Question: If the animal needs immediate or serious medical care, what do you do? Can you house animals at your facility for care?
Beth's Answer: When we encounter an animal in need of emergency vet care, the first thing we do is try to locate the owner. The owner of a sick or injured animal is required by law to provide veterinary care when needed. If the owner is found, and agrees to contact a veterinarian immediately, then further involvement from us is usually not necessary. A problem arises, however, if the owner cannot be quickly identified or found. In this case, SPCA Humane Officers would make arrangements for the animal to be seen by a local veterinarian. The owner, when located, would then be responsible for the cost of treatment and follow up care for his pet.
In some instances, the owner is located but cannot afford the required care, or refuses to comply. If pet owners do not have the financial means to provide vet care for their pet, we will ask them to surrender the animal to The SPCA. Once surrendered, we would then take responsibility for all costs incurred in the care of the animal.
If the owner is able, but not willing, to provide emergency veterinary care, then the animal can be seized by The SPCA and the owner can be charged and prosecuted for "Permitting Animals To Go Without Care" which is a violation of California Penal Code Section 597.1. Violations of this state code section can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
When we do need to seize animals, we always find a way to house them at our shelter. For example, we created a cat colony room out of our puppy wing to house 132 cats rescued from an animal hoarder. (Learn more about animal hoarding here.)
We also housed over 400 guinea pigs rescued from a breeder. We have a great staff at The SPCA. Whenever a serious case comes in, like the 132 cats, everyone stays late into the night helping to examine the animals, provide for all of their needs and set them up comfortably for the night. No matter what their job title is at The SPCA, everyone jumps in to help. It makes large-scale rescues like these so much easier on us and the animals.
We also have a program called Paws to Recycle, where people bring us aluminum cans. We use the recycling money to help pay for needed major medical treatment for severely injured animals that would otherwise be adoptable, except for the large veterinary expense that most adopters would not want to undertake. We don’t put time limits on animals in our care and will go the extra mile to help animals in need.
Photo: Syringe-feeding a rescued puppy. Photo © SPCA of Monterey County.
Thank you, Beth for doing this interview. Part three of this interview covers what the definition of "neglect" is, and what people should look for when advocating on behalf of animals.