Cat Hoarder Masquerading as Cat Savior Kills More Than Two-Hundred Cats
The rotting, vermin-infested corpses of more than two-hundred cats were found on May 20th stuffed into trash bags in the backyard of the East Orange, New Jersey residence of the founder of KittyKind, a well-known Manhattan cat rescue organization. The carnage was so massive and foul-smelling that a bulldozer had to be employed to scoop up and cart away the bodies to an incinerator.
An additional forty-eight cats, including thirty-eight crammed into one room, were found alive in the large woodframe house. Stories appearing in both the New York Post and The Press of Atlantic City were conspicuously silent as to both the causes of the cats' deaths and the health -- and fate -- of the rescued cats.
Marlene Kess, 56, who operates KittyKind in conjunction with Petco at Broadway and Seventeenth Street in Manhattan's Union Square, was given dozens of health code and animal welfare citations but is likely to get off with a fine.
The slipshod media did not hazard a guess as to how long this feline Auschwitz had been in operation but based upon the number of victims it appears to have been in business for quite a while. For her part, Kess's mea culpa was pretty much limited to admitting that she had taken in too many sick cats who had subsequently died at a rate faster than she was able to dispose of their remains. To believe that this many cats died from sickness as opposed to human neglect or, worst still, malice aforethought stretches credulity and officials plan to reexamine her backyard for more corpses.
Cat hoarding is not unusual. Veterinarian Gary J. Patronek, who has conducted research on this subject, estimates that there are between seven hundred and two-thousand cases of animal collecting annually in the United States and, tant pis, that in eighty per cent of these cases the animals are either found dead or in dire straits. Starvation, unsanitary living conditions, overcrowding, disease, inbreeding, and severe psychological stress are the norm. For example, in its November 6, 2004 edition, the Pioneer Press reported that four-hundred-fifty cats were discovered in a home in St. Croix, Wisconsin belonging to an eighty-six year old retired nurse, her forty-seven year old daughter, and fifty-two year old son-in-law. Most of the cats were already dead and the barbaric, ailurophobic fire department finished what the hoarders had started by pumping carbon monoxide into the building in order to asphyxiate the feral cats that they were too lazy to trap and to administer lethal injections to the tame ones. One should not perhaps be too surprised by this unconscionable behavior in that it is after all the residents of the Badger State who want to make a sport out of hunting down and shooting cats. Nonetheless, these firemen should be jailed and fired.
What makes the East Orange case so extraordinary is the petit fait that the culprit just happens to be the founder and operator of a no-kill rescue shelter which has been lauded by both the New York Daily News and the Village Voice . KittyKind is even a member of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC Animals. On the home page of its web site, www.KittyKind.org, the organization states:
"KittyKind is a not-for-profit, no-kill, all-volunteer cat rescue and adoption group. All of us at KittyKind have opened our hearts and homes --and emptied our pockets -- to save thousands of cats from neglect or abuse. Every cat we rescue is given food, shelter, medical care, a safe place to lay his or her head and most importantly of all, a reason to purr."
A little further along the web site proclaims: "We get calls every day from desperate people not knowing what to do or where to turn. KittyKind has rescued thousands of cats and kittens in the New York area who were once unwanted or homeless but are now cared for and happy in their new homes.
"... We do not believe in rescuing a cat or a kitten only to euthanize it if it has a broken leg or needs extended nursing care. We never give up if there is a chance of saving them. We take responsibility for each and every life we save and if a cat or kitten is unadoptable, they have a home with us for life." Although that last statement may be technically true, life for the felines under Kess's care was, as Thomas Hobbes said about the state of nature, nasty, brutish, and short.
In its Mission Statement, KittyKind goes on to declare: "We believe that animals are not property to be discarded, disposed of, or killed just for the crime of being homeless or unwanted. We believe that people should be friends, caretakers and protectors of animals. We believe that we must take responsibility for the life of every animal we rescue who through no fault of their own, is abandoned, sick, disabled, old or unable to care for themselves. We are dedicated to relieving their suffering, proving food, shelter, medical care and comfort until we can place them in a safe and loving home."
Hear! Hear! Those are certainly noble ideals that no ailurophile could ever quibble with, but Kess's actions speak ten million times louder than her words. Is she a dedicated cat lover who simply got in over her head? Is she mentally ill? Or, was she masquerading as a cat advocate in order to garner fame and fortune? From the limited details provided by the capitalist press it is difficult to tell. Certainly, many cat hoarders feel justified in believing that any kind of life -- no matter how squalid -- is preferable to sure and certain extermination at a shelter. More than ten million cats are exterminated at shelters each year in this country and most of them are killed shortly after arrival thus foreclosing any chance of adoption. Rather than complain about hoarders, the morally correct thing to do would be to outlaw the killing of all cats, dogs, and other companion animals under all circumstances; doing that would take away any motivation to hoard animals except in extreme cases of mental derangement and where capitalism has run amok.
The staff of KittyKind must also be held culpable because they surely must have known what was going on. Also troubling is Petco's role in this sordid affair and the lack of oversight on the part of both public and private animal protection groups. Where was the SPCA, the Humane Society, and Mayor Bloomberg while these atrocities were being carried out?
Kess is quoted in The Post as apologizing to her neighbors in East Orange for creating a nuisance but she is conspicuously remorseless about the cats. It sounds like the only thing that she is sorry about is getting caught. She is also quoted as vowing to never let anything like this happen again even though Dr. Patronek's research indicates that most animal hoarders are repeat offenders who simply move on to other jurisdictions and commit more crimes of animal abuse and neglect. Kess should not therefore be taken at her word. Moreover, she should not be allowed to own another cat and, especially, to operate another shelter. KittyKind should either be padlocked or placed under new management and thereafter closely monitored by the appropriate authorities.
Worst of all, incidences of cat hoarding provide all the bloodthirsty public officials (firemen, police, animal control officers, et al.) and phony-baloney animal welfare groups in this country with the justification -- as if they needed one! -- to kill even more defenseless cats as they did so efficiently in St. Croix.