The bird, named Kiki, had been lost for two weeks when it finally turned up on the SPCA's website. It was put down less than 24 hours after it was listed as recovered by the agency.
And the reason behind that euthanization, according to the family of the bird's owner, was the money it would have cost to nurse it back to health.
“Kiki had been euthanized because it cost $900 to treat him!” Ana Alves wrote in a complaint emailed to the SPCA.
“You did not even give this loved animal 24 hours to get to his family…Had any care been taken to look for Kiki's owners we would have gladly paid any amount of money to try and save him!”
Alves was babysitting her daughter's cockatiel on July 24 when the bird escaped from their home in the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood.
Alves told CBC's Daybreak that they searched all evening. Kiki was a beloved family pet, and they knew their 23-year-old daughter, who was travelling in Europe, would be upset.
In the following days, Alves canvassed the neighbourhood, posted fliers offering a $100 reward, and notified the local SPCA that the bird was missing.
Kiki found by SPCA
When Kiki turned up on the SPCA’s stray animal website on Aug. 8, Alves said she left work as soon as possible and rushed down to the agency.
There, she said she was told by staff that the bird had gone to the veterinarian for treatment, and would be back that evening or the next day.
Alves said she tried get the veterinarian's address, but was told that information was confidential.
By the next morning, there was still no news of Kiki.
Nicholas Gilman, executive director of the Montreal SPCA, says the bird was in bad shape when he arrived at the vet.
“Kiki was extremely dehydrated, he had lost a significant amount of muscle mass,” Gilman says. “Based on that, and based on our not having any knowledge at that time of a potential owner, a decision was made … to go ahead and put Kiki to sleep.”
Alves didn’t hear the bad news until 11 a.m. the next day.
SPCA will review its policies
But Gilman says there isn’t a system in place that allows them to automatically match-up lost animals with their owners.
“If we had known that Kiki was being looked for by someone, we would have moved heaven and earth to keep Kiki alive,” he says.
Gilman says he will be reviewing the case with his supervisors to see if policies need to change.
“Our protocols are not written in granite,” he says. “We need to be incredibly responsive to mistakes that we make, if we make them, so they get changed.”
As for Kiki, he has been returned home and buried in the family's flower garden.