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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, October 27, 2005

Inmates at Women's Prisons in California Save Lives by Fostering Feral Kittens


In a nation known more for the atrocities that it commits against foreigners and its own underclasses, legalized feline genocide does not attract much attention. Nonetheless, it is an undeniable fact of life in twenty-first century America that almost one-hundred per cent of all feral cats apprehended by the authorities are immediately exterminated. There is not any waiting period, no due process hearing, and appeals are not allowed. The enormity of the barbarism involved in these mass exterminations and the petit fait that these cats have not committed any crime other than having the temerity to be born does not seem to trouble very many people.

At long last there is a small ray of hope for feral kittens and it comes from the most unlikely of sources: female inmates. In a novel approach aimed at reducing both feline exterminations and inmate recidivism, the Solano County Sheriff's Claybank Sentenced Detention Center in Fairfax, sixty-two kilometers west of San Francisco, and the Blaine Street jail in Santa Cruz, ninety-five kilometers south of the famous cable cars, have inaugurated programs whereby female inmates serve as surrogate mothers to feral kittens.

Although feral kittens are considerably easier to socialize than adult feral cats, someone still has to do the nurturing until they are old enough to be desexed -- a precondition for adoption at just about all shelters nowadays -- and this is where the female inmates come in. The kittens are transported from shelters to the prisons and live with the inmates in their cells. Usually there are two kittens and two inmates per cell. The caregivers feed, bathe, clean up after, doctor, and play with their charges. The kittens are provided with plenty of food, attention, and toys. They are, however, generally required to sleep in their cages.

When the kittens grow to be two pounds in weight, usually in about six to eight weeks, they are taken from their surrogate mothers, sterilized, and put up for adoption. Although this may seem cruel, the inmates and their families on the outside are given first choice at adopting them. If they decline to do so, the extensive journals that they are required to keep detailing each kitten's nurturing are then turned over to their new caregivers along with the kittens' "baby" pictures.

Inmates selected as surrogate mothers must first be enrolled in a substance abuse program and then complete a lengthy application process which includes both written and oral examinations. Caring for the kittens not only gives them something worthwhile to do with their time, but it also helps to brighten up their otherwise dreary gray cells. They also learn parenting skills, earn certificates of achievement, and receive reductions in their sentences. Most importantly, they save innocent lives.

"It gives me a chance to bond," Latisha Bevilacqua (pictured above on the right with her kitten, Lilyanna) of the Fairfax facility recently told The California Aggie of UC-Davis. "It's inspirational for me to know that if it was not for us girls, they wouldn't have a chance." Once she is released in January she plans to volunteer at an animal shelter.

Bevilacqua's cellmate, Donica Laury (pictured above on the left with Lucky Charm) is also appreciative of the opportunity to care for her kitten even as she prepares to say goodbye to him in a few weeks. "It's going to be emotional, but you know that they're going to be adopted out," she said. "We know we are supposed to say goodbye."

At the Santa Cruz lockup, Stephanie Kolanda (pictured below with Dasha) told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that whenever she is feeling stressed she plays with the kittens. "You know, I'll pull the cat toys or wave the peacock feather or string. They like to try to eat the yarn when you crochet," she said. "There's just a thing with cats, they make you laugh." She has asked her mother to adopt Dasha for her.

Some libraries adopt domesticated cats as mascots and many farmers accept feral cats to live in their barns. Thousands of domestic cats and feral kittens could be saved if schools, institutions, and businesses could be talked into adopting them. Proprietors of old folks' homes could also help out by relaxing their bans on pet ownership.

Contrary to popular belief, adult feral cats can also be domesticated but this requires more time, patience, and effort than most people are willing to invest. It is therefore paramount that sanctuaries be established for them. By arguing that they cannot be tamed, shelters and certain phony-baloney animal rights groups have created a handy justification for exterminating them.

All cat-lovers owe the inmates in both Fairfield and Santa Cruz a hearty thank you for saving the lives of so many feral kittens. This is a worthy program that should be expanded to other prisons around the country.


Photos: Vanessa Stumpf, The California Aggie and Bill Lovejoy, the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Love Conquers All Obstacles as Soldier Locates His Lost Dog in Iraq and Brings It Home to Maryland


Ruben Castaneda of the Washington Post last week penned an incredible story about a wounded American soldier who labored for seventeen months to rescue his beloved dog from war-torn Iraq.

John E. Smathers, a captain in the Army Reserve from Laurel, Maryland, was part of the American force which invaded Iraq in March of 2003. Shortly thereafter he found an abandoned two and one-half month old Canaan puppy in Baghdad which another soldier in his unit named Scout. Smathers and Scout quickly bonded and the dog became his unit's de facto mascot. True to his name, Scout served as a sentry outside the soldiers' residence and would immediately sound an alarm if anyone ventured near that he did not know. When Scout later became ill with parvovirus, a highly contagious virus which attacks the intestinal tract of dogs and can lead to death if not treated, Smathers and his fellow soldiers nursed him back to health with antibiotics.

The good times came to an abrupt end on February 21, 2004 when Smathers and his platoon were ambushed by anti-imperialist forces south of Baghdad. Smathers received a broken arm and a smashed-up knee in the attack and was evacuated to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington. Back in Baghdad, the forever faithful Scout maintained a lonely vigil outside Smathers' residence awaiting his return. Eventually Smathers' unit pulled out and Scout was left behind. Ordinarily this would have been the end of the story as is so often the case with wartime romances between soldiers and their dogs and soldiers and their girlfriends. This was not the case with Captain Smathers and Scout, however.

As soon as he had recuperated, Smathers began flooding the Baghdad area with e-mails and photographs of Scout in a desperate attempt to locate the dog he had unwillingly left behind. At first, the news was distressing. Scout had been picked up by a dogcatcher and was placed on death row. Demonstrating a resolve equal to that of his former caretaker, the resourceful canine dug a hole underneath the fence imprisoning him and escaped.

Months passed without any further information about Scout until on August 5th of last year Smathers received an e-mail from a soldier in Baghdad who related that he had seen Scout but that the dog was pretty skinny and had sustained an eye injury. Smathers then arranged to have the dog captured and taken to the Baghdad Zoo where he was attended to for one year by a veterinarian whom Smathers had known earlier in Iraq.

During this time Smathers made numerous unsuccessful attempts to bring Scout home to Maryland. He was turned down by the military because soldiers are not allowed to bring home animals from foreign soil. He then attempted to have Scout put on a plane in Amman, Jordan but the luckless canine was turned away at the Jordanian border. Finally, with the assistance of Bonnie Buckley, an animal-lover from Massachusetts who operates a web site designed to help reunite soldiers with their overseas' dogs, Smathers was able to make contact with an unnamed English woman who runs an animal shelter in Kuwait. She then took Scout from Baghdad to Kuwait and put him on a commercial airliner to Holland. From there Scout flew into Dulles on August 22nd of this year. When he was let out of his cage, he immediately went straight to Smathers and knelt at his feet.

Speaking of the ordeal of locating and bringing home his dog, Smathers told the Post, "It was frustrating. Every door I tried was getting slammed in my face. I just kept knocking. As long as Scout was alive, I'd keep trying." As for Scout, the bad times are now just bad memories. He lives with Smathers (See photo), a lawyer by trade, in Howard County and every Sunday his caretaker's six sisters bring their kids to play with him.

While it is understandable that he does not want to be ever separated from his beloved dog again, Smathers has made a hasty mistake in erecting an electronic fence around his one-acre property. These devices, which send an electrical charge to dogs attempting to leave the yard, are cruel and inhumane; a conventional fence, although more expensive, would have been better.

Nonetheless, Smathers should be commended not only for his loyalty but also for his perseverance in surmounting all the obstacles and red tape. Scout is likewise a very courageous dog who has suffered much in his short life; hopefully, only good things are in store for him from now on. The fact that he was able to survive on his own amidst the chaos and destruction of Baghdad is a miracle which is surpassed only by the incredible good fortune that Smathers had in locating a fellow soldier who not only recognized the dog in the street but additionally took the time to relay the information on to him. The odds against this heartwarming story coming true must be at least a million to one.

It is nevertheless distressing that man continues to employ dogs and other animals on the battlefield. Dogs are not only used for guard duty and as mascots, but also to test the efficacy of both bullets and bombs. According to Shawn Plourde (What Did You Do in the War Fido?), during World War II canines were used to lay telephone wires, and to deliver messages, supplies, and bombs (tankdogs). In Vietnam they were used to clear Vietcong tunnels and caves and to sniff out land mines and booby traps. Unfortunately, more than two-hundred of these courageous dogs were left behind after the troops pulled out to be tortured by the Vietnamese. As horrible as that may be, it is not nearly as diabolical as the unceremonious exterminations with which ungrateful Americans reward their faithful war dogs once they have outlived their usefulness to them.

Even Scout is a victim of both genetic manipulators and warmongers. Although it is not known how he came to be living in Baghdad, Canaans (also known as Kelev K'naani) were originally bred by Rudolph and Rudolphina Menzel from redomesticated Pariah dogs captured in Palestine. Farmers in Israel use them to herd livestock and the Israeli military uses them as guards, mine detectors, messengers, and as assistants to the Red Cross. This is barbarism of the worst sort. Dogs and all other animals do not belong on the battlefield, in research laboratories, or in breeding mills.

Photo: Michael Robinson-Chavez, Washington Post.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

After Ridding the Ohio Statehouse of Rats, Cats Now Find Themselves Facing Eviction


Of all the animals in the world man is sans doute the most ungrateful. A year ago the one-hundred-forty-five year old Ohio state Capitol in Columbus was overrun with rats but a group of about a dozen homeless cats showed up and expeditiously took care of the problem. Instead of rewarding the felines for their invaluable public service, officials now want to get rid of them.

The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Commission is undecided, however, about how best to proceed. Executive Director Bill Carleton wants the felines trapped and removed to a farm, while commission spokeswoman Pat Groseck recently admitted to The Columbus Dispatch that she has been feeding the cats and that maintenance workers have set up a makeshift shelter on the Capitol's grounds for them. (See photo of a cat named Callie helping herself to some food left on a walkway.) While the commission has been wrangling over what to do about the cats, Cat Welfare has stepped into the power vacuum and begun trapping, sterilizing, vaccinating, and delousing the cats. Malheursement, articles in The Columbus Dispatch do not specify what Cat Welfare does with the cats that it traps. Do they return them to the grounds of the Capitol or do they hand them over to a shelter for sure and certain extermination? Cat Welfare does admit however to exterminating one of the cats who was found with a broken leg.

Although there is a difference of opinion over what to do with the cats, there is unanimity about their effectiveness in ridding the Capitol and its grounds of rats. "The cats have done a yeoman's job," Groseck told The Dispatch. "There have been no rat-sighting reports since the cats have been there."

As winter approaches the finger-pointing and blame game continues with no end in sight. The commission originally considered bringing in domesticated cats to do the job but when the ferals showed up it decided that it could save money by allowing them to take care of the problem. Now Groseck says that she regrets not doing that. "It would have been better if we had. They could have had a little place in our loading dock to come and eat and sleep and feel safe, and to come to us for assistance," she said.

Jennifer Parker of Cat Welfare is not buying any of Groseck's public relations' offensive. "They wanted those cats there. I think it is pretty common knowledge," she told The Dispatch. "My response to them is that they're your responsibility. They're your pets. You need to take care of them. If we hadn't stepped in, I don't think one of those cats would have been spayed or neutered." She neglects, however, to point out that the cats lived outside last winter and no one complained. Apparently as long as there were rats to exterminate neither the commission nor Cat Welfare were concerned about either the cats' presence or their well-being.

This is a classic case of man's exploitation and abuse of cats. For more than nine-thousand years cats have not only safeguarded man's crops in the field and his food stores at home from the ravages of rats and birds but they have also protected him against the diseases that they spread by keeping their populations in check. For instance, the bubonic plague which decimated medieval Europe was helped along by the Catholic Church's demonization and extermination of cats. Once the ranks of their natural predator had been thinned out, the rats multiplied and the black death spread like wildfire. The cat-haters and inveterate liars at the American Bird Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, National Geographic, PETA, and National Wildlife suppress all positive news about cats in order to legitimatize their attempts to exterminate all feral cats.

Half a world away in Australia, parliament is planning to either shoot or poison 500,000 feral camels, 300,000 wild horses, five million donkeys, twenty-three million pigs, plus untold millions of cane toads, red foxes, goats, and feral cats. These mass slaughters are being undertaken in the name of preserving native species in spite of the fact that the ungrateful Aussies were the very ones who imported these animals, exploited them, and then abandoned them once they were no longer needed. For instance, camels, horses, and donkeys were brought in as beasts of burden; pigs, goats, and rabbits were imported as food; foxes were recruited for recreational hunting; and, cats and cane toads were imported to control pests. National Wildlife's sister agency, World Wildlife, is on record as wholeheartedly supporting the Australians' barbarism. (See "Millions of Animals Face Death Sentence in Australia," Agence France Presse, 25 September 2005.)

Earlier this week the Associated Press reported that voles this summer had destroyed $35 million worth of grass seed crops in Oregon. In fact, it was only last month that the United States Agriculture Department declared nine counties in Oregon as disaster areas because of damage caused by voles and the weather. Having ravaged the grass seed crops, the voles are now training their sights on the vineyards and orchards in Williamette Valley where extensive damage has already been reported. Although the explosion in the population of field mice has been bad news for farmers it has been a boon for the raptors, coyotes, skunks, foxes, snakes, raccoons, herons, and cats who feed on them. (See "Voles Head for Oregon Vineyards," at www.enn.com.)

Caught between exploitative politicians and bureaucrats on the one side and animal rights advocates who practice sterilization and extermination on the other side, the Statehouse cats' chances of surviving are slim.

Photo: Tim Revell, The Columbus Dispatch

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Elsa, a Rottweiler Feared in the 'Hood, Shows Her Soft Spot by Adopting an Abandoned Kitten


Cats and dogs are generally considered to be mortal enemies and rottweilers in particular have a reputation of sometimes being nasty customers. Neither of these stereotypes hold true all the time as the case of Elsa demonstrates. She is a nineteen-month old rottweiler from Luton, a small town fifty kilometers north of London, and she recently adopted an abandoned kitten.

The kitten was discovered by Elsa's caretaker, Marianne Allsop, at a horse stable in nearby Offley. Thinking that the tiny newborn was dead, Allsop was about to dispose of it when it suddenly moved. She then contacted Feline Rescue who generously volunteered to pick up the medical bill if Allsop would take the kitten to the vet, which she readily agreed to do.

The kitten soon recovered and Allsop brought it home. Expecting to have to do all the nurturing herself, she was pleasantly surprised when Elsa's maternal instinct took over. Readily assuming the role of a surrogate mother, she not only keeps the tiny kitten warm (See photo), but she has also taught it the de rigueur of grooming itself and proper toilet etiquette.

Although Allsop had no way of knowing that Elsa would take such a shine to the kitten, she never had any fear that the big dog would harm it because she gets on so well with the family's hamster. While admitting that some people find rottweilers to be intimidating, Allsop told The Luton News, "People walk across the street from us when they see her coming but she's actually the biggest softy in the world."

Originally bred from either German shepherds or mastiffs, rottweilers get their name from their hometown of Rottweil, an ancient city of about 25,000 inhabitants in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg in southwest Deutschland. They are known there as Rottweiler Metzgerhund , or butcher's dog. Although they are best known for herding livestock, these powerful black-colored dogs with tan markings are also good trackers and as such are used in search and rescue. During World War I they served as police and guard dogs. They have a life-span of only eight to nine years and are prone to leg, hip, and eye disorders.

Although Elsa is still a bit too young to have a family of her own, Allsop is convinced that when the time comes she will make sans doute an excellent mom. As far as the still unnamed kitten is concerned, Allsop is noncommittal. "I'm waiting to see what my husband says but I can't see us giving it away after all of this."

Photo: Lutononline.co.uk

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New Computer Software Package Aims to Put Feline Typists Out of Work


Chris Niswander has written a new software package called PawSense which is designed to prevent cats from doing mischief to computers while tiptoeing across keyboards. Whenever the program detects incoherent typing it locks down the keyboard and a message saying Cat-Like Typing Detected appears on the computer's screen. Should an operator accidentally activate the program, such as by getting his or her control fingers mixed up or simply by being a bad typist, the problem is easily rectified by typing the word human in an escape box on the screen and the program will then unlock the keyboard and allow one to proceed.

Niswander, who told Salon that he was motivated to write PawSense after his sister's cat unwittingly crashed her computer, was awarded the 2000 IgNobel Prize in computer science for his invention. The program, which retails for around $23, also plays feline unfriendly sounds, such as harmonica music, in order to dissuade cats from venturing near the computer in the first place.

Despite the absurdity and superfluousness of the idea, Niswander insists that this is not a gag. "In writing the software, part of my motivation was that it was a really funny idea, while at the same time I knew people who really needed something like this," he said.

The software package is not really needed because protective keyboard covers are available and unattended computers should be turned off in order to conserve energy. Moreover, any invention designed to put cat typists out of work would not only constitute an unwarranted infringement upon feline free speech but it would also take away part of the joy of living with these exquisite creatures. For old fogies who still cling to their simply marvelous Smith-Corona and Royal manual typewriters, it is always a good idea to leave a blank sheet of typing paper in the machine so that one can later on read whatever messages the cat has left either overnight or while one was away. These impromptu messages also make invaluable keepsakes which often bring a tear to the eye whenever they are unexpectedly rediscovered years later after a beloved feline has passed on.

On the practical side, with there being so much typing to do, an extra set of paws are always appreciated. The occasional interruptions and once-in-a-while keyboard high jinks of an adorable cat add much to the contemplative and creative process. As poet Christopher Smart once said, "Staring at one's cat will fertilize the mind."

Photo: www.spiritdancers.org

Monday, October 10, 2005

Animals Start Returning to Born Free Nature Reserve in Kenya as Poachers and Bandits Are Driven Out


It was way back in 1966 with the release of the captivating movie Born Free that the world first became acquainted with Elsa the lioness. Set in Kenya's Meru National Park, the film told the bittersweet story of wildlife conservationists and lion-lovers George and Joy Adamson (See real-life photos below) and their adoption and rearing of Elsa. They adopted her and her sisters, the Big One and Lustica, when they were only two to three days old after George, acting in his capacity as a game warden, had killed their mother who was suspected of mauling to death a local resident. The Big One and Lustica were soon sent to the Diergaarde Blijdorp in Rotterdam but the Adamsons decided to keep Elsa. When Joy visited Elsa's siblings three years later at the zoo they were friendly toward her but apparently did not remember her.

Things turned out quite differently with Elsa and the Adamsons. A bond quickly developed between the Austrian-born Joy and the Indian-born George and the young lioness. She lived with them in their compound, slept in her own bed, went on safari with them, and even rode atop their ATV. In many respects, Elsa became an overgrown version of a loving and playful domestic cat. All good things must end sometime and as George's job brought him into more and more conflicts with local poachers, he and Joy were ordered out of Meru by Kenyan officials. Since they could not take a lioness with them this necessitated that they reintroduce Elsa into the wild.

Based on Joy's 1960 book of the same title, Born Free is essentially the story of the Adamsons' attempts to teach Elsa how to hunt and to live on her own. More than that it is also a story about loving and letting go which tugs at the heartstrings. The movie, which won two Academy Awards, ends when the Adamsons return to the bush sometime later and discover that Elsa has adjusted fairly well to life in the wild and now has a family of her own.

The movie's heartrending story, exotic setting, and beautiful cinematography, were made all the more appealing by Matt Munro's powerful rendition of Don Black's exhilarating lyrics contained in the movie's eponymous theme song:
Born free, as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heart


Live free and beauty surrounds you
The world still astounds you
Each time you look at a star


Stay free, where no walls divide you
You're free as the roaring tide
So there's no need to hide


Born free, and life is worth living
But only worth living
'cause you're born free


By the time the 1980s and 1990s had rolled around Meru had been taken over by Somali poachers and bandits who quickly decimated its population of elephants and rhinoceroses in order to peddle their valuable tusks and horns to Asian and Middle Eastern clients. For instance, rhino horns, long used as an aphrodisiac by Chinese herbalists, fetch up to $30,000 per pound and ivory is still the material of choice for some makers of piano keys, billiard balls, buttons, and other assorted ornamental items. The slaughter was so massive that all but one of Meru's three-hundred rhinos had been killed by as early as 1989 and the number of elephants had plummeted from 3,500 to 700. Ironically, the only animals to flourish during this time were the Adamsons' beloved lions who boned up on the carcasses left behind by the killers.

According to London's Independent, things are now beginning to look up for Meru and the animals are starting to return. Thanks to a $1.25 million grant from the International Fund for Animal Welfare designed to upgrade security and to rebuild roads and wardens' offices, rhinos, elephants, impalas, and zebra can once again be found in Meru. Some of them have returned on their own whereas others have been brought in from other game reserves in Africa. Meru is still not out of the woods just yet, however. Wardens still have to contend with poachers armed with AK-47s and the opposition of local villagers who do not want the elephants back because of the damage that they inflict upon their crops of maize, papaya, sugar cane, and bananas. Kenyan Wildlife Services is building fences around farmland but at $2,000 per kilometer this is proving to be an expensive and tedious process. Villagers on the prowl for bushmeat either to eat or to sell is another area of concern which continues to undermine conservation efforts. There is also a lack of accommodations in and around Meru. Most of the lodges either closed or were destroyed by the violence which has engulfed the park over the past thirty years. Improving security and rebuilding the lodges are necessary prerequisites before the tourists will return.

Born Free may have had a happy ending, but in real life there was not any happy ending for the Adamsons. Joy was shot to death by a disgruntled employee in Meru in 1980 and nine years later George was murdered by Somali bandits at nearby Kora. Work is underway to rebuild George's last base at Kora and to restore his and his assistants' vandalized tombstones. Born Free and Joy's sequels to it, Living Free and Forever Free are still available at online bookstores as is the movie itself and its 1972 sequel, Living Free. Bill Travers, who played George in the movie, died in 1994 but the actress who doubled as his wife in both the movie and in real life, Virginia McKenna, is still alive and in 2004 she received an O. B. E. from Queen Elizabeth II for her service to wildlife and the arts. Back in 1984, she and Bill established the Born Free Foundation which with its motto of "Keep Wildlife in the Wild" is dedicated to protecting endangered species and ending cruelty to animals. In addition to lions, it advocates on behalf of, inter alia, polar bears, dolphins, apes, elephants, and circus animals.

Sadly, like her human friends, Elsa also had a short and tragic life. She contracted babesia, a blood disease spread by ticks, and died on January 24, 1961, long before the world ever had the opportunity to get to know her. At the time of her death she was only four years old. Following her premature death, the Adamsons took her three cubs, Jespah, Gopa, and Little Elsa to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania where, hopefully, their offsprings still roam the jungle today. Later in 1963, they founded the Elsa Conservation Trust which still bears her name today. Thanks to the advance of technology, the beloved lioness also lives on in cyberspace at www.elsa.co.uk.

Photos: Born Free video and Joy Adamson's novel, Born Free.