This writer recently talked with a volunteer of the Humane Society of the New Braunfels Area. It was a disturbing conversation, raising questions as to how animals are treated there. This is the second volunteer to be interviewed. As with the first volunteer interviewed, some details about this person have been changed to protect his identity. None of the details about how the shelter is run have been changed. Let's call this second volunteer, Joe. [This article has been edited to remove notification of a City Council meeting which is now past. --Editor]
The first volunteer told about the ordeal of a pregnant cat who suffered in labor for two days. As horrible as the details were, this writer left something out as too gruesome. The Humane Society is now on record on their FaceBook page calling the first volunteer's story "completely untrue." So it is just all going to be put out there now, graphic or not.
No one who saw Mama Cat will ever forget her. She was in labor for 48 hours and when finally taken to the vet, she had a cold, dead kitten stuck in her birth canal. X-rays revealed a crushed pelvis, likely the result of pushing in labor. Joe was horrified at the pain the cat was in and the cat's condition. The dead kitten's head was detached from the kitten's body. The inability to remove the dead kitten's head had prompted the Humane Society staff, after some disagreement, to allow the cat to be taken to the vet.
Joe speculated the cat had been in so much pain, she had chewed the kitten's head off. The first volunteer I spoke to thought the head had come off because the kitten had been dead for some time. By the time a vet saw Mama Cat, her body was cold and she seemed numb to the pain. That was one small blessing before she welcomed her end.
She was not the only cat that Joe saw die at the new Humane Society facility. For about a month, every morning the staff would find one or more dead cats when they opened up in the morning. The reason for the deaths was a mystery, but the cats had all foamed at the mouth before dying. Finally a sick cat was taken to the vet and the diagnosis was Feline panleukopenia (also called feline distemper.)
The American Veterinary Medical Association website describes it as a "highly contagious and deadly viral disease of cats" which used to be "the most serious infectious disease of cats." Now that there is a vaccine, the disease is considered uncommon. The cat had to be euthanized and the Humane Society was instructed to quarantine the cats, sterilize the cat area and cease adoptions for a minimum of two weeks. However, the volunteer said several people adopted cats after the diagnosis and the cats fell ill. This happened over six months ago, so the panleukopenia is no longer present. With so many cats being killed each year by the Humane Society (over 80% in 2013) this writer would hate to see people hesitate to adopt cats. Truly you save a life when you adopt there.
Generally a kill shelter will not vaccinate until an animal is adopted; but these kill shelters keep the animals for only a few days. They are either adopted, killed, or sent to rescues. The Humane Society likely follows the same practice regarding vaccines (this writer does not yet know), but they keep animals for a much longer period of time. The longer you keep animals without vaccinating them, the greater the risk some animals will contract a preventable illness.
Medical woes are not just confined to the cats. Joe saw a dog with a hurt leg. The dog was taken to the vet and found to have a broken leg. Humane Society staff declined to have the dog's leg set and refused pain medication. It is not known why those decisions were made, but any further treatment would have been an additional charge. The volunteer did not have further information on the dog.
There are no veterinarians or vet techs employed by the Humane Society. So, it would seem the Humane Society management would welcome medical training for their staff. Area veterinarians have noticed the staff's lack of expertise and reached out offering free seminars. (Local veterinarians are very generous to the Humane Society, offering free and discounted treatment.) During Joe's tenure as a volunteer, these offers to train Human Society staff in best medical practices were refused.
One time, shortly before he ceased to volunteer at the Humane Society, Joe overheard one side of a phone conversation, hopefully it was to a veterinarian; "What happens if you give a dog a cat vaccine?"
There was a pause and then came a follow-up question, "What if it is more than one dog?"
I am looking for more volunteers from the Humane Society to tell me what goes on in the area away from the public behind closed doors and members of the public to tell me their experiences. Your privacy will be respected and your identity concealed. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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