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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

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Chairman Meow Finds a Home in a Barn and a Job as a Mouser on Texas Horse Ranch

Chairman Meow was born homeless and poor without prospects and with a limited life expectancy. His early days were spent living with about twenty-five other feral cats in a colony on the property of an elderly woman in Sanger, Texas. When the cats became too much for the woman to handle, she gave them to Barn Cats Inc. of Lewisville who in turn placed Chairman Meow with Diane Malone of Twin Fiddles Ranch just outside tiny Alvarado. Unlike many feral cats, the gray cat quickly adapted to life with Malone (See photo on the right) and the other ranch hands and for the past year he has been living in one of Malone's horse barns and working as a mouser.

If left unchecked, mice, other rodents, and snakes can wreak havoc on a farm. Not only do they consume and contaminate huge quantities of feed, but mice in particular can also spread deadly diseases to horses, cows, and dogs.

Converting feral cats into valuable working barn cats is not easy, however. Being by nature territorial, the cats must initially be confined to cages for up to four weeks in order to prevent them from returning to their old homes. In spite of this precaution, three of the four cats supplied to Twin Fiddles by Barn Cats ran off after they were released from captivity; only Chairman Meow remained. Moreover, since north Texas can be an especially dangerous place for outdoor cats, prospective owners must first meet certain preconditions before Barn Cats will allow them to adopt. For instance, they must have a closed-in barn for the cats to live in and either a Great Pyrenees or a donkey in order to scare away such feline predators as coyotes, owls, and hawks. The cats are also sterilized and vaccinated before being adopted.

Barn Cats, which was established in 2003 by Peggy Atkerson, found homes for 267 cats in 2004 and 410 felines last year. So far this year Atkerson has placed several cats from Lafayette, Louisiana who were displaced last year by Hurricane Rita. In addition to barn cats, Atkerson's agency also places a few indoor cats as well.

Since all but one of Malone's barn cats had died a year earlier, Chairman Meow's services as a mouser have been a godsend for the ranch. His friendliness has also converted him into every bit as much of a pet as he is a mouser. Overall, the arrangement has worked out very satisfactorily for both sides but Chairman Meow seems to be particularly pleased. "You won't find a more appreciative cat," ranch hand Donna Salmon told the Waxahachie Daily Light on February 2nd. (See "Working Cats.")

While the horse ranch is Alvarado may be suffering from a scarcity of cats, 1207 kilometers to the west a dude ranch in Dragoon, Arizona has a surplus of felines. When co-owners Linda and Mike Kelly and Daria and Doug Hobbs purchased the Triangle T Guest Ranch, located sixty miles from Tucson, last November they also inherited around one-hundred semi-feral cats from the previous owner.

Rather than resorting to the quick fix, i.e., extermination, the new owners have found homes for about seventy of the cats. Specifically, they have placed ten with the Humane Society, five with the Oasis Sanctuary for Birds near Benson, and the remainder with friends and family. They have also paid to have the felines trapped, sterilized, vaccinated and, in some cases, treated by a vet. They are now, however, pretty much tapped out. "We've paid out of our own pockets as much as we can, but it's overwhelming," Daria Hobbs told the Arizona Daily Star on January 13th. (See "Guest Ranch Has a Herd.")

The Baby Animal Rescue Koalition and Spay and Neuter Solutions, both of Tucson, have agreed to desex the remaining cats but the Hobbses and Kellys are asking the public for help in finding homes for them. Linda Kelly is shown above on the left with one of the ranch's resident felines.

One factor working in the cats' favor is the fact that most of them are pretty social. "All the guys I've taken to my home, they're all scared, but they let me pet them and now they are all social," Debbie Austin, who is assisting the owners with the rescue, told the Arizona Daily Star. "One little guy I've had three weeks and he was really scared, but now he follows me around the house," she added.

It is certainly not easy and it is not cheap, but as the experiences at the Twin Fiddles and the Triangle T ranches have demonstrated there are humane solutions to feline overpopulation. John Lennon once said that the "war is over if you want it" and likewise feline genocide will end when Americans want it to end.

Photos: Waxahachie Daily Light (Chairman Meow) and David Sanders, Arizona Daily Star (Linda Kelly and cat).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Special Agent Fred the Cat Goes Undercover in Order to Help Nab a Quack Vet in a Brooklyn Sting Operation

Fred with Carol Moran and Charles Hynes

Cat-lovers have a new hero. His name is Fred and he is an eight-month-old gray and yellow American Shorthair from Brooklyn who last week went undercover to help authorities nab a quack veterinarian who had been preying upon sick cats and dogs for several years.

After a complaint was lodged against an itinerant veterinarian for a botched operation, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office hatched a plan to catch the culprit flagrante delicto. Posing as Fred's owner, an investigator lured the vet to an apartment on the pretense of having the cat neutered.

After the vet had agreed to desex the cat for $135, he was arrested as he left the premises with Fred in a pet carrier. Unbeknownst to the vet, the entire transaction was captured by hidden cameras. Fred's guardian, Assistant Brooklyn District Attorney Carol Moran,  told the CBC's "As It Happens" last week that at no point was Fred in any danger.

Arrested was twenty-eight-year-old Kingsborough Community College student Steven Vassall of Brooklyn who was charged with, inter alia, impersonating a vet and torturing and injuring animals. He was later released on $2,500 bail and could face up to four years in prison if convicted. Although he was been working as an animal doctor for up to seven years, Vassall's training is limited to a brief stint as a veterinary assistant on Long Island.

Ironically, the Special Treatment And Recovery (STAR) sting operation which Fred took part in was prompted by a botched operation that Vassall performed on a Boston Terrier named Burt. Vassall, who operated on Burt to remove a foreign object, returned the canine to his owner, Raymond Reid of Bedford-Stuyvesant, with an open abdominal wound and covered in blood.

The blood on Burt's face came from his picking at his wound because Vassall had failed to outfit him with an Elizabethan collar. After nearly killing Burt, Vassall had the temerity to charge Reid $985 for his services and it was at this point that Reid contacted the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office.

It is not yet known how many other improper surgical procedures Vassall has performed in the past or how many cats and dogs he has either maimed or killed. So far authorities have questioned only six of his clients and they still have another fifty or so to interview. Since Vassall picked up his patients at their residences and treated them at an undisclosed location, that made it difficult not only for disgruntled pet owners to hold him accountable but also for the police to nab him.

Burt Adresses the Media

It is hard to believe that any pet owner would entrust either his or her cat or dog to the care of a fly-by-night vet such as Vassall. It is likely that people using his services were motivated by either the desire to save a buck or enticed by the convenience of door-to-door service.

The prices charged by veterinarians are, admittedly, exorbitant but individuals using the defendant's services must have had some inkling that he was not on the level. Of course, it is entirely possible that some of them simply did not have the resources to take their sick pets to a legitimate vet so they were instead forced to take a chance on Vassall.

Just as there exists a great need for gratis health care for the poor so, too, is there an urgent need for free pet care. There is perhaps nothing more humbling in life than not being able to provide for a sick loved one or a pet.

As for brave little Fred, not only does he have a history of pneumonia and lung problems but he once roamed the dangerous streets of Brooklyn. Last September he was picked up by Animal Control but somehow managed to avoid being exterminated.

He eventually wound up dividing his time between the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office and Moran's house and that is how he became involved in police work. For his efforts Fred was given a detective's badge to wear on his collar.

Although Fred is believed to be the first undercover cat, Hynes told the New York Daily News in its February 9th edition that he might have additional work for the accommodating feline. "I want to make clear: we'll do it again," he said. (See "Cat Drags Him In.")

He is also quoted in Newsday's February 9th edition as emphasizing the point by saying, "The last thing a pet owner wants when a pet is sick is ... to learn the veterinarian is a fake." (See "Undercover Kitty Helps Nab Bogus Vet.")

Photos: Joel Cairo of Newsday (Fred and Burt) and police handout (Vassall).

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Newspaper Cat Named Tripod Is Killed Off by the Journalists That He Befriended in Vermont


"Unfortunately, I've had to have an animal put to sleep more than one time."
-- Mark Smith, publisher of The Caledonian-Record

Tripod, a three-legged gray cat who for the past several years had brightened the lives of the staff of The Caledonian-Record in tiny St. Johnsbury, Vermont, was recently killed off by the same journalists that he had befriended. The good-natured cat, who earlier had lost his right rear leg in a trap, was killed off by Companion Animal Care at the request of the journalists who claimed that he was in failing health.

Although Tripod did have a thyroid condition and had pretty much stopped eating, those were not valid reasons for killing him. More than likely these well-to-do journalists were too cheap to provide him with the medical care that he needed and that is the real reason that they had him killed.

Publisher Mark Smith even went so far as to admit in the paper's January 30th edition that he makes a habit out of killing off cats and dogs. "Unfortunately, I've had to have an animal put to sleep more than one time," he said. (See "Newspaper's Mascot Fondly Remembered.")

Ken White, who has worked in the daily's advertising department for forty-one years, is apparently aware that what he and his coworkers did was wrong because he is quoted in the same article as admitting that he felt "kind of bad" about killing Tripod. He quickly sloughed off these misgivings, however, and went on to justify the killing on the ground that "it was time for him to be in a better place."

What sophistry! How did he know that Tripod's time on this earth was up? More importantly, where is this so-called "better place" that he speaks of? Hades may or may not exist, but as far as dying is concerned Hamlet said all there is to say on that subject a long time ago.

The Caledonian-Record does not reveal how old Tripod was at the time of his killing or even how long that he had been living at the newspaper. At one time he had apparently did have a regular home because when he arrived at the paper he had already been neutered.

He lived with several other stray cats for a number of years in the newspaper's garage across the street before finally moving into the newsroom about two years ago. Alarmingly, the journalists were so derelict in their care that they allowed him to risk his life on a daily basis by being forced to cross the street between the two buildings.

Tripod's daily routine consisted of visiting the journalists at their desks, eating, and sleeping under education editor Rosie Chaloux's desk. He was also known for his ear-piercing meows and fighting ability, despite having only three legs. In short, he was a survivor who very well could have overcome his recent malaise and persevered for several more years.

With Tripod now gone, The Caledonian-Record for the first time in many years does not have any animals in the building. In the past, a dog named Spot and several other animals have made their homes there. The staff and management of the paper are to be commended for their willingness to take in homeless animals and many more businesses and institutions should do likewise, not only for the animals' benefit but for their own health and well-being also.

However, just as it was wrong for Philip Gonzalez to have killed off Ginny so, too, was it wrong for The Caledonian-Record to have repaid Tripod for his love and devotion with a jab of sodium pentobarbital. (See Cat Defender posts of September 2, 2005 and November 17,2005 entitled, respectively, "Ginny, a Dog Who Rescued Cats, Is Killed Off By Her Owner on Long Island" and "Westchester Cat Show to Celebrate the Life of a Dog Who Rescued Hundreds of Cats on Long Island.")

Cats live for only a short while and man does not have the right to shorten their time on this earth. Anyone too cheap to provide them with medical assistance should at the very least be willing to allow them to die in peace and at their own time.

Photo: The Caledonian-Record.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Stray Cats Are Rounded Up in Shanghai, Butchered, and Sold as Mutton in Restaurants and on the Street

A Condemned Cat Await Slaughter Behind Bars

The rumors are persistent and the jokes never cease. Wherever there is a Chinese restaurant in America there are always allegations that it is adding cat meat to its list of entrees.

While it is virtually impossible to establish the veracity of such claims, it is an established fact that as many as four million cats are raised for slaughter every year in China. As horrific as this may be, it constitutes a mere twenty-five to thirty-three per cent of the total number of dogs eaten annually in the Middle Kingdom.

Traditionally, cat-eating has been confined mainly to the affluent southern province of Guangdong where it is considered to be a delicacy. It has recently however spread northward to Shanghai where the Shanghai Daily reported on January 6th that street vendors and restaurants are now passing off cat meat as mutton. (See "Some Restaurants Are Serving Cat: Animal Worker.")

Alerted by numerous eyewitness reports of stray cats being abducted off the crowded streets, the Shanghai Small Animal Association (SSAA) launched a year-long undercover investigation which found that the shanghaied felines were being sold to vendors, at the going rate of two for a penny, who in turn market their meat to restaurants and street vendors. The proof in the pudding came when DNA tests conducted on twelve pieces of lamb kebab revealed that two of them had been made from cat meat.

A Truckload of Cats on the Way to Slaughter

Unwilling to waste any part of the cats that they butcher, the felines' fur is also sold to clothing and apparel manufacturers. In fact, this trafficking in cat hides is so blatant that clothing and bags manufactured out of them are regularly peddled on China's eBay web site. (See Cat Defender post of December 15, 2005 entitled "Heather Mills Asks EU to Ban Sale of Cat and Dog Fur; Paul McCartney Calls for Boycott of Chinese Goods and Olympics.")

Li Rouhai, director of SSAA, blames  the eating of cats on the rise of the bourgeoisie. In particular, he told Reuters on January 9th that a majority of the one-hundred-thousand stray cats and dogs roaming the mean streets of Shanghai were pets whose former owners had tired of them. (See "Stray Cats Turned into 'Lamb' Kebabs.")

Although cats have always been kept for rodent control, pet dogs were banned under Mao as bourgeois extravagances. Raising them for the dinner table has, however, always been legal in China; in fact, there are farms which specialize in breeding Saint Bernards solely for human consumption.

Despite its growing popularity, eating cat meat is illegal in Shanghai. Gu Zhenhua of the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration told the Shanghai Daily that this proscription was due solely to health issues rather than to moral considerations.

"We have no food safety standards for cat meat because it is not supposed to be on the menu," he said. "Without food safety and quarantine checks, it's unsafe to serve cat meat."  After all, SARS is believed to have come from people eating civets in southern China.

A Savage Cuts Up a Cat

In and around the southern city of Guangzhou, cats are bred and raised as a cash crop by farmers. The Chinese do, however, draw the line at eating kittens, but once again this prohibition is based upon the petit fait that they consider the practice to be unlucky as opposed to being merely immoral.

Consequently, these so-called cat farmers are obliged to keep their intended victims indoors tethered to nylon strings until they grow to be one-year-old. They are then sold to middlemen who cram up to twenty-five of them into two-by-three-foot cages which are stacked up to twelve-feet high in the back of a truck and then transported to market.

The cats, who are forced to subsist in these cramped and squalid quarters for up to two months, are fed a once-a-day mixture of rice and animal feed. As it might be expected, their mortality rate is as high as ten per cent.

The doomed cats are then sold to live markets in Guangzhou for about $2 a pound. At the markets they are either left in their jam-packed cages, confined to cupboards, or secured in nets. When the end finally comes, it is usually in the form of knife wounds to the throat although some are bludgeoned to death, hung, electrocuted, and scalded in boiling water. (See the Daily Mail, March 11, 2001,"The Cat Meat Trade in China.")

The Savage Takes a Blowtorch to Another Cat

At restaurants, the caged felines are often exhibited at the entrance so that diners can pick out their fare.  Stir-fried cats' paws in garlic is a popular dish as is the traditional cat, chicken, and snake combo. Feline eyes and testicles are considered to be specialties of the house.

China's skyrocketing economy has produced a burgeoning middle-class which, like its counterparts in the United States and Europe, has become enthralled with owning cats and dogs as pets.

For example, pet ownership grew to three-hundred-million in 2004 which constituted a twenty per cent increase over 1999. China View reported on January 22nd that expenditures on pets and related services such as boarding, grooming, training, medicine, and food are expected to grow to $750 million by 2008. While this represents a minute percentage of the $34 billion that Americans lay out on their pets, the potentiality of the Chinese pet market is likewise in the billions.

A Very Dead and Bloody Cat

There is an old Chinese Sprichwort which maintains that the Han yan will eat "anything that flies except an airplane and anything on four legs except a table" and this undeniably includes cats and dogs. There are signs, however, that this may be changing. Usually, but not always, people do not eat the animals that they keep for companionship.

While the dramatic rise in pet ownership in China portends to be a good thing, the fact that people easily tire of their cats and dogs and abandon them in the street is definitely not a positive development. Likewise, while the rise of legitimate animal rights groups, such as SSAA, is a step in the right direction, the corresponding upsurge in unscrupulous individuals who masquerade as defenders of animals only to turn around and peddle them to restaurants and clothing manufacturers is to be deplored.

Dishonest and inhumane pet shop proprietors are a problem in China as they are in the United States and elsewhere. Carol Wolfson of Second Chance Animal Aid in Shanghai told Reuters on January 27th that some pet vendors pump sick animals full of antibiotics so as to keep them alive just long enough in order to sell them; the animals then die a few days or weeks later. (See "China Pets Face Bleak Start to Year of the Dog.")

Also, shelters across China are bracing for a big influx of canines expected to be abandoned by disgruntled owners who have received them as gifts for the upcoming Year of the Dog.

A Billboard Aimed at Changing Chinese Attitudes Toward Cats

Throughout its long and illustrious history, China's record on animal rights has been abysmal. Although Americans do not eat cats and dogs, most of them do not have any qualms about exterminating seventeen million of them at shelters each year.

Diabolical animal rights groups such as the American Bird Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, PETA, National Wildlife, and National Geographic would gladly exterminate seventy million feral cats if they could get away with doing it. Americans likewise genetically alter, breed, torture, and slaughter billions of cows, horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other animals each year for food without an iota of regret.

The worldly Chinese would therefore argue that there is not any difference between killing and eating a cat than there is in killing and eating a cow.  Despite Westerners' blatant hypocrisy, companion animals such as cats and dogs should not be eaten. As the ideographs on a billboard in Beijing proclaim: "Dogs and cats are humans' best friends -- they need our love and respect."

Photos: Asian Animal Protection Network (Guangzhou market) and Animals Asia Foundation (cat behind bars, truckload of cats, and billboard).