A heart tugging story from last week became tragically sad when it was revealed that Daniel Dockery’s beloved cat Scruffy had been euthanized rather than treated as promised when the Arizona Humane Society’s Campus of Compassion clinic in Phoenix got him to sign her over to them when he brought her for help after an injury.
We saw a story from the Arizona Republic last Saturday, Christmas Eve, that moved us as it did many others. Daniel Dockery, a recovering herion addict had saved and been saved by a tiny kitten he had cared for since birth. According to the newspaper story, “He raised money to have Scruffy spayed. The kitten ate from fresh cans of tuna and slept on Dockery’s pillow at night.” Daniel lavished loving care on Scruffy, who became a therapy animal for him, helping him to stay off drugs and giving a loving purpose to his day to day life.
Daniel brought 9 month old Scruffy to the clinic on December 8, when she needed treatment for a leg injury from barbed wire that he later described as non-life threatening. He was told that treatment would cost $400, with payment required up front. Daniel’ did not have the funds on hand but his mother was willing to pay over the phone with her credit card. The center refused the credit card payment, citing policy, and told Daniel that if he signed over his beloved companion to AHS she would be treated and placed into foster care. Desperate to get help for Scruffy, he relinquished his rights to her and gave her to the AHS facility. He is quoted in the story of December 24 saying, “”They call themselves the Campus of Compassion and Care. There’s a big sign with those words on it over there. But I didn’t get no compassion and I didn’t get no care that day,” Dockery said. “There wasn’t any kind of confrontation, just a lot of tears, you know, when I signed those papers.”
As the days passed, Daniel tried to locate Scruffy and find out how she was faring, but received no help from the humane society. When the story went public, members of the community showed their support and sympathy for the brokenhearted man who’d lost the little cat who was so important to him and who could not even find out how or where she was.
Once public scrutiny forced their hand AHS admitted that Scruffy had not received treatment but instead had been euthanized within hours of coming into their possession. The organization gave reasons why this occurred, but the outcome left everyone following the story saddened and many outraged.
That public outrage manifested itself in hundreds of posts and comments at the AHS Facebook page, and calls for a boycott on donations to the organization, along with other protests. AHS hired Stacy Pearson to handle the public relations crisis, and the humane society apologized, explained its side of the story, and finally announced that it would change its policies.
Along with the great number of critics, the organization has its supporters, too, who point to the good work done by the organization and attempt to minimize public perception of callousness or wrongdoing on the part of the Humane Society.
Stacy Pearson said, in an effort to explain away negative public perception of the humane society’s actions, Dockery brought Scruffy to the Campus of Compassion clinic on a day when the agency took in 178 animals. She said that Scruffy was transported to a second-chance clinic for treatment with three other animals, but doctors were available to treat only two of them, at which point the decision was made to put Scruffy down. If Dockery had been able to pay the bill, Pearson said, Scruffy would have been treated at the Campus for Compassion and would not have been euthanized. Another statement coming from the organization said that Scruffy’s injury was more severe than was understood from Daniel Dockery’s description of it.
In an effort to repair the public’s trust, the Humane Society instituted a fund to help pay for the care f animals whose people are unable to pay, and requested donations to that fund as an alternative to pulling donations from the organization. The Humane Society also announced that the organization will now accept credit card payments over the phone.
The Arizona Humane Society wrote Wednesday at their Facebook page:
Scruffy’s story is heartbreaking, and underscores the worst-case-scenario of need eclipsing resources available. Despite recent media coverage, AHS strives to do what is best not only for pets, but also for the people in their lives. AHS recognizes and empathizes with the harsh realities that people face daily and the extraordinary circumstances that can occur. Due to the generosity of longtime Arizona Humane Society donors, staff members and its board of directors, AHS is in the process of establishing a 9-1-1 Emergency Gap Fund, for those people whose pets require immediate medical care when full payment is not immediately available. The goal of this fund is that it is perpetually replenished. In addition, AHS has changed its credit card policy within its public clinics and credit card payment over the phone will be accepted effective immediately. AHS will also continue to offer credit services to those who qualify.
AHS is committed to never having a situation like Mr. Dockery’s and Scruffy’s happen again as we truly believe that every pet deserves a good life and will continue in our mission to safeguard, advocate, heal, rescue, shelter and adopt animals in to their forever homes as we care for over 46,000 animals annually.
On Thursday they wrote:
We recognize AHS’ credit card policy failed Mr. Dockery and Scruffy and for that we are truly sorry. We’ve modified our credit card policies to ensure that a situation like this doesn’t happen again. And perhaps most impactful, thanks to the generosity of our long-time donors, we now have a special 911 emergency gap fund to help people who are not able to pay for immediate care.
Again, we thank our community of supporters who value AHS – our staff and our volunteers who work endless hours to save as many pets as they possibly can. That has been our mission for nearly 55 years, and we will continue to care for the over 46,000 animals that we take in each year. We understand and acknowledge the outrage over this situation, but encourage you to use this opportunity to channel your energy in a positive way – volunteer at your local shelter, adopt an animal in need and take time to understand the impact of our community’s pet overpopulation crisis.
All of the apologies, explanations and changes come too late for innocent little Scruffy and her brokenhearted caregiver Daniel Dockery. Hopefully, sensitivity to public perception and the changes in policy will help other animals in the future.
This local news video addresses the controversy wrought by Scruffy and Daniel’s tragedy.