PHOENIX

- Animal lovers threatened to pull donations to an animal-rescue group and the public flooded the agency with scathing comments and calls after a man's cat was euthanized when he couldn't afford its medical care, prompting the Arizona Humane Society to go into damage-control mode yesterday.

The group has hired a publicist, removed dozens of comments on its Facebook page and directed a team of five volunteers to respond to the overwhelming calls and emails it has received since the Arizona Republic published a weekend story about Daniel Dockery and his 9-month-old cat, Scruffy.

Dockery, 49, a recovering heroin addict, told the Phoenix newspaper that he took Scruffy to a Humane Society center on Dec. 8 because she had a cut from a barbed-wire fence. The agency said it would cost $400 to treat Scruffy, money he didn't have.

The Humane Society cited policy when it declined to accept a credit card over the phone from Dockery's mother in Michigan or to wait for her to wire the money. The staff said if he signed papers surrendering the cat, Scruffy would be treated and put in foster care, he said.

Instead, Scruffy was euthanized several hours later.

Dockery told the Republic that he was devastated.

"Now I've got to think about how I failed that beautiful animal," Dockery said. "I failed her. . . . That's so wrong. There was no reason for her not to be treated."

Dozens of scathing comments have since inundated the group's Facebook page, with animal lovers demanding to know why the cat was put down. Stacy Pearson, who was hired by the agency specifically to deal with media questions about the cat, said angry comments were removed because of their content: One called for the staff to be euthanized, while another said what happened to Scruffy was murder.

Pearson said the Humane Society was reviewing its credit- card policy and other practices because of Scruffy's case.

She said the group told Dockery on Tuesday that when he's ready for another pet, he could come in and pick one out, but he declined, telling them: "No thanks."