Sunday, March 16, 2008

A promise that was really a threat

To animal rescue groups desperate to find a no kill shelter to care for cats that would otherwise be euthanized, Tiger Ranch Cat Sanctuary near Pittsburgh was a godsend. We've all heard the adage that if it's too good to be true it isn't true but, when it comes to no kill shelters, animal lovers will do whatever they can to ensure the promise that no kill animal shelters are a safe haven for animals with no viable alternative. Unfortunately, the safe haven wasn't so safe and raid by the PA SPCA last week revealed the shelter was a nightmare for the thousands of cats sent there

A 120-member team of shelter workers, police, veterinarians and volunteers descended on the property, 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, on Thursday night after a seven-month undercover investigation and found hundreds of sick and dying cats, 105 cat carcasses in freezers, and a fresh burial pit.

"What struck me was how young the cats were," Howard Nelson, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania SPCA said yesterday after witnessing several autopsies. "They did not die natural deaths. They were coming in healthy, were exposed to horrific viruses, and died a horrific death."

The raid was the result of a seven month investigation, but people have been concerned about the quality of care at the shelter for over a year. The Western PA Humane Society had conducted its own investigation which found no violations but noted that Tiger Ranch owner Linda Bruno was obviously over-extended. Why something wasn't done at that point and closer, routine scrutiny of the shelter didn't occur is beyond me. Instead, cats that could have been spared weren't and the shelter conditions continued to deteriorate because the Humane Society wasn't exactly proactive in working with Bruno to improve conditions. I just hope this doesn't further undermine the public's confidence in shelters in general and deter people from adopting animals from rescue groups instead of going to pet stores and breeders.


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