Arizona Humane Society faces outrage and institutes changes after Daniel Dockery’s cat Scruffy is euthanized

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 by the Arizona Humane Society. A public outcry has caused AHS to apologize and change their policies.

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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.

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8 thoughts on “Arizona Humane Society faces outrage and institutes changes after Daniel Dockery’s cat Scruffy is euthanized

  1. I read this story and watched the video, I’ve also read about this on other sites. The ABC reporter skirted right around the issue that the owners mother called in to make the credit card payment. She was ready to pay for the treatment. The Humane Society refused due to a RIDICULOUS policy. In other words, the owners mother tried to pay for treatment, was refused, then ultimately the cat was put down because treatment was not paid. What kind of nonsense is that? In the story, they make the statement that if treatment had been paid for, the cat would have been treated, not euthanized! Well folks, nobody would take payment. In the meantime, this cat was a lifesaver for its owner. He was forced to relinquish ownership so that she could be treated, and then instead the AHS kills her.
    The plea of “oh don’t pull donations because the humane society needs them to prevent this problem from happening again” is complete stupidity. I say, pull the funding. If I make a mistake, people don’t reward me by helping more. I end up taking responsibility for my mistake, usually having some sort of negative consequences so why shouldn;t they? Many many so called humane societies are so overwhelmed with animals now that the employees have become hard, not even noticing what’s going on. The picture of Mr. Dockery is just pitiful. He’s destroyed by this whole thing.
    The AHS was so incredibly wrong from start to finish. Their policies were bad to begin with – not taking a credit card payment over the phone! Really, really? What century were they living in? Then they proclaim proudly that they’ve changed their policies, like they are candidates for sainthood now or something. Shame, Shame on them

    1. When I was reading the story, I kept waiting to see that they offered him another cat. I realize that no other cat could replace Scruffy but at least it would have been a kind act on their side. Who knows, maybe he would have accepted and felt even just a little bit better???? At least he wouldn’t be alone—-he’d have company once again.

  2. Seriously?? A $400.00 procedure, and you euthanize a young kitty!! Shame on YOU!!! I am a Volunteer, and the Schedule Coordinator for Forgotten Cats, Inc. in Jenkintown, PA. There is no financial compensation for the work I do, ONLY LOVE. I don’t give to any other organization because I know our kitties are treated right. But in all honesty, we cannot take every kitty. There is not enough space, foster parents, or money to take in every kitty on the street. But we do the best we can, and this is not the case in this story. Financial responsibility was being offered, and there was no flexibility being offered back. Horrendous!! If someone wants to take financial responsibility, our organization has clinics that offer the lowest cost spaying, neutering, and basic medical care possible. And the kitty does not have to be homeless. It is offered to anyone that needs it!! I would say stop your donations, but The Humane Society and the ASPCA offer shelter to the animals, whose people don’t want to take the time to find a new home when they no longer want their pet. If they are not provided an immediate solution, they will dump them, and then these beautiful babies are left to starve to death. That is the real tragedy of our society!! An inability to commit, and delay gratification long enough to be a responsible human being!! Hopefully, this will not happen again. I am sorry this sweet kitty, and it’s owner had to suffer being an example in order to create change. Unfortunately, this happens all too often in life!! :*(

  3. I live in Phoenix, Arizona.

    Here is the truth about what is going on with the Arizona “Humane” Society, which is commonly known as AHS.

    Please investigate this:

    A number of us were planning to email and call the Arizona Humane Society’s “Corporate Partners,” to protest their continuing support of AHS.

    However, AHS apparently got wind of our plan and has removed their website page, which specifically listed their Corporate Partners!

    Please inform the general public of this fact.

    Could you also please publicize a list of all of AHS’s Corporate Partners and Media Partners.

    (I am in the process of gathering that information.)

    Thanks very much.

    As of this very moment (12/31/2011), the Arizona Humane Society is continuing to delete many comments on their Facebook page.

    They are also blocking certain people from posting any comments, whatsoever, on their Facebook page.

    In addition, I wish to inform you of the following:

    What the Arizona “Humane” Society did to this little cat (Scruffy) and its owner was just business, as usual; i.e., standard operating procedure.

    My family, friends, co-workers and I have had numerous dealings with AHS, over a period of many years.

    I can tell you that AHS does this kind of thing on a regular basis!

    This is nothing out of the ordinary, at all. It has been going on, for years. They just happened to finally get caught.

    I have heard from former AHS volunteers with regard to what actually goes on, behind the scenes, at AHS.

    Here is something to ponder:

    Sixty percent (60%) of all animals turned in to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (the Phoenix, Arizona “Pound”) leave there, ALIVE!

    Only THIRTY PERCENT (30%) of all animals turned in to the Arizona Humane Society leave there, ALIVE!

    The Arizona “Humane” Society states, “We care for over 46,000 animals annually.”

    What AHS fails to mention is that they KILL the vast majority of those animals!

    That means that out of the 46,000 animals that AHS “cares for” every year, approximately SEVENTY PERCENT (70%) of them DIE, while they are in the custody of the Arizona “Humane” Society!

    AHS volunteers have said that that the Arizona “Humane” Society ROUTINELY kills litters of kittens and puppies.

    People wonder why there are, at times, no dogs available for adoption at the Arizona Humane Society and also why half of AHS’ kennels are empty.

    That is because AHS has been alleged to be a coldly efficient killing machine!

    (By the way, if you check out the Arizona Humane Society’s Facebook page, they are receiving literally thousands of negative comments. However, as I mentioned, AHS is censoring their own Facebook page and removing some of those comments. AHS is also blocking certain people from posting any comments, at all. So much for freedom of speech!)

    Please do not believe AHS’ statement that they are “heartbroken” over what happened to little Scruffy, the nine-month-old kitten.

    According to various Arizona Humane Society volunteers (who know what they are talking about), AHS allegedly LOOKS for flimsy excuses to kill dogs, cats, kittens and puppies!

    Arizona “Humane” Society’s nonchalant, casual, uncaring attitude toward euthanasia is shocking and disgusting.

    AHS needs to be put out of business. We need to donate our hard-earned money to reputable, honest, compassionate, caring animal shelters, instead.

    Also, AHS is constantly begging for money.

    Yet, they took in almost $13 MILLION DOLLARS, last year!

    AHS also has $31 MILLION, in assets!

    Plus, AHS Director Guy Collison’s salary (in 2010) was $118,492!

    Think about your hard-earned, monetary donations being used to pay huge salaries for the AHS Director (and the rest of the AHS Executive Staff), as well as to pay thousands of dollars for AHS’ administrative costs.

    To add insult to injury, AHS uses a large number of COMPLETELY UNPAID volunteers, which leaves AHS even more money for so-called administrative costs and for the giant salaries of their over-paid Director and other over-paid Executive Staff!

    Lastly, while some other Arizona animal-rescue organizations have a four-star rating, AHS only squeaked by with a three-star rating.

    Why is AHS’ rating so low?


    1. You did your homework well Beth. All is true concerning the Arizona Humane Society. They are a Death camp for innocent animals and we do need to shut them down as soon as possible. Willing to do my part here to fight to close this facility down. We must ALL walk the walk not just talk the talk. I urge Everyone to halt ALL donations to any large shelter and concentrate on the reputable rescue groups and no kill shelters nationwide.

  4. I can validate Beth’s statement that people are being blocked on the AHS FB page as I am one of those. I posted a memo from the AHS website and within minutes my posts since Thursday were deleted and I was blocked. What they cannot do unless they remove everyone’s post is take my name out of the replies back on the post. Now I have spent time trying to listen to the AHS supporters (most who called anyone who did not view AHS favorably were called bullies or stupid- I got over being called stupid years ago and it shows the level that these attacks came from). There has been an attempt to point the blame at Mr. Dockery to the public in general for not spaying and neutering animals. Yes, we need to be responsible, but we did not kill Scruffy. AHS did that. AHS has truly not stepped up and made a sincere apology to Mr. Dockery. Would you want a cat from that shelter knowing they had killed your cat? Mr. Dockery has a hard life and I found myself and others defending a man we did not know, but others claimed inside knowledge on but offered nothing. Scruffy should not have died because Mr. Dockery was a recovering addict, had been in prison or was poor. He had a means of payment. It was just not acceptable. Mr. Dockery signed Scruffy over thinking Scruffy would get what was promised. The AHS has lied to Mr. Dockery and others from December 8th until ??? I thank God that Mr. Dockery was able to get media attention. AHS supporters have said look at all the animals we saved. One person who believed that was no excuse for the death of Scruffy said it starts with one and Scruffy was that one. Do not let the AHS get out of this without some sort of investigation, audit or something. Too much money in profit was made and this is a non profit organization. If they have profit – why could the meager $400 been held against the credit card or Mr. Dockery told of people who support animals in need to contact? I smell discrimination based on Mr. Dockery did not fit the client that the AHS might typically see. Shame on you AHS. Scruffy will haunt you for the rest of your days as people will hear your name and remember you killed that one cat that did not have to die. Saving animals starts with one and Scruffy was that one.

  5. I hope that the Arizona Humane Society is shut down. If the pound can save more lives than the “humane society?” can then why not let them have the facility and take the funds and give them those as well and let them work with the animals. America is always willing to call other countries names and say how backwards they are when it come to animal care but what about this country? I really don’t know what will happen here but I hope something positive happens.
    I am sorry for this heartbroken man because of the loss of his beloved kitty. I hope that he will be fine and that one day he can find another little friend to share his life with.

  6. Something is wrong with this picture….Arizona “Humane” Society…..
    Who runs this place….Atilla the Hun?!? Shame on them….I hope they shut down!!!!
    Poor Mr. Dockerey and Scruffy!

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