Poussey Overcomes a Surprise Boat Ride to Dover, a Stint on Death Row, and Being Bandied About Like a Flying Dutchman in Order to Finally Make It Home to La Havre
|Poussey and Sandrine Foehr|
"That is my cat! But what is he doing in England?"
-- Sandrine Foehr
It is exceedingly rare to find a cop, especially a male one, who has any regard whatsoever for cats. Veterinarians that are willing to treat an indigent one are, likewise, about as commonplace as hens' teeth. Plus, although many fans of the species are fond of professing their undying love for its members, not too many of them are actually willing to go the extra mile in order to track them down once they become lost.
The mathematical odds therefore of a policeman, a veterinarian, and a dedicated cat owner pooling their resources and pulling out all the stops in order to save the life of a lost cat surely must be at least a million to one. Yet despite all the improbabilities, that is exactly what happened last year in the case of a then three-year-old brown and gray male with bright green eyes named Poussey from La Havre.
His troubles began on April 22nd when he mysteriously disappeared without so much as a trace from the home that he had shared for the previous two years with Sandrine and Martial Foehr, both forty-six, and their trio of children, fourteen-year-old Charlotte, thirteen-year-old Caroline, and six-year-old Louis. They scoured the neighborhood for him but by then he, unbeknownst to them, was long gone.
Two days later, he found himself hopelessly lost, bewildered, and wandering the automobile deck of the P&O Ferry as it plied the choppy water of the English Channel en route to Dover in Kent from Calais. It did not take long, however, for his presence on board to be detected by the ship's crew and, consequently, for him to be taken into custody. From that point onward his already perilous situation deteriorated with alacrity.
Upon docking in Dover he was handed over to PC David Palmer of the Port of Dover Police where he soon thereafter was scanned for an implanted microchip. Although one was found and deciphered, it led Palmer to a database that contained the contact information for Poussey's former owner who, as it soon was learned, had relocated elsewhere without leaving behind a forwarding address.
Owing to Angleterre's ridiculously harsh and utterly barbaric pet immigration laws, it surely looked like Poussey had met his Waterloo. "Our holding facility at the docks is designed for keeping a cat for not much longer than a day," Palmer later revealed to Kent Online on June 30, 2013. (See "Stolen Cat Poussey Reunited with Owners from France after Massive Rescue Effort.") "After that, if a home hasn't been found for it, the animal is usually put to sleep."
Only the severely warped mind of modern man could conjure up such a morally repugnant and unjust policy! Even if such an inhumane thought had crossed the minds of the Neanderthals they surely would not have been able to have acted upon it.
Being sans doute cognizant of all of that, Palmer took a shine to Poussey and even started calling him Javert in honor of the dogged and fanatical police inspector in Victor Hugo's novel, Les Miserables, who finally was able to track down Jean Valjean. Although Palmer's heart obviously was in the right place, that in and of itself did absolutely nothing in order to alleviate Poussey's plight.
"Javert was effectively on death row," Palmer added to Kent Online. "If an animal arrives without a pet passport, it becomes a rabies danger and must be put down or go into quarantine."
In a last-ditch effort to save Poussey's life, he took it upon himself to contact more than a dozen sanctuaries, catteries, and charities in Kent about taking in the stateless feline. Although some of those organizations apparently were amenable to that suggestion, the Stolperstein was the exorbitant cost of medicating and quarantining the cat for six months.
The Daily Mail in its June 28th edition, for instance, claims that it would have cost £500 alone just to quarantine Poussey but that estimate seems to be rather low. (See "Runaway French Cat Who Owes His Life to a British Policeman Who Found Him on the Ferry to Dover.")
|Poussey Awaits the Arrival of His Family at Stattersfield's Surgery|
For example, when Ginger arrived at Toray Textiles in Nottinghamshire on cargo ship from Xiamen in Fujian Province in 2008, her quarantine fee was £1,877.66. (See Cat Defender post of August 11, 2008 entitled "Trapped Inside a Crate, Ginger Licks Up Condensation in Order to Survive a Nightmarish Sea Voyage from China to Nottinghamshire.")
Along about that same time, a mere ten-day-old kitten named Ronaldo was assessed an equivalent amount when he arrived at clothing retailer Matalan's warehouse in Corby, Northamptonshire, on a lorry from Portugal. (See Cat Defender post of August 18, 2008 entitled "Ronaldo Escapes Death after Retailer Coughs Up the Exorbitant Bounty That Quarantine Officials Had Placed on His Head.")
Fortunately, both cats were able to elude the gallows in order to live another day when the firms that inadvertently had imported them magnanimously agreed to ransom their lives. Their amazingly good luck does absolutely nothing, however, to soften the harsh reality that they doubtlessly were exceptions to the rule.
When his efforts to secure a temporary abode for Poussey failed to bear fruit, indefatigable Palmer turned to Jeremy Stattersfield of Burnham House Veterinary Surgery in Dover for assistance. Although a bird-lover, the kindhearted practitioner did not hesitate to vaccinate Poussey and to issue him a passport free of charge. The latter is mandatory under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) for all companion animals that cross national borders within the European Union.
"He is a very affectionate cat and it wasn't his fault he found himself in the wrong country," is how Stattersfield later explained his motivation for intervening to Kent Online. "We just had to help him."
Moreover, he did not stop there but instead arranged for Poussey to spend his first three weeks away from home at The Animal Inn on Dover Road in Ringwould, near Deal. Once that expedient had run its course, he cleared the way for Poussey to be sheltered at the Rhodes Minnis Cat Sanctuary outside of Folkestone where he also operates another surgery. Perhaps most important of all, he also succeeded in getting La Fondation Brigitte Bardot in Paris to cover the cost of quarantining him.
While Stattersfield was busily weaving his magic, Palmer was able to prevail upon Major Arnauld Caron of the Police aux frontières to have the local authorities in La Havre leave a note on the door of Poussey's old abode. That gambit was a real long shot to say the least but, just as a one-hundred to one perennial loser occasionally comes home first at the track, it succeeded fabulously.
Although by this time Poussey must have been gone for almost two months, Foehr had not stopped searching for him. As it so often has been observed, all great minds think alike and while hoping against hope that just perhaps her errant feline had returned to his original home, she went there in order to search for him but instead received the shock of her life when she discovered Palmer's missive.
She got an even bigger jolt when she opened it and had digested its incredible contents. "That's my cat!" the gratte-papier exclaimed to the bobby on the telephone according to the Daily Mail article cited supra. "But what is he doing in England?"
With the assistance of one of Palmer's subalterns and Alain Lhote of the Police aux frontières, who whisked them through customs, Sandrine traveled to Dover along with her three children in order to collect Poussey at Stattersfield's surgery on Castle Street. He was handed over to the joyous family by veterinary nurse Martina Hood who had assumed responsibility for his care after he was uprooted from Rhodes Minnis in a prelude to reuniting him with the Foehrs.
"We are so grateful to David Palmer and Jeremy Stattersfield," daughter Charlotte told Kent Online. "We have another cat and a dog back home but Poussey was extra special. After all, it was he who chose to come and live with us."
For his part, Stattersfield graciously conceded that saving Poussey's life had been a team effort. "The police showed compassion, as did the quarantine kennels, who reduced their fees," he told Kent Online. "The Brigitte Bardot Foundation...paid for his quarantine costs and the Rhodes Minnis Cat Sanctuary were (sic) there for him if an owner did not come forward."
If there is any truth in Stattersfield last statement, Poussey's life perhaps would have been spared even if Palmer ultimately had been unable to locate the Foehrs. It is far better that his ploy succeeded, however, in that Poussey will be much happier back home where he not only belongs but is dearly loved.
To this day it remains a mystery as to how he got from La Havre to Calais. The only thing for certain is that he surely did not walk that great of a distance and then nonchalantly pussyfoot up the gangplank and board the ferry without so much as a ticket.
"I was frantic when he went missing. I just knew he had been stolen," Foehr swore to Kent Online. "But I never dreamed that his kidnappers would have driven him out of the area. What sort of people would do such a thing?"
The particulars to Poussey's odyssey are indeed nothing short of daunting. "It is one-hundred-seventy miles (two-hundred-seventy-four kilometers) from Le Havre to Calais," Foehr pointed out. "Poussey must have escaped from the thieves' car during the twenty-five mile (actually twenty-one mile or thirty-three kilometer) Channel crossing."
Although Foehr's reconstruction of events is entirely plausible, she has not produced a shred of evidence in support of her claim that Poussey was kidnapped. A far more likely explanation is that he accidentally became trapped inside either a box or a vehicle and consequently wound up as a stowaway on the P&O ferry.
Since cats are so easily frightened by people, commotions, and loud noises, they often seek sanctuary inside small spaces and as a result end up in all sorts of jams and, quite often, far from home as well. (See Cat Defender posts of January 5, 2006, November 6, 2008, and March 16, 2013 entitled, respectively, "Miracle Cat Survives Seventy-Mile Trip Down the New Jersey Turnpike by Clinging to the Drive Shaft on an SUV," "Trapped in a Moving Van for Five Days, Texas Cat Named Neo Is Finally Freed in Colorado," and "Mausi Is Saved from a Potentially Violent Death on the Fast and Furious Autobahn Thanks to the Dramatic Intervention of a Münchner Couple.")
That is one reason why it is so vitally important that cat owners pay close attention to all objects, both those inside and outside of their houses, that move in and out of their neighborhoods. Any one of them potentially could spell doom for their beloved companions without them ever being any the wiser.
Poussey's trials and tribulations also once again highlight the extremely limited utility of implanted microchips. First and foremost, they contribute absolutely nothing to protecting cats from the myriad of dangers that they face in an ever increasingly hostile world. That petit fait alone reduces them to being little more than Silicon Valley snake oil. (See Cat Defender post of May 25, 2006 entitled "Plato's Misadventures Expose the Pitfalls of RFID Technology as Applied to Cats.")
Secondly, the contact information contained in their databases must be kept up-to-date in order for them to be of any value. Once ever so often a conscientious rescue group will voluntarily track down the owner of a cat with either an outdated microchip or a tattoo as the Oakbank Animal Hospital outside of Winnipeg did in the case of Ingrid Kerger's long-lost cat, Tiger Lily, but that is extremely rare. (See Cat Defender post of March 31, 2010 entitled "Winnipeg Family Is Astounded by Tiger Lily's Miraculous Return after Having Been Believed Dead for Fourteen Years.")
Thirdly, implanted microchips are sometimes difficult to both locate and to decipher. Most disconcerting of all, they are known to cause cancer. (See Cat Defender posts of September 21, 2007 and November 6, 2010 entitled, respectively, "FDA Is Suppressing Research That Shows Implanted Microchips Cause Cancer in Mice, Rats, and Dogs" and "Bulkin Contracts Cancer from an Implanted Microchip and Now It Is Time for Digital Angel® and Merck to Answer for Their Crimes in a Court of Law.")
Equally important, cat owners should not be lulled into a false sense of security based upon Palmer's exemplary conduct in this case. On the contrary, cops generally speaking cannot be relied upon to do cats any favors.
In the United States, for example, whenever they do not hand them over toute de suite to shelters to be killed upon arrival they usually execute them on the spot themselves. (See Cat Defender posts of March 31, 2008, September 16, 2009, July 8, 2010, September 22, 2011, March 22, 2012, and April 29, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Cecil, Pennsylvania, Police Officer Summarily Executes Family's Beloved Ten-Year-Old Persian, Elmo," "Acting Solely Upon the Lies of a Cat-Hater, Raymore Police Pump Two Shotgun Blasts into the Head of Nineteen-Year-Old Declawed and Deaf Tobey," "North Carolina State Trooper Who Illegally Trapped and Shot His Next-Door Neighbor's Cat, Rowdy, Is Now Crying for His Job Back," "Neanderthaloid Politicians in Lebanon, Ohio, Wholeheartedly Sanction the Illegal and Cold-Blooded Murder of Haze by a Trigger-Happy Cop," "In Another Outrageous Miscarriage of Justice, Rogue Cop Jonathan N. Snoddy Is Let Off with a $50 Fine for Savagely Bludgeoning to Death an Injured Cat," and "Orange County Sheriff's Department Is Accused of Killing a Cat with a Taser at Theo Lacy Jail.")
More recently on May 21, 2013, Lance DeLeon of the Boerne Police Department gunned down next-door neighbor Natalie Brunner's two-year-old cat, Bobby, with a crossbow after he had strayed into his precious little garden. The attack not only left Bobby with a punctured lung and a broken leg but Brunner also fractured her ankle while retrieving him.
Although a grand jury convened in the small town located forty-eight kilometers northwest of San Antonio failed to even indict DeLeon on animal cruelty charges, his superiors ultimately did the right thing when they fired him three weeks after the incident. (See the Daily Mail, May 24, 2013, "Off-Duty Texas Police Officer Arrested after Shooting Neighbor's Cat with Arrow" and the Houston Press, June 6, 2013, "Lance DeLeon: Cop Fired After Shooting Neighbor's Cat with Arrow.")
|Caroline, Sandrine, Louis, Charlotte, Poussey, Palmer, Hood, and Lhote|
The only patently obvious use that most cops have for cats is to occasionally employ them as station house companions and mascots as the British Transportation Police and the forces in Philadelphia, Hamilton, Massachusetts, and Lumberton, Texas, have done so in the past. (See Cat Defender posts of November 23, 2007, May 29, 2007, and March 18, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Tizer Lands a Job Working for the Police after Ending Up at a Shelter Following the Death of His Previous Owner," "Corporal Cuffs, Beloved Station House Mascot, Is Abducted Right Under Cops' Noses" and "Eco, Who for Years Was a Mainstay at a Small Massachusetts Police Department, Is Run Down and Killed by a Motorist," plus The Beaumont Enterprise, April 24, 2013, "Lumberton Police Department's Feline Friend.")
The veterinary medical profession, likewise, is anything but friendly disposed toward cats. While there are dedicated and conscientious practitioners like Stattersfield who give generously of their time, services, and resources, that in no way materially alters the fact that such individuals are members of a select fraternity.
In recent memory only Kelly Hawkins of the Valdez Veterinary Clinic, Rachelle Beardsworth of Racecourse Road Veterinary Hospital in Ballina, New South Wales, Geoffrey Weech of the Monmouth Small Animal Hospital in Monmouth, Illinois, and Deb Carroll of Grenada Veterinary Clinic in Sherwood Park, outside of Edmonton, come to mind as having been willing to save the lives of impecunious cats solely out of the goodness of their hearts. (See Cat Defender posts of February 15, 2014, March 31, 2012, November 17, 2010, and March 30, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Indefatigable Young Alaskan Woman Overcomes a Lack of Money, Jailing by the Police, and a Series of Avalanches in Order to Save Ninja's Life," "Alvin Amazingly Survives on His Own for a Fortnight Until Help Arrives after a Low-Life Scumbag Blows Off Most of His Rear End with a Firecracker," "Penniless and Suffering from Two Broken Legs, It Looked Like It Was Curtains for Trace Until Geoffrey Weech Rode to Her Rescue on His White Horse," and "Duckie Is Saved by a Compassionate Veterinarian after Family Practitioner Demands Either C$1,600 or Her Life.")
The vast majority of all veterinarians, however, demand cash on the barrelhead or the cat is left to die. That is especially the case with the larger surgeries that have money to burn, such as PennVet in the City of Brotherly Love. (See Cat Defender post of March 19, 2014 entitled "Cheap and Greedy Moral Degenerates at PennVet Extend Their Warmest Christmas Greetings to an Impecunious, but Preeminently Treatable, Cat Via a Jab of Sodium Pentobarbital.")
The most staggering indictment that can be lodged against the profession is that its practitioners actively seek out the business of individuals, rescue groups, meat producers, and others who liquidate animals that are either perfectly healthy or treatable. (See Cat Defender posts of July 28, 2011, December 22, 2011, and January 11, 2012 entitled, respectively, "Tammy and Maddy Are Forced to Pay the Ultimate Price after Their Owner and an Incompetent Veterinarian Elect to Play Russian Roulette with Their Lives," "Rogue TNR Practitioner and Three Unscrupulous Veterinarians Kill at Least Sixty-Two Cats with the Complicity of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals," and "A Deadly Intrigue Concocted by a Thief, a Shelter, and a Veterinary Chain Costs Ginger the Continued Enjoyment of His Golden Years.")
Once all of those factors have been taken into consideration it becomes clear that the Foehrs were extremely fortunate to have gotten Poussey back safe and sound. Going forward, it is imperative that they make the best of the second opportunity that they have been granted in order to care for him.
First of all, if they have not done so already they need to immediately update the contact information contained in the database of his microchip. If there is one omission that they can be faulted for it is for not having done so sooner in that they had known ever since Poussey first showed up on their doorstep that it contained the contact data of his previous owner. That is, after all, how they found out where he had come from and that his previous guardian did not want him returned.
It also would be worthwhile to outfit him with a breakaway collar and an identification tag because most private individuals who adopt homeless cats do not take them to a veterinarian in order to be scanned for implanted microchips. Secondly, Poussey still can be allotted his customary freedom, if circumstances so warrant, but the Foehrs need to keep a far closer eye on him.
Thirdly, they need to reconnoiter their neighborhood for potential threats that lurk just around the corner. Malice aforethought is the number one reason behind the sudden and unexplained disappearance of cats but it is far from being the only one.
Finally, England's draconian pet immigration laws need to be consigned to the dustbin of history and replaced with a new standard that respects the inalienable right of all animals not only to live but to do so in freedom and with dignity. With the RSPCA systematically annihilating just about every cat that it impounds, the odds of that becoming a reality are, regrettably, anything but promising. (See the Daily Mail, December 29, 2012, "Revealed: RSPCA Destroys Half of the Animals That It Rescues -- Yet Thousands Are Completely Healthy" and Cat Defender posts of June 5, 2007 and October 23, 2010 entitled, respectively, "RSPCA's Unlawful Seizure and Senseless Killing of Mork Leaves His Sister, Mindy, Brokenhearted and His Caretakers Devastated" and "RSPCA Steals and Executes Nightshift Who Was His Elderly Caretaker's Last Surviving Link to Her Dead Husband.")
Life is at best a roll of the dice as far as most cats are concerned but Poussey found Glück im Unglück when his rambles took him from a home where he was not wanted to one where his presence is cherished. In the topsy-turvy, haphazard, and totally unforgiving world that cats are forced to inhabit that is perhaps the very best that can be expected.
Photos: Daily Mail (Poussey and Sandrine Foehr), Burnham House Veterinary Surgery (Poussey in a cage and Stattersfield), and Rosie Blundell of Kent Online (the rescuers).