Arizona Humane Society to Review Payment Policies After Killing Former Heroin Addict's Cat

A recovering heroin addict took his cat to the Arizona Humane Society for treatment earlier this month after the cat was injured while crawling through some razor wire. That turned out to be a mistake -- because Daniel Dockery was unable to immediately pay for the cat's treatment, the AHS killed it.

Now, after taking a beating in the media and on its Facebook page, the AHS says it will review its payment policies.

Dockery, who says he's been off of heroin for about a year -- much thanks to the 9-month-old cat -- brought the animal, "Scruffy," to an AHS facility on December 8. He couldn't pay for the cat's treatment -- and the AHS refused to allow his mother to pay for it using her credit card over the phone -- so the AHS told him they would only treat the animal if he signed ownership rights over to the organization, which he did.

Dockery says he went to the AHS to find out about his cat several times over the past three weeks, but was ignored or not given any information (the AHS says Dockery was given phone numbers to call but he never actually made the call).

On Tuesday, the AHS told Dockery the cat was dead -- and a media shit-storm followed.

The story has since gone national -- even Fox News posted an Associated Press story about the dead cat on its website.

In response to the negative ink, the AHS posted the following note on its website:

Scruffy's story is heartbreaking, and underscores the worst-case-scenario of need eclipsing resources available. Despite recent media coverage, AHS has always done what is best for the animals and the people in their lives.


Scruffy was brought to AHS after getting tangled in razor or barbed wire. Her injuries were significant. She was suffering, her muscles were exposed. Her owner could not pay for treatment himself, and allowing a day to pass without treatment was inhumane. AHS is not allowed by law to hold an animal until payment is made. Scruffy was in urgent need; therefore Mr. Dockery made the heart-wrenching decision to surrender his pet on Dec 8th.


AHS transported Scruffy from the vet clinic to its Second Chance Animal Hospital™, with the hope of treating her extensive wounds. Unfortunately on this same day AHS took in 178 animals, many of whom also required urgent medical care.  


Each of the animals was medically evaluated. Some were cruelty cases, seized in cooperation with police, and required to be held for 17 days with urgent care required by law. The Arizona Humane Society did its best to treat all of the animals that came to the shelter that day. Again, all were in need and their treatment couldn't wait. AHS took the most compassionate action with the animals it couldn't treat that day. Scruffy was euthanized.


On Dec. 13, Daniel Dockery visited the Sunnyslope shelter to check on Scruffy's whereabouts and staff provided the direct phone number to the Director of Shelter Operations who did not receive a call from Daniel. On Friday, Dec. 16, AHS received a letter from Daniel's mother. On Monday, Dec. 19, after speaking with his staff and learning the status of Scruffy, AHS Executive Director Guy Collison called Daniel and left a message. Daniel didn't return his call. On Dec. 21, the media called, and given the sensitive nature of this particular situation, AHS was not comfortable releasing details about Scruffy to the reporter before speaking to Daniel himself. Tuesday, Dec. 27, after repeated attempts, Guy finally reached Daniel and explained that due to Scruffy's extensive injuries she was euthanized. Although we know Scruffy can not be replaced, we empathized with his loss, offered grief support resources, and encouraged him to visit the shelter when he was ready for another companion.  With Daniel's permission, AHS also resumed dialog with the media.


AHS again expresses its most sincere condolences to Daniel Dockery. In addition, AHS is committed to reviewing its policy of not taking payment for services over the phone.


Since 1957, the Arizona Humane Society has fostered the belief that every pet deserves a good life and we are passionately committed to doing what's best for pets and the people in their lives. Ultimately, this is the worst case scenario for the AHS staff, volunteers, donors and friends. We are heartbroken that need continues to overshadow resources available and again, express our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Dockery.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
James King
Contact: James King