Legal arguments in the historical and ongoing illegal killing of stray animals at all five of the Animal Humane Society shelters in the Twin Cities area are documented in various correspondence between the attorneys involved in the situation. Two key documents describe the arguments on both side of the issue quite clearly.
The first document is a letter written by Sarah Duniway of Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennet, representing AHS.
In this letter, Duniway references Minnesota Statutes 343.29 and 343.22 (seizure of animals in cruelty investigation). These statutes contain the following language:Upon a proper determination by a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine, any animal taken into custody pursuant to this section may be immediately disposed of when the animal is suffering and is beyond cure through reasonable care and treatment.Duniway argues that so-called "feral" cats are "suffering beyond cure" because they are terrified by being housed in an animal shelter. She claims that AHS has licensed veterinarians evaluate cats they deem "feral", that these veterinarians deem them to be "suffering beyond cure" and that AHS humanely ends their lives. She also suggests that failing to do so would be "cruel".
The second document is a letter written by Marshall Tanick, Senior Partner at Mansfield, Tanick and Cohen law firm, widely regarded as one of the top animal law attorneys in the United States.
In his letter, Tanick emphasizes the following points:
Minnesota laws governing the disposition of stray animals (35.71) make no exception for those that may be deemed "feral".
The term "feral" is not defined in State law, as a result, all "feral" cats are covered under "stray" animal laws.
There is nothing in state law that prohibits the keeping of untamed, unsocialized felines. In fact, doing so is common practice. Many Minnesota's keep outdoor "mousers", for example. If these felines wonder off, the owners of these cats have rights under State law to have opportunity to reclaim their animals.
Many very tame and social felines will behave exactly like unsocial cats when trapped, transported and confronted with the strange and frightening environment at an animal shelter.
The frightened state of cats in shelters is easily mitigated by a variety of housing techniques that will reduce their stress.
Returning freighted felines to their owners also cures their frightened condition.
The frightened state of cats at the humane society is a condition of the facility, and not a medical condition of the felines themselves.
References to Statutes 343.29 and 343.22 are misplaced, because these statutes relate to animals confiscated during cruelty investigations, where the owner of the animal(s) is generally known. They have no relevance to stray animals being brought to a humane society.
There is no statutory language that would suggest that "suffering and beyond cure" is intended to apply to animals that are simply frightened of the shelter environment.
In addition to these correspondence, it is worth noting that while Duniway insists evaluations of felines are performed by licensed veterinarians, other correspondence from AHS suggest otherwise. For example, in the response from AHS to the Vollmerhausen Complaint the Site Manager for the Animal Humane Society Golden Valley facility stated that these evaluations are performed by "veterinary technicians".
Furthermore, the Animal Rights Coalition, the No Kill Advocacy Center and Animal Ark question the idea presented by AHS that failing to kill cats they deem "feral" would be cruel. AHS has also stated they support TNR efforts for feral cats. They also claim they offered to turn these cats over to Animal Ark, and that Animal Ark refused to take them. Documents related to this case prove Animal Ark did offer to accept cats AHS deemed feral.
However, these apparently contradictory statements made by AHS beg the question: if it would be "cruel" to house these cats for the required time-period, as defined by law, why would AHS offer to transfer them elsewhere for housing?
For more information about the growing list of complaints against the Animal Humane Society click here.
As a former employee of the AHS I was in the position of putting "feral" cats down. There was never a vet. who examined these animals or determined if they were feral. EVER. It was left up to the vet. techs to determine this.
I remember one time when a "feral" cat population was trapped and brought in and with them there was a 5-6 week old kitten and I was told to "put them all down" but I couldn't do it. Instead I took home the little kitten and in a few weeks she was sterilized and was adopted out. Oh and by the way these were all Persian mixes. Don't see many of those as "ferals".
It seemed to me that sometimes all these cats needed was just a little patience and time and a lot of love.