Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Some can't afford humane thing to do

Cost of putting cat down just too much for owner

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I was on deadline Friday afternoon when the phone rang, which, given why the man was calling, seems appropriate in retrospect.

Darcy Canty wanted to have his old and sick Persian pussycat put to sleep.

So why was he calling me? Canty explained he's on a "fixed income" and doesn't have the $125 the veterinarian asked for, much less the $250 total tab if he wanted her ashes, too.

Actually, there's more to the story, and more to the issue.

Canty lives in an inner-city apartment with three cats and his twin brother, David. As for Kiki, she was given to them years ago by their sister, who, strangely enough, worked at a vet clinic where Kiki had been surrendered.

Sadly, that's the last time Kiki saw a vet. Now, with Kiki being at an advanced age, she's throwing up and drinking a lot more water, yet she is still eating well and purring.

There's another problem, though.

Kiki isn't using her litter box anymore. She goes wherever she wants and lounges about in it.

Last Friday, before he called me, Canty said he called the Winnipeg Humane Society. A woman answered and Canty said he explained the circumstances.

"I just said, 'I think my cat needs to be put down,' " Canty told me Monday when I had more time to talk.

He said he inquired about having Kiki euthanized. And, according to Canty, she told him they don't do that for people who are cat owners.

"You just can't bring your animal in there to put her down without a charge," he recalled the woman on the phone saying.

"You'll have to phone a vet," Canty said she advised him.

"I said, 'I don't understand. I'm on a fixed income.' "

There was something else he didn't understand. "I thought the humane society was there to help people."

Actually, it's there to help animals, but I get what he means. I contacted the humane society via email Monday and CEO Bill McDonald responded.

"We don't turn away people on low income or in need," McDonald wrote back.

But the humane society does charges $100 to have a pet put to sleep. "We have a financial payment plan (FPP) that we offer to people who have trouble paying. We accept whatever they can afford at the time, including nothing, and arrange a repayment plan with them."

I wondered if people like Canty, who bring animals to be "put to sleep," are also permitted to be in the room to comfort their pets when the lethal dose is injected?

"Sometimes," McDonald said.

But it's not the norm. He explained vets and animal health-care technicians aren't always immediately available.

I had some followup questions for McDonald based on the conversation Canty said he had with the woman at the humane society.

I asked if what Canty reported happening on the phone sounded like standard humane society practice. He said it was "normal" practice.

"We are not a vet practice open to the public and we encourage people to take the animal to their own vet."

McDonald elaborated.

"We do this as the Manitoba Veterinarian Medical Association does not want the WHS doing vet clinic business."

But, as he had already explained, the humane society will offer a time-payment plan to pet owners of meagre means.

"Unfortunately," McDonald said, "it seems to be on the increase that people cannot afford the vet care."

Apparently Canty is one of those growing numbers. "I don't know; what are people supposed to do who don't have the money if their cat gets sick?" Canty told me.

Since we've talked, he said he hopes to take Canty to a vet, who can access whether she can be treated, or whether someone will help him do the humane thing.

In the end, McDonald told me to have Canty call their intake manager "and she will make arrangements to have the cat looked at."

I forgot to ask McDonald if there will be a charge for that. Either way, I'm sure the humane society will take good care of them now.

I just hope that, if it's decided the kitty should be put to sleep, Darcy Canty can be there to tuck Kiki in.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2012 B1

History

Updated on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 9:36 AM CDT: Corrects typo

10:03 AM: corrects typos

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