This page: Informed consent for vet - CP FIV policy - who owns a stray - all covered here as background to Balckie's betrayal

What we are up against

Blackie's betrayal -

Background information

Whilst looking into Blackie's betrayal, we researched relevant aspects and document our findings here.


Informed consent
When a vet carries out work on an animal, he needs 'informed consent' from his client before doing so - this is stated in the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons.

The relevant section is Section 11

11.1 Informed consent, which is an essential part of any contract, can only be given by a client who has had the opportunity to consider a range of reasonable treatment options, with associated fee estimates, and had the significance and main risks explained to them.

[RCVS - Code of Professional Conduct] (opens in new tab/window)


Cats Protection policy for stray FIV cats

So just what is Cats Protection policy regarding FIV+ cats?

There are two documents from CP that indicate their policy towards FIV cats - a veterinary guide, and flow charts with recommended management decisions.

Cats Protection Veterinary guide
Cats Protection publish a range of 'Veterinary Guides' of which there is one which covers both FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus)
[link to CP veterinary guide] (opens in new tab/window)

This guide says that vets can carry out a quick in-house test for FIV, but it is recommended that a positive result, particularly from an otherwise healthy cat, should have a confirmatory test carried out - which is sent to an external laboratory - because false positives to the in-house tests can occur.

Note that Blackie was an otherwise healthy cat, yet the confirmatory test was not done, Blackie was put down on the positive in-house test; so without the confirmation, potentially, he may not even have had the virus!

Certainly, even if CP had any say in it, if the confirmatory test had been carried out, there would have been time for Paul and Rita to make suitable arrangements for Blackie's care should the second test confirm the positive result - they were not given that chance.

Cats Protection Flow charts

What is Cats Protection's policy in general for what to do with cats who test positive for FIV?

Cats Protection produce a set of flow charts which give guidance for the management of FIV+ cats.
 [Link to Cats Protection FIV/FeLV Flow Charts] (opens in new tab/window)

For adults cats (over six months of age) who test positive for FIV, they recommend:

If unhealthy or a true feral, they should be 'euthanased', but adherence to their 'Stray Policy' must be ensured.

Note - as Blackie was a healthy cat and was not a 'true feral', then even if CP had any say in it, that section should not have applied to him; yet it would appear that he was still put down despite this - and without adherence to their 'Stray Policy' (details of the Cats Protection Stray Policy can be found on pages 24/25 of their veterinary guide) (opens in new tab/window).

Cats Protection policy goes on to say that, if healthy (as Blackie was) then a confirmatory test should be sent to an external laboratory - they give the example of 'Glasgow' (this agrees with CP's veterinary guide).

If the confirmatory test is also positive, then Cats Protection recommends the healthy FIV cat should be homed to an indoor home, and if not suited to an indoor home, or a suitable home cannot be found, then the cat should be put down (again, they say, ensuring adherence to their 'Stray Policy').

Note - if a confirmatory test had been carried out in Blackie's case, he would still be alive today. It would have given time (a lab test takes a few days for a result) for Paul and Rita to look for a suitable home for Blackie - there were two immediate options for such a home had there been the few days to find them.

In so many ways, it would seem that Cats Protection policy for FIV+ cats was ignored, and that cost Blackie his life.

However, all the above is supposing that Cats Protection had the authority over Blackie to determine what should have happened to him. In the event, Cats Protection would seem NOT to have had any jurisdiction over Blackie - [see ownership/possession rights notes below] and have neither confirmed nor denied that they gave the instructions.


Who owns a stray?

The question of ownership, or rights of possession, seem not to be straightforward with regard to a stray cat.

We have researched the question as best we can, and the following is what we have found:

It would seem that a stray cat is still legally owned by the original owner, and it is a responsibility of anyone taking on a stray to make attempts to locate the original owner. If the cat had simply been lost, and the owner was making attempts to find the cat, then the owner retains ownership for up to six years and can reclaim the cat if found within that time.

However, a responsible owner would have had the cat neutered and microchipped, and would make clear efforts to find it by advertising, registering it as lost with vets and rescue organisations etc. (none of these were true for Blackie).

If a stray is found, not neutered, not microchipped, and no record can be found of attempts to find the cat, it is likely that the cat had been abandoned. In this case it would be unlikely that the original owner would want to reclaim their cat. In this case, it would seem that those who take on the cat would have stronger claims of possession or temporary ownership. There would still be a theoretical chance that the original owner might wish to reclaim the cat, but after six years, it seems that right will end, leaving those who take the cat on as full owners.

The people who find, take on and care for the cat can pass it over to a rescue organisation (like CP) but they cannot be forced to do so.

Cats Protection's own guidelines regarding stray cats says that "A CP acceptance form must still be completed by the finder of the cat who passes the cat to Cats Protection."

The same guideline also says: "It is also a potential offence under the Criminal Damage Act for a person, without lawful excuse, to neuter or euthanase a cat that belongs to another person or is in the care or charge of others."

Note - As Blackie was not passed to CP, either with or without being signed over, it would seem that CP had no legal right to instruct his euthanasia. Of course, we don't know if they did instruct the vet, as both the vet and CP refuse to confirm or deny their role Blackie's euthanasia! Maybe this is the reason why?

Booklet - Cats and the Law
There is a booklet called a "Cats and the Law - a Plain English Guide", which has been produced by ICC (International Cat Care - previously FAB) for The Cat Group. This booklet suggests that those finding a stray cat take on "temporary ownership" (although CP head office dispute the word 'ownership' there).
[Link to the booklet Cats and the Law a plain English guide] (opens in new tab/window)

Report by authors of the booklet
The booklet was prepared by specialists from Middlesex University School of Law, and Lincoln University.
They produced a report with their references on which the booklet was based. This report gives more details about ownership etc.
[link to their report see particularly Section 4: Perspectives on Cat Ownership] (opens in new tab/window)


Other useful links

The Cat Group - FIV policy

The Cat Group is a collection of organisations with an interest in cat rescue. It is headed up by ICC and they produce a number of policy statements, which many of the major animal charities use as the basis for their policy.
[The Cat Group policy on FIV] (opens in new tab/window)

(International Cat Care - Formerly FAB - Feline Advisory Bureau)
Latest statement about FIV
[ICC latest FIV paper] (opens in new tab/window).


Links to:

Blackie's story

Our attempts to get to the truth

Background information

RCVS - vets code of practice re 'informed consent'

CP - Veterinary notes re FIV and FeLV

CP - flow charts for management of FIV cats

CP - Strays policy

Ownership - general

Cats and the Law (ICC/The Cat Group publication)

Report by those who put together the 'Cats and the Law' publication

The Cat Group - policy on FIV

ICC (International Cat Care) - latest notes on FIV

<back to top>