is definitely more to this story than what appears in the article. Who knows what this idiot did to provoke the cat. The extent of her "injury" sounds far fetched to me. I suppose she is completely oblivious to the fact that this lawsuit will likely make it harder for rescues to adopt out animals in stores like Petco.