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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Northern Virginia Woman Caught Hoarding 575 Cats

The Washington, DC area is still buzzing over the discovery last week of five-hundred-seventy-five cats at two residences of a nearby Fairfax County, Virginia cat hoarder. Two-hundred-twenty-one of the felines were discovered decomposing in plastic bags and county officials quickly trapped and finished off the remaining three-hundred-fifty-four. Although they claimed that the cats were slaughtered because they were either too sickly (respiratory ailments, etc.) or too feral, the more likely explanation is that this unfortunate situation presented all the ailurophobes in the police, animal control, and humane agencies with a golden opportunity to quench their thirst for feline blood. Shelters in the United States exterminate more than ten million cats each year.

Three-hundred-ninety-three (306 live and 87 dead) of the cats were plucked from the walls, cabinets, and chimneys of eighty-two year old Ruth Knueven's two-story, cream-brick colonial on Ludgate Drive in Mount Vernon, a scant 1.5 kilometers removed from George Washington's old plantation. Another one-hundred-eighty-two cats (48 live and 134 dead) were later found twenty-nine kilometers away in Burke at the 9900 Lakepointe Drive town house of Knueven's fifty-seven year old daughter, Karen Forrest.

In both instances officials were alerted by neighbors complaining about the stench emanating from both residences. Once inside, they found both houses to be drenched in urine, coated with feces, and suffering from extensive damage to the plumbing. Accordingly, both properties have been declared unfit for human habitation and Knueven, her spouse, and Forrest have been forced to relocate to a hotel until both houses can be cleaned up and repaired. A civil petition has also been filed to have her declared as an unfit property owner.

Alarmingly, this is not Knueven's first offense. In August of 2001 officials removed one-hundred-fifteen cats, many of them Siamese, from her home but allowed her to hold on to five other cats. A year later in September 2002 the Fairfax County Health Department ordered her to clean up and make repairs to her house.

Since she is a repeat offender, the local police went to court on July 18th and convinced Judge Thomas Gallahue to declare her an unfit pet owner and to bar her from ever owning animals again. She also faces trial on October 19th for animal cruelty, failure to take proper care of animals, improperly disposing of dead cats, and obstruction of justice. The latter charge stems from her activities designed to prevent officials from removing the cats. Despite the magnitude of her crimes, she will likely get off with only a token fine. Her daughter is yet to be charged with any violations of law.

In the July 18th edition of the Washington Post, Knueven is quoted as saying, "It's over now and I never want to see another cat in my life." Not about to be duped again by her, prosecutors plan to ask the trial judge to order a mental evaluation of her and to grant them the authority to make periodic searches of her home in order to make sure that she keeps her word.

Malheursement, cat hoarding in Fairfax County is not limited to Knueven and her daughter. On Bastille Day, forty-three cats were removed from a house on Lorfax Road in Lorton belonging to seventy-one year old Margaret Gaffney and forty year old Walter Gaffney. Near the end of last month eighty-eight felines (29 dead and 59 live) and one live dog were discovered in the home of fifty-eight year old Jane Baldinger on Hillsborough Drive in Falls Church. In nearby Prince William County, sixty cats were removed from a Dale City house in 2000, and in Maryland's Anne Arundel County eighty-six cats were seized from a Crofton home last year.

Gary Patronek, a Tufts veterinarian who specializes in animal hoarding, paints an unflattering portrait of cat hoarders. While acknowledging that the stereotypical cat hoarder is usually a poor, elderly, unmarried woman, he readily admits that it is not unheard of for white-collar professionals, including veterinarians, to hoard animals. Furthermore, Patronek's research has disabused him of the notion that animal hoarders are motivated by altruistic motives. Au contraire, he believes them to be mentally disturbed, irresponsible exploiters of animals. In other words, the animals fulfill some unspecified need in them, not vice versa.

Cat hoarding is undoubtedly horrible business. It promotes inbreeding and genetic defects, disease, malnutrition, all sorts of unspeakable abuse, unsanitary conditions and, ultimately, the intervention of the police. As a policy it simply does not work for the cats, the hoarders, or society at large. Extermination, either en masse or on an individual basis, is far more barbaric and should be immediately outlawed by all jurisdictions. It is immoral to kill animals except under extraordinary circumstances. Precious resources should be directed toward the establishment and maintenance of both feral colonies and animal refuges where cats and other homeless animals can live out their short lives in peace and dignity. People who truly love cats should concentrate on caring for a few of them at a time and not take into their homes more than they can provide for in a healthy and sanitary environment. A concentrated effort should be made to find homes for all unwanted cats but if that is not possible they should be turned loose in the countryside. Perhaps at least under those very difficult circumstances they will be able to find shelter and food in some farmer's barn. Under no circumstances should cats be given up to the abatteurs at the shelters. They have not committed any crimes and they therefore have the undeniable right to go on living.

Unlike many other jurisdictions, Fairfax County to its credit does not set any limit on the number of cats that a person can own. It does, however, enforce its sanitary laws and it requires all companion animals to be vaccinated for rabies. It also has a Hoarding Task Force which has been in operation since 1998. In addition to cats, this unit regulates the accumulation of excessive newspapers, magazines, empty containers, old clothes, paper, trash, and rotting food but, oddly enough, not money. Nonetheless, Fairfax County officials grievously erred in not closing down completely Ruth Knueven's cat hoarding operation when it was first uncovered in 2001. There is not any advantage is having the administrative machinery in place if public officials lack the will power to act decisively in a morally responsible manner.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Two Kittens Horribly Bludgeoned to Death in Montclair, New Jersey

Two outdoor kittens were discovered bludgeoned to death in Montclair, New Jersey on June 28th. One of the black and white kittens had sustained a severe blow to its head which left one of its eyeballs hanging out while the second one was left with a bloodied and crushed face. It was later discovered that the kittens' mother had developed a mysterious limp.

The dead kittens were found on the property of Steven and Kathleen Aulicino of Roswell Terrace. Although all of the felines lived outside, the Aulicinos have been caring for the mother cat for about twelve years. Normally, they either try to find homes for her offsprings or take them to a local shelter.

Montclair Deputy Police Chief Roger Terry told The Montclair Times that he was not sure whether the perpetrator was a person or another animal. "It's something out of the ordinary, and there could have been some foul play," he conceded.

Suspecting that the mother cat may have sustained a puncture wound of some sort that is causing her to limp, Aulicino is quoted as saying that he intends to trap her so that he can have her looked at by a veterinarian. In the meantime, he now only allows his dog out in the yard when he is home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Trotskyites Come Out in Support of Real Estate Speculators and Polluters

The predatory and fascistic nature of capitalists and their bought and paid for right-wing politicians is widely known but often overlooked is the petit fait that some groups on the Left agree with them on a number of issues. A good case in point was the World Socialists' analysis of the United States Supreme Court's June 23rd ruling in Kelo v City of New London.

In their June 27th article entitled "Supreme Court Upholds Government Land Grabs for Developers" (available at www.wsws.org), John Andrews and Barry Grey follow the modus operandi of the corrupt capitalist media by relating only one side of the story. Admittedly, government's abuse of its power of eminent domain has resulted in the outright theft of untold numbers of residences and small businesses which once belonged to the poor and the working class; this, along with immigration and outsourcing, is one of the main reasons tens of millions of Americans sleep in either the street or in shelters every night. Of course, the pro-immigration Trotskyites would never agree with that.

Nonetheless, the battle over eminent domain is largely an internecine one being fought out amongst predatory capitalists. This is evident by the huge chunks of real estate which are owned by banks and real estate companies (including Real Estate Investment Trusts or REITs). Furthermore, these bloodsuckers have acquired the majority of their holdings through such patently immoral practices as foreclosures, illegal evictions, fire sales, and by preying upon the vulnerable (farmers, the elderly, and the poor). Once acquired, they then hold on to these properties, often derelict, for as long as decades until they are able to find someone willing to pay their exorbitant asking prices. This in turn prompts other capitalists, for ever on the lookout for cheap land, to buy up and destroy arable farmland, wetlands, and woodlands, thus destroying the environment and killing off the animals.

Real estate speculators are not individuals who should be defended. Resources not essential to the preservation of either the environment or the animals, should be distributed to those who need and can make use of them, not hoarded by capitalists. Moreover, as Ambrose Bierce so astutely noted in his Devil's Dictionary, the notion of private property carried to its logical conclusion leads inevitably to genocide because once everything is owned there will no longer by any living space left for future generations. The petit fait that archconservative jurists Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas dissented should have sounded some alarm bells at the Fourth International. So, too, should have the libertarian Institute for Justice's representation of plaintiff Susette Kelo.

In the wake of the Court's decision, the House of Representatives voted 231 to 189 on June 30th to deny HUD, Transportation, and Treasury Department funds to any city or state profit-making venture where eminent domain is used to coerce landowners into parting with their properties. A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

In an article for the July 2nd edition of Counterpunch, Moshe Adler, who teaches urban planning at Columbia, argues that state and local authorities should be stripped of their powers of taxation and eminent domain in favor of the federal government. While this proposal might alleviate what he calls fiscal fragmentation, local jurisdictions have always had control over zoning, taxation, and eminent domain and they certainly are not going to voluntarily relinquish these prerogatives. Not only does the United States have a federal system of government but more importantly there is not any reason to believe that Washington could do a better job in these areas than local authorities. Take for instance Congress's notorious mismanagement of the District of Columbia and, in particular, the Republicans' attempts to repeal local gun control laws. Adler's piece, "Corporate Giveaways That Destroy Communities, But Don't Create Jobs. The New London Case," is available at www.counterpunch.com.

In order to arrive at an enlightened policy regarding eminent domain it is necessary to look not only at the type of seizures involved but also at the status of the landowners as well. A property owner living in a residence or operating a business three-hundred-sixty-five days a year (no part-time chicanery allowed!) should be entitled by law to a significantly higher degree of protection from the abuses of eminent domain than real estate speculators. First of all, their property should be subject to seizure only if the "taking" involves a public purpose, such as highway or school construction, etc. In such cases, just compensation should be defined as the cost it would take to replace the property seized instead of fair market value. As far as real estate speculators are concerned, since they are merely absentee landowners hoarding property for capitalistic purposes their property should be fair game for government seizure for either a public or a profit-making scheme. In such cases, just compensation should be limited to the fair market value of the property seized. Those who object to emiment domain should be aware that local authorities have other tools, such as hefty tax increases and fines for not keeping derelict properties up to code, at their disposal in order to entice real estate hoarders into either selling or developing their properties.

Finally, although the Trotskyites have never voiced much concern for either the environment or the animals, their effusive praise for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was nevertheless surprising. Through its sulfur-dioxide-spewing coal-fired generators the TVA had denuded the once pristine Great Smokies and killed countless nearby residents and animals. All of this is in addition to all the people who have to contend on a daily basis with the ravages of asthma and bronchitis.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Thirty Dogs Killed Fleeing Fireworks in Tucson

Fourth of July fireworks led to the deaths of more than thirty dogs in and around Tucson, Arizona. Frightened out of their wits by the loud explosions and brilliant flashes of light, the dogs ran out into the street where they were struck and killed by motorists.

Since canines have been known to break free of both leashes and tethers, jump fences, and even to charge through screen doors when spooked by pyrotechnics, one cannot help but question the diligence of their owners. Why did they leave their dogs unattended? After all, Tucson and Pima County officials readily concede that Fourth of July fireworks kill between five and six dogs each year. Curiously, no explanation has been given for the abnormally high canine death toll this Independence Day.

The conduct of motorists must also be questioned. For instance, how many of them actually tried to avoid striking the frightened dogs as opposed to gleefully stomping on the gas and purposefully running them down? Contrary to the lies told by motorists, just about all animal (and pedestrian!) traffic fatalities are deliberate. Equipped with advanced suspension systems, power brakes, and power steering, even tour buses can be stopped on a dime; moreover, fleet-footed animals, such as cats and squirrels in particular, are not that easy to run down. Motorists must -- and most times do -- make an effort in order to be successful in this deadly game.

As horrific as fireworks are to domestic animals they are undoubtedly even more destructive to wildlife. Without human companions to turn to for solace and shelter, birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer, foxes, feral cats, and small rodents have a much more difficult time dealing with the loud intruders into their wooded habitats. Although difficult to quantify, wildlife fatalities resulting from Fourth of July fireworks must nonetheless be high.

Even though they are as American as apple pie, Fourth of July pyrotechnics are not only a nuisance to homeowners but deadly to both domestic animals and wildlife alike. Officials in Tucson and elsewhere should restrict their use to commercial sites, such as ballparks, where they are less likely to frighten animals, literally, to death. It would be better still to ban this obnoxious and deadly practice altogether.