The ethics of triage—where human concern, love and compassion meet head on with the limited resources available to help those in need. The Nebraska Humane Society deals with this everyday. The organization consistently has kennels filled beyond capacity with animals still coming in. Past University of Nebraska at Omaha student Randi Lee saw this unfortunate reality enter her life when her cat, Norman, was lost, picked up by the Nebraska Humane Society and after an unfortunate series of events—euthanized.
Lee adopted the aging cat two years ago. She said Norman quickly became her best friend, a cuddle buddy on days when her anxiety was at its worst. When Lee moved to Germany two months ago, she knew a hard transition was not in Norman’s best interest so she left him in the care of her mother, Gaii Tysdal. Three weeks ago Norman made it out of the house and was hit by a car. The Nebraska Humane Society took him in with minor injuries.
In an email to Lee, the Nebraska Humane Society said there is a three-day surrender policy for animals taken in. This means after three days the NHS confiscates the pet and evaluates it for adoption. Tysdal was available and ready to get Norman back but couldn’t pay the fines necessary for release.
“I stressed to them that I did not have 180 dollars and asked if I could make payments, but they said ‘no’,” Tysdal said.
Nebraska Humane Society Public Relations specialist Pam Wiese said the Humane Society offers pound services for the city, and the NHS is required to charge certain fees based on that contract. Tysdal not only was up against the typical charges, but she was also levied a fine for not having Norman licensed.
“One of those fees is a boarding fee, another is a licensing fee and out pound fee,” Wiese said. “It’s written into the law you have to pay these fees before you can get your animal back.”
According to Wiese, the NHS has its hands tied in these situations— they have certain leeway with their adoption services but not with animal control.
“When we are providing animal control there really is not a whole lot we can do,” Wiese said. “We are required by law to charge those fees.”
Tysdal said she wanted to see Nor-man, and get an understanding of his injuries to see if the 180 dollars would only be the beginning of the monetary investment to get Norman healthy again. She was not afforded this opportunity.
“I did not have that kind of money and not knowing the extent of his injuries, I could not get him,” Tysdal said.
Wiese said the NHS has more than 200 cats in foster care across the metro area, not to mention the cats that fill the many kennel areas of the NHS campus. Unfortunately with Norman’s age and injuries, he was not a priority for adoption compared to the multitude of young, healthy cats. Wiese stressed that the NHS is in no way on a kill mission.
“We want to get animals out of here any way we can,” Wiese said. “If we can get them back to their owners, we would love to do that, but sometimes we are bound by what we provide for city services.”
“They have too many animals, and he was old. However, he was loved and they knew how hard we were trying to get him back,” Lee said. “It’s hard for me to understand.”
Lee contends that when an animal is loved and wanted, euthanizing should never happen simply because of a policy.
“They didn’t have room for another cat, but we did,” Lee said. “They knew he was ours and he was wanted and they killed him. That is not OK.”
A good alternative in these situations where someone can’t afford the fees from the city is to wait and re-adopt their animal once it is put up for adoption, according to Wiese. She said that is often the cheaper way to go. Unfortunately for Tysdal, Lee and Norman—the nature of triage was not on their side.