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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

Friday, June 30, 2006

Cheap, Bloodthirsty Bavarians Mercilessly Gun Down First Brown Bear to Visit das Vaterland in One-Hundred-Seventy-One Years

"Im Fussball sind wir auf dem Weg, Weltmeister zu werden, im Naturschutz aber nur Kreisklasse."

-- Olaf Tschimpke of NABU

The extermination of its wild animals is one of the sorriest episodes in the Germans' long and illustrious history. For instance, they killed their last brown bear way back in 1835.

In recent years, the EU-supported Projekt Life Ursus has successfully relocated dozens of bears from Slovenia, where an estimated four-hundred-fifty of them remain, to Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. On May 20th, one of these bears, Bruno (See photo above), wandered into Bavaria from his birthplace in Trentino, Italy and thus thereby provided the Germans with a golden opportunity to make amends for their ancestors' mistakes.

At first, the Germans were ecstatic. "Der Bar ist in Bayern willkommen," Bavarian Umweltminister Werner Schnappauf declared. In the weeks that followed the two-year-old, two-hundred-pound bear competed with the German football team's quest for the World Cup for space on page one of the dailies and airtime on radio and television.

Not about to miss out on such a fortuitous development, manufacturers quickly moved to cash in on Bruno's notoriety by marketing a special edition Bruno teddy bears that sold for one-hundred-twenty euros. A "Hunt Bruno" game and a song in his honor appeared on the Internet.

German hospitality is as fickle as a woman's heart, however, and it did not take long for Bruno to wear out his welcome. All it took was for him to slaughter a few dozen sheep (See photo below), some chickens and rabbits, and to raid a commercial beehive or two before the Bavarian authorities promptly rolled up the welcome mat and called in the exterminators.

Public outcry initially stilled the murderers' guns and forced the authorities to at least mount a halfhearted attempt to capture the bruin alive. (See Cat Defender post of June 19, 2006 entitled "Irresponsible Cat Owner Allows Declawed Tomcat Named Jack to Tangle with Black Bear in Northern New Jersey.") By the time the clock struck 4:50 a.m. on June 26th the Bavarians' patience had worn out and Bruno's short tragic life came to a violent end when he was cornered by three sharpshooters near Schliersee (fifty kilometers south of Munich) and mercilessly pumped full of lead.

As the blood drained out of his veins and his stout heart ceased beating, a part of the German Seele also vanished into the pre-dawn Bavarian mist. Gone too was the Germans' chance to do right by their brown bear neighbors.

Bruno's senseless and savage killing sparked immediate condemnation from animal rights organizations, lawsuits by private individuals, and deaths threats against the murderers and even the blowhard Schnappauf himself. Hubert Weinzierl, president of Deutschen Naturschutzring, called the shooting "die dummste aller Losungen." (See Stern, June 26, 2006, "Blamage fur Bayern.")

Olaf Tschimpke, president of the environmental group NABU, used a football analogy in order to point out the inherent hypocrisy of Germans who work to save tigers, elephants, and rhinoceroses in Africa and Asia all the while they exterminate bears at home. "Im Fussball sind wir auf dem Weg, Weltmeister zu werden, im Naturschutz aber nur Kreisklasse," he told Stern.

Neither was the significance of Bruno's killing lost on the German youth. BundJugend, for instance, called the bear's murder a "tragedy for Bavarian nature protection." (See Der Spiegel, June 26, 2006, "Brown Bear Meets a Tragic End.") Meanwhile, the mass circulation das Bild termed Bruno's death "a shot into our hearts. It hurts." The tabloid went on to add, "Bruno has symbolized a feeling: the forest is alive! Bruno was the living teddy bear in a world of mobile phones, flat screen TVs, and frustration with politics."

Deutschland's neighbors were even harsher in their criticism. For instance, the Austrian animal rights group Four Paws immediately called for a police investigation into Bruno's murder. "We are extremely dismayed that Bruno had to die," the group said in a statement released to the media. (See Deutsche Welle, June 26, 2006, "Germany's 'Problem Bear,' Bruno, is Dead.")

In Italy, Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio called the bear's shooting unacceptable. "A European Union which appeals to the whole world to save protected species and then shoots dead a bear with rifles simply isn't credible." (See Der Spiegel, June 29, 2006, "Everyone Wants Stuffed Bruno.") Fulco Pratesi, head of the Italian chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said it best when he called the killing an "Akt der Barbarei." (See Stern article cited supra.)

The reintroduction of brown bears into Deutschland was a tragedy waiting to happen from the outset and both animal rights activists and politicians have Bruno's blood -- as well as that of the farm animals that he killed -- all over their hands. Roland Melisch of the WWF's German branch told Deutsche Welle in the article cited supra that signs warning people about the bear should have been posted in the Bavarian Alps. He also pointed out that dogs could have been employed to frighten him away from farm animals and that electric fences could have been installed around beehives. He also suggested that livestock should have been kept inside at night. He did not, however, explain why none of these precautions were undertaken beforehand.

Once Bruno had become a problem, the Bavarian authorities imported Karelian Bear Dogs and experienced trackers (See photos below) from Finland and hired a German sharpshooter to tranquilize him with a dart. Bear traps (See photo immediately below) were also imported from Montana. The stated goal was to sedate Bruno and then remove him to Wildpark Poing near Munchen to live out the remainder of his life.

However well intended, this plan quickly degenerated into a comedy of errors. The Finnish trackers complained that they could not take the heat and that the hills were too steep for them to get up and down. On several occasions when their GPS-equipped dogs were able to locate Bruno they were unable to catch up with either them or the bear.

Although the thermometer has been in the 80s (Fahrenheit) recently in Bavaria, this is not any excuse for the trackers' ineptitude. The authorities should have hired trackers who could have dealt with the heat and the hills. Secondly, it is difficult to see the value in equipping dogs with GPS. A good hunter should never allow his dogs out of either hearing range or sight.

Bears and other wild animals can rip a dog to shreds in a minute; consequently, hunters need to be able to keep up with their canines not only in order to get their quarry, but also to protect their dogs. It is difficult to imagine how the trackers ever expected to dart Bruno if they could not even keep up with their dogs.

Therein lies the rub as Shakespeare would say. Thirty-eight-year-old backpacker Christian Gareis, who unexpectedly ran across Bruno last Saturday, followed him on foot for several hours during which time he telephoned the police every ten minutes for an hour and a half but was repeatedly told that they were not interested in taking any action. (See Der Spiegel, June 27, 2006, "Hiker Says Bruno Could Have Been Saved.")

The petit fait that several days earlier Bruno had sauntered down the streets of Kochel and rested undisturbed for a while on the steps of the police station lends credence to the view that the authorities were never serious about taking him alive. In this instance, the worthless, good-for-nothing cops were no doubt either sleeping or cowering in fear underneath their desks. Cops never do anything worthwhile; they are all bums, crooks, and brutes.

It is also suspicious just how quickly and easily the Bavarians killed Bruno once the shoot and kill order was issued last Sunday. The murderers were able to accomplish in less than twenty-four hours what the trackers and dogs were unable to do in a fortnight! Even Germany's Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel admitted, "It's not clear to me why he couldn't be tranquilized." (See Der Spiegel's June 27th article cited supra.)

During his five-week sojourn along the Austrian and Bavarian border (See map above), it is estimated that Bruno traveled at least three-hundred kilometers and crisscrossed an area equal to six-thousand kilometers. Throughout all of his rambles he never once attacked a human although he had numerous opportunities to have done so had he been so inclined.

By the end of last week the effort to capture him had cost the Bavarian authorities one-hundred-twenty-five-thousand euros ($157,000) and that is most likely the real reason, not human safety, that they initialed his death warrant. Unwilling to invest any more money in the pursuit of a humane solution, they opted instead for an easy, cheap, and violent resolution to the problem. Moreover, by exterminating Bruno they saved the money that they would have been forced to spend sheltering and feeding him for the remainder of his life.

By playing upon the fears of a gullible public and pandering to livestock owners, the politicians milked this tragedy for all that it was worth. Farm animals must certainly be protected from predators and what Bruno did to the ones that he attacked was horrible. It is nonetheless important to remember that livestock owners are not animal lovers; they genetically modify their animals, abuse them, and in the end ship them off to the slaughterhouses. All of this is undertaken in the pursuit of the almighty euro and without an ounce of either compassion or remorse.

Despite how murderously Bavarian officials have treated Bruno, Klaus Hening Groth of the WWF's Berlin office had the audacity to tell the CBC's As It Happens on June 26th that he still believes that brown bears have a future in Germany. Weinzierl was a good deal more forthcoming when he told Stern: "Baren der Welt, meidet Bayern."

Based upon opinion polls, the large number of letters written to public officials, and the numerous memorial websites established in Bruno's honor, the German people appear to be generally in favor of having bears in Deutschland and that is a positive development. It would, however, be senseless to bring in more bruins until the ruling elite are forced to treat them humanely.

Instead of giving poor Bruno the decent and respectful burial that he so richly deserves, the vultures are already picking over his bones. Former skiing champion Markus Wasmeier wants to stuff Bruno and display him at his agriculture and winter sports museum in Schliersee while the neighboring village of Bayrischzell insists that it has a legitimate right to his carcass because he was killed within its jurisdiction. Controversial huckster Gunther von Hagens wants to cut up Bruno and display him in pieces as part of his infamous "Body Worlds" exhibition. All of these unscrupulous opportunists are out of luck, however, because the Bavarian authorities have already decided to give Bruno' hide to the Munich Museum's Mensch und Nature exhibit.

Before the taxidermists get him, scientists will take DNA samples from him and cut out his bones and organs for future study and instruction. Not only is the upkeep of a dead bear considerably cheaper than that of a live one, but there is also considerably more money to made from Bruno's remains than from him alive.

As this life and death drama unfolded over the past few weeks it was often pointed out that Bruno's problems stemmed from his lack of fear of humans. Whether this proclivity was due to prior positive interactions with humans or the lack thereof it is not known. There can be no doubt, however, that humans are lethal to all animals.

Photos: Der Spiegel (Bruno, Sheep, and bear trap), Deutsche Welle (Karelian dogs), and Stern (map).

Monday, June 26, 2006

Lewis the Cat Cheats the Hangman but Is Placed Under House Arrest for the Remainder of His Life

Lewis, the celebrated tomcat from Fairfield, Connecticut who received worldwide media attention earlier this year when he was placed under house arrest for his alleged involvement in a spate of attacks against women, narrowly avoided he gallows last week when Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Patrick Carroll spared his life.

The five-year-old longhaired polydactyl tuxedo cat, who has been profiled in People magazine, has a page on myplace.com, and an entry in Wikipedia, was however placed under house arrest for the remainder of his short stay on this earth. His owner, real estate agent Ruth Cisero (See photo above of her and Lewis), was placed on two years' probation and sentenced to perform fifty hours of community service in order to settle second-degree reckless endangerment charges that had been leveled against her because of Lewis' alleged misconduct.

Unbeknownst to the lively stray who wandered into Cisero's house on a rainy night five years ago, his fate was up in the air until the last minute because Maureen Bachtig, who was allegedly bitten by Lewis on February 5th, had petitioned the court to have Lewis exterminated. The situation was so dire that Russ Mead, a lawyer with the Best Friends Animal Society, was in court to plead for Lewis' removal to its sanctuary in Kanab, Utah should he have been sentenced to death.

Fairfield resident Marisa Sampieri captured the lynch mob mentality that surrounded the proceedings from the outset when she told CNN on May 23rd, "They want to kill a cat for a scratch. These people have to get a life." (See "Owner Goes to Court to Save Attack Cat.") Besides, as Miguel de Cervantes said a long time ago in Don Quixote, "Those who will play with cats must expect to be scratched."

After failing to secure a death warrant against Lewis, Bachtig and her cat-hating supporters tried unsuccessfully to have the cat declawed. Even state prosecutor Charles Stango, who initially had been willing to drop the case if Lewis were mutilated, reversed himself after he was informed about the medical and behavioral problems associated with this barbaric and inhumane procedure. (See Cat Defender post of June 19, 2006 entitled "Irresponsible Cat Owner Allows Declawed Tomcat Named Jack to Tangle with Black Bear in Northern New Jersey.") Eugene Riccio, who represented Cisero, even went so far as to liken declawing to "giving a pound of flesh."

Predictably, Carroll's decision to spare Lewis' life was greeted with joy by the feline's supporters who shouted "Lewis Will Live! Lewis Will Live!" and disdain by his alleged victims. Rosemarie P. Graves, who drove to Bridgeport from Melbourne, Florida in order to be with Lewis in his hour of need, told the Connecticut Post of June 21st, "I'm just so happy the judge allowed Lewis to live. Cats are so important to us all." (See "'Lewis Will Live!': Attack Cat Spared in Court.")

Although Bachtig was not in court on June 20th when the decision was handed down, another of Lewis' alleged victims, seventy-six-year-old Janet Kettman, was still calling for blood. "I don't think the judge went far enough," the former racquetball player and retired nurse told the Connecticut Post.

Courageous Ruth Cisero (See photo on the right of her with supporters outside courthouse), who stood by her cat all the way, told the Connecticut Post afterwards, "The goal was met; Lewis lives. I haven't sleep well in months, and now tonight I can finally get a good night's sleep."

As Cat Defender first reported on April 2nd, the charges against Lewis were from the outset a tissue of lies manufactured by cat-haters, bird-lovers, and crazy old women. (See "Free Lewis Now! Connecticut Tomcat, Victimized by a Bum Rap, Is Placed Under House Arrest.") While some of the facts surrounding the alleged attacks remain in dispute, a picture far different from the one painted by Lewis' detractors emerges once all the circumstances are examined in toto.

According to a May 12th report in the Westport News, Lewis is alleged to have been responsible for seven separate attacks against five different women during the past three years. (See "Infamous Cat to Get Day in Court.") The assaults began in October of 2002 when Lewis allegedly bit Barbara Dunn on the left hand. Avon peddler Donna Greenstein, who recently settled out of court a $5,000 civil suit against Cisero, was allegedly attacked on January 23, 2004.

Kettman and another woman, Rachel Aiello, were both allegedly attacked on two separate occasions by Lewis. During the summer of 2003, Kettman instigated an attack when she threw water on Lewis because he was fighting with her cat. On December 6th of last year Kettman had another run-in with Lewis which resulted in her being bitten on the leg. Aiello, for her part, claims that although Lewis bit her on the leg while she was shoveling snow during the winter of 2003, she insanely tried to pet him a few months later in the spring of 2003 and was bitten again.

According to Cisero, her neighbors have not only thrown water, eggs, and other debris at her cat but they even once illegally trapped him with the intent of giving him to a shelter to be exterminated. (See Cat Defender post of June 15,2006 entitled "Serial Cat Killer on Long Island Traps Neighbors' Cats and Then Gives Them to Shelter to Exterminate.") Fortunately for Lewis, the Connecticut Humane Society was closed that day and his captors were reluctantly forced to release him.

Kettman is, quite obviously, a crazy old woman. As any fool knows, intervening in a fight between two cats can be dangerous; more importantly, by throwing water at Lewis it was she who attacked him and not vice versa. As far as Aiello is concerned, it is not known what provoked the initial attack, but she, like Kettman, was stupid to have attempted to pet him after she had been previously bitten. Both women need to be placed under psychological observation.

Greenstein, who was in it all along for the money, is happy now that she has been paid. "I didn't want to see him die over this; as long as he is kept inside I will be happy," she told the Connecticut Post in the article cited above. Because of her steadfast insistence that Lewis either be killed or mutilated, Bachtig can be dismissed as a ailurophobe, regardless of the particular facts surrounding the alleged attack. Not enough information is known about the incident involving Dunn to make an evaluation.

The long ordeal that both Lewis and Cisero have been forced to undergo in Fairfield is part and parcel of a worldwide campaign directed against felines and their owners by bird-lovers, wildlife proponents, and ailurophobes. These groups and individuals want all feral cats to be rounded up and exterminated. They have even succeeded in some instances of criminalizing the feeding of homeless cats.

These despicable cat-haters also want all domestic cats to be sterilized, licensed, and confined indoors. Some localities across the country have even gone so far as to place limits on the number of cats that a person can own and to hold them liable whenever their cats either trespass or relieve themselves on another person's property.

Throughout their existence cats have always been under attack and that is still true to this very day. In order to protect them, it is paramount that cat-lovers vigorously rebut the lies and anti-feline propaganda disseminated by ailurophobes. Secondly, they should work to ban the extermination of cats (and dogs) at shelters and to criminalize all attacks perpetrated against companion animals. Mutilations should be outlawed as well as unnecessary sterilizations and vaccinations. Finally, the American Bird Conservancy's (ABC) Cats Indoors campaign should be strenuously opposed; all cats, including Lewis, are entitled to their freedom.

Cat-lovers have a new hero in Ruth Cisero and she is to be highly commended for sticking by her cat. She could have allowed Lewis' enemies to have either killed or mutilated him but she chose not to take the easy way out. The trial has cost her a lot of time and aggravation and her legal fees must be enormous. Plus, she still has her community service work to complete which she has elected to fulfill at a zoo.

As for melancholic Lewis (See photo above), the adjustment from being a cat about town to an exclusively indoor feline has been a difficult one but he is coping. Cisero recently told WCBS Radio out of Manhattan that he spends his days watching the wildlife out a window (See photo above) of her house.

Hopefully, this arrangement will work out for all concerned, especially Lewis. He has many enemies, however, and should he somehow escape the confines of Cisero's house it will most likely mean the end of him as well as a stint in the nick for Cisero. Both she and Lewis would be far better off if they immediately left Connecticut but that does not appear to be an alternative that she is willing to contemplate.

Photos: Brian A. Pounds of the Connecticut Post (Ruth Cisero and Lewis), Phil Noel of the Connecticut Post (Cisero outside court), Wikipedia (Lewis' portrait), and News 12, Norwalk, Connecticut (Lewis looking out the window).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Used Car Dealer in Virginia Murders Sweet Three-Year-Old Carmen with a Rifle Shot to the Neck

Carmen was a sweet, three-year-old black cat although a heart murmur made life difficult for her. She allowed Klaus and Vanessa Wintersteiger's young children, nine-year-old Nicholas and seven-year-old Isabella, to roughhouse with her and to take her to show-and-tell days at school. She also permitted Isabella (See bottom photo) to dress her up in doll's clothing and to push her through the neighborhood in a carriage. Left to her own devices, Carmen liked to follow her neighbors around, rubbing up against their legs and begging for attention.

This lovely cat's life came to a horrible end on April 24th when next-door neighbor George A. Seymour murdered her with a rifle shot to the neck all because he had once allegedly spotted her on top of his precious car. This senseless killing has outraged residents of the wealthy Bentivar subdivision outside Charlottesville, Virginia where Carmen used to live and left the Wintersteigers' children traumatized.

Worst still, the rifle shot did considerable internal damage to Carmen and she died an agonizingly slow death. According to the May 18th edition of The Hook, the bullet "created a nickel-sized wound as it entered the left side of the cat's neck and then traveled all the way through, leaving metal fragments in her flesh and shattering bones in her right shoulder and right leg before exiting, ripping a larger, ragged hole in the leg." (See "Claws and Effect.")

Despite the severity of her injuries, the brave little cat limped home where the Wintersteigers took her immediately to the vet. After examining her, the doctor concluded that she would need to amputate Carmen's right leg and to fuse her ribs. Based upon the extent of her injuries and the estimated cost of her surgery and rehabilitation the Wintersteigers decided to allow the vet to finish off the cat.

Despite the horrific nature of his crime, Seymour, a Charlottesville used car dealer, will face only misdemeanor animal cruelty charges when he goes on trial August 22nd in Albemarle County District Court. If previous animal cruelty cases in Virginia are anything to go on, this monster will likely get off with a slap-on-the-wrist fine.┬╣ (See Cat Defender post of January 17, 2006 entitled "Loony Virginia Judge Lets Career Criminal Go Free After He Stomps to Death a Fourteen-Year-Old Arthritic Cat.")

Cognizant of this fact, the Wintersteigers to their credit are considering a civil suit against Seymour. "It's not about the money," Klaus (See photo below of him, his wife Vanessa, and children), told The Hook. "It's about showing people they can't just go out and shoot animals. What's next? If they have a problem with us, do they shoot us?"

If people like O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake, who have escaped punishment in the criminal courts, can be held liable in civil proceedings there is not any valid reason why this legal rationale should not be extended to cat murderers.

Carmen's murder has had a severe emotional impact upon both Isabella and Nicholas (See top photo of them kneeling at Carmen's grave). "They were devastated," Klaus told The Hook. "My daughter went from totally crying to really organized, planning the funeral. My son wanted to go over there and hurt (Seymour)."

Although he is a wealthy businessman, Seymour is a nasty piece of goods who has little respect for either morality or the law. Back in 1998, he built a forward-facing garage on his property in direct violation of Bentivar's regulations and was subsequently forced to tear it down and construct one with a side-facing entrance. Young males from the Seymour household also reportedly use the streets of the subdivision as a makeshift drag strip. Since he has money and has gotten away with illegal and unsociable acts in the past he obviously feels that he can get away with murdering Carmen.

The laws against abusing and killing cats and other pets must be strengthened. The law should not make any distinction between the taking of the life of a cat and killing a human. In fact, a strong case could be made for stiffer penalties for individuals who kill and abuse innocent animals.

Although cat murderers rarely serve any jail time, this may be about to change. On March 23rd, William Buske, 34, of the Oasis Mobile Home Park in Des Plaines, Illinois (28 kilometers outside of Chicago) was sentenced to one-hundred-eighty days in jail and ordered to perform one-hundred hours of community service at an animal shelter for the savage murder of a nine-week-old kitten named Orangie. (See Des Plaines Journal, March 29, 2006, "Feline Fatality Results in Jail Time, Felony.")

As a practical matter, cat owners like the Wintersteigers and the Fagones on Long Island (See Cat Defender post of June 15,2006 entitled "Serial Cat Killer on Long Island Traps Neighbors' Cats and Then Gives Them to Shelter to Exterminate.") need to be on the lookout for monsters like Seymour. Before buying a house, cat owners should have their prospective neighbors investigated in order to make sure that they are not moving in next door to either an ailurophobe or a homicidal maniac.

If they should later discover that they have a cat-hater as a neighbor they should immediately sell out and move if it is at all possible. Cat-haters are bad people and living next door to them can be lethal not only for cats but for humans as well.

The staggering number of incidences involving the unprovoked abuse and murder of totally innocent cats is one more indicator of just how violent American society has become of late. This is a bad country comprised of bad people.

Photos: Jen Fariello of The Hook.

┬╣Sure enough, Judge Steven Helvin sentenced him to only ten days in jail and an unspecified amount of community service.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Irresponsible Cat Owner Allows Declawed Tomcat Named Jack to Tangle with Black Bear in Northern New Jersey

Interlopers onto Donna Dickey's property in the Shady Lake section of West Milford should take notice: Jack is on duty and he does not take kindly to visits by uninvited guests. This warning applies equally to animals as well as to humans as one unfortunate black bear found out the hard way recently.

Jack is not a Karelian Bear Dog like those recently brought in from Finland to track down a wandering brown bar named Bruno in Bavaria (See Der Spiegel, June 9, 2006, "Reprieve for Bruno as Bavaria Withdraws Permission to Shoot Him," and London's Independent, June 14, 2006, "Man Versus Nature: The Great Bavarian Bear Hunt"), but rather an orange and white, ten-year-old tomcat who resides with Dickey at her northern New Jersey home. Although he is known for giving the bum's rush to squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, birds, and mice who venture onto his turf, he outdid himself on June 4th when he not once but twice treed a black bear. (See photos above and below.)

The fearless little tabby chased the frightened bruin up one tree and kept him there for about a quarter of an hour with his angry hisses and baleful stares. When the bear climbed down, Jack took after him again and promptly chased him up another tree. By this time Dickey had been alerted by a neighbor as to what was happening and she promptly called off her cat, thus allowing the traumatized bear to escape into the safety of the nearby woods.

"I thought, 'Oh, my God, the bear's gonna get him!'" Dickey later told Newark's Star Ledger on June 9th. (See "Bear's Out on a Limb, Fleeing a Clawless Kitty.") For his derring-do, Jack was rewarded with not only a hero's welcome but treats as well.

"He doesn't want anybody in his yard," Dickey added. "We used to joke, 'Jack's on duty,' never knowing he'd go after a bear."

After The Star Ledger broke the story it was picked up by, inter alia, the Associated Press and the BBC and Jack unwittingly became an international celebrity. Although his bravery cannot be minimized, it is not unheard of for cats to frighten away bears since the latter's lives are governed as a rule by fear and the quest for food.

It is likewise not uncommon for bears to kill cats and since Jack does not have any front claws his precipitate action put him in far greater jeopardy than he realized. Instead of being an overnight sensation, he could just as easily have been ripped to shreds.

Declawing, which entails cutting off the last bone of each toe, is not only an extremely painful surgical procedure for cats to endure, but more importantly it robs them of their ability to climb and to defend themselves against predators. Had the bear turned on Jack, he would have been helpless. Onychectomies also have a deleterious effect upon cats' sense of balance and their ability to perform stretching exercises and this results in injuries from falls as well as muscle atrophy. Worst still, just about all declawed cats dumped at shelters are exterminated because people are reluctant to adopt them.

Declawing has been outlawed in West Hollywood as well as in Deutschland, Holland, Switzerland, Finland, Japan, Brazil, and Australia. In the midwest, Susan Woodhouse of Community CATalysts is working hard to have the patently cruel and inhumane practice banned from the Greater Cincinnati region. Sadly, only two out of thirty-four-hundred licensed veterinarians in Ohio refuse to mutilate cats. Furthermore, www.declaw.com, a website run by California veterinarian Christianne Schelling, lists only one veterinarian in Kentucky who refuses to perform onychectomies and none in Indiana. In fact, only fifty-one animal doctors nationwide steadfastly refuse to declaw cats under any circumstances.

Depriving a cat of the means to defend itself can also create behavioral problems. "People are seeing that many of the mean cats, the shy cats, are declawed cats," Woodhouse told The Cincinnati Inquirer on May 21st. (See "Scratching Away at a Cause.") It is therefore highly probable that Jack's overzealous defense of his turf is attributable to the fact that he does not have any front claws. Dickey's assertion that Jack mistook the bear for her chocolate Labrador Retriever, Cocoa, and chased it as part of a game is ludicrous. Jack is mutilated; he is not blind. Besides, he is still in possession of his senses of smell and hearing.

Declawing is unnecessary as well. Damage to furniture can be minimized just as effectively by either installing scratching posts around the house or by trimming a cat's nails. Vinyl caps, such as those worn by Woodhouse's cat Moose in the photo below, can be glued directly on to a cat's claws. Double-sided tape and aluminum cans filled with pennies can also be deployed in order to keep cats off of furniture.

In the final analysis, a few scratches here and there are a small price to pay for feline companionship. A cat and scratched furniture is far preferable to a house with elegant furnishings but no cat. As Mark Twain once said, "A house without a cat, and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat, may be a perfect house, perhaps, but how can it prove its title?"

Of additional concern is the fact that at fifteen pounds and sporting a potbelly (See photo above), Jack is noticeably overweight. This is prima facie evidence that he has been neutered. Although sterilization may be appropriate in some instances, mutilated cats are usually confined indoors for their own protection and this generally precludes the need for desexing.

No matter how the situation is analyzed, Dickey is an unfit cat owner. Subjecting a cat to needless surgeries in order to remove his claws and testicles and then turning him loose to scrap with a bear are not the actions of a person who cares about cats.

As far as the black bears of New Jersey are concerned, their situation is indeed deplorable. As both homeowners and commercial interests continue to expand into their habitats, conflicts inevitably arise and man's visceral response is, as per usual, to resort to violence.

Hunters shotgunned to death three-hundred-twenty-eight black bears in a state-sanctioned hunt back in 2003 and another two-hundred-ninety-eight were slaughtered last December. (See Cat Defender post of November 17, 2005 entitled "Chinese Farmer Gets His Just Deserts as He Is Killed and Eaten by Moon Bears He Tortured for Their Bile.") In the areas adjoining Jack's neighborhood, there are an estimated sixteen-hundred black bears.

Half a world away in Bavaria, German officials welcomed Bruno (See photo below) with open arms when he first crossed the Alps back in May and became the first wild brown bear to set foot in the Vaterland in one-hundred-seventy years. After he killed several dozen sheep, rabbits, and chickens as well as raided a few beehives, the welcome mat was promptly rolled up and the exterminators summoned.

Public opinion has, however, forced officials to rescind their death warrant and instead Karelian Bear Dogs have been brought in from Finland to track the bruin and a German sharpshooter has been hired to tranquilize him. If possible, they will take him alive and relocate him to Wildpark Poing near Munchen.

Bears, whether be in northern New Jersey or in the Alps, have a right to live also. This is impossible, however, unless government officials put away their guns and curb development. At the very least, unwanted bears should be humanely trapped and relocated to more hospitable habitats.

Photos: Suzanne Giovanetti (black bear and Jack), Tony Jones of The Cincinnati Inquirer (Moose with vinyl claw covers), and Manfred Sprenger for Der Spiegel (mobile phone photo of Bruno).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Serial Cat Killer on Long Island Traps His Neighbors' Cats and Then Gives Them to a Shelter to Exterminate

"Beware of People Who Dislike Cats."
-- Old Irish Proverb

Bird-lover Richard DeSantis (See photo below) of West Islip on Long Island is a clever fellow. Being, like most bird advocates, an inveterate cat-hater, he thought that he had come up with a foolproof method of ridding his neighborhood of cats.

His modus operandi was every bit as deadly as it was ingenious. He would lure his neighbors' unsuspecting felines into his yard with baited traps, capture them, and then turn them over to the Town of Islip Animal Shelter which would promptly exterminate them for him. Although it is not known exactly how many victims this fifty-seven-year-old serial cat killer has claimed, it is known for certain that he is responsible for the deaths of at least four cats and he is strongly suspected in the demise of countless others.

The mysterious disappearance of Coal, a four-year-old purebred Russian Blue cat with a sunken left eye, from the home of DeSantis' next door neighbors, Regina (See photo above of her holding a snapshot of Coal) and Jesse Fagone, on April 2nd set in motion a series of events that ultimately led to the bird-lover being unmasked as a cat murderer. The couple looked high and low for their beloved cat and even visited the shelter twice without any luck. After two days of fruitless searching, the shelter finally came clean and admitted that it had exterminated their cat.

Immediately suspecting DeSantis, the Fagones filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the town of West Islip and the shelter was forced to divulge that it was indeed DeSantis who had trapped and surrendered their cat so that it could be exterminated.

DeSantis was subsequently arrested and charged with criminal mischief, falsifying records, possession of stolen property, making a false statement, and cruelty to animals. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on June 13th in a Riverhead court and was released on his own recognizance. He is due back in court on July 31st and, although he could face up to four years in the stir if convicted on all counts, he will probably get off, like most cat killers, with a slap-on-the-wrist fine.

Although DeSantis' shyster, Eric N. Naiburg, admitted to The New York Times on June 14th that his client had trapped the cat, he insisted that he had done "absolutely nothing wrong" and that the charges against him were "ridiculous." He furthermore attempted to defend DeSantis' murderous conduct by arguing that Coal had been harassing some birds that his client kept caged in his backyard. Since the cat was not wearing either a collar or a tag, Naiburg insists that DeSantis was unaware that it belonged to the Fagones and instead thought that it was a feral cat. (See "L.I. Keeper of Birds Is Accused of Going After Neighbors' Cats.")

Naiburg further stated that since his client is a licensed hunter he has a right to trap any cat threatening his birds. Naiburg concluded his legal leger de main by ridiculously blaming the shelter and the Fagones for Coal's death.

The Fagones immediately suspected DeSantis from the outset because he had used this same tactic in order to get rid of two more of their cats. Through a previous FOIA request, they had earned that he had been responsible for trapping and handing over to the shelter for extermination Corky, a tomcat, and Grady, a female, back in December of 1998. Unfortunately, they did not press charges at that time. "We didn't do anything," Regina told Newsday on April 17th. (See "Cops: Man Had Neighbor's Cat Killed.") "I was incredulous that anybody could do anything like that. I didn't really know what to do," she added.

Besides being responsible for the deaths of Coal, Corky, and Grady, it is known that DeSantis also trapped and surrendered to the shelter an unnamed black and white cat on March 21st of this year.

He is also suspected in the disappearance of a fourth cat from the Fagone household back in 2002. Plus, Tom Blaser, a relative who lives across the street from the Fagones, suspects that DeSantis was responsible for the 1998 Christmas Eve pellet gun murder of his daughter's cat, Kelly.

Since DeSantis is not only a trained killer but a very devious individual as well, the extent of his carnage will probably never be known. It is known, however, that several other neighbors have had cats to mysteriously disappear without a trace over the past few years. "Look up and down the street and we're the only family left on the block with cats," Jesse Fagone, who still owns two cats, told The New York Times.

Compounding matters further is the petit fait that DeSantis is not only a serial cat killer but that he also revels in his wickedness. For instance, he began taunting the Fagones as soon as he was released after his arrest in April. "He gets out of the car and he yells, 'Here, kitty, kitty, kitty,'" Jesse told the New York Daily News on April 17th. (See "L.I. Birdman Busted in Cat-Whack.") "This guy is out of control. That's psychotic behavior."

Coal's murder has also had a traumatic effect upon the Fagones' two young children, Samantha, 13, and Nicholas, 12 (See photo below of them with Coal and Nala). "My kids are being tormented by this guy," Jesse told Newsday in the article cited above. "How do you kill a child's pet and then torment them (sic) a week later?" He is also quoted by the New York Daily News as stating, "Every time they hear the screen door slam, they jump and start searching for the other cats because they think this guy is going to strike again."

This case raises several disturbing issues. First of all, this world is chock-full of inveterate cat-haters who will go to almost any extreme in order to do harm to the feline species. The worst of this sorry lot are bird-lovers and wildlife proponents. These individuals and groups are not only fascists but they are also extremely dangerous. They do not have any morals or integrity and they will kill every cat that they can get in their clutches. It is high time that cat-lovers woke up to this fact and confronted these monsters. Since they are too morally warped and intellectually dishonest to be reasoned with, their anti-cat propaganda must be exposed for what it is and they must be severely punished for their physical attacks on cats.

A serial cat killer like DeSantis is not fit to go on living. He deserves the gallows or, at the very least, life imprisonment. If he is not either permanently locked up or executed it is a foregone conclusion that he will continue to kill cats. Low-life scum like him never change.

The conduct of the personnel at the Town of Islip Animal Shelter is almost as despicable as that of DeSantis and the facility should accordingly be shuttered. The hurried exterminations of Coal, Corky, and Grady make a persuasive argument in favor of an immediate abolition of pet genocide. Moreover, the staff is quite obviously both bloodthirsty and incompetent and this is proven by the fact that they not only exterminated Coal within two days of his arrival but also by their failure to match up the cat with his owners despite the Fagones having visited the facility twice during the interim.

It strains credulity that the shelter did not know what this monster was up to since he had dumped numerous other cats at the facility in the recent past. Why did not someone ask him where he was getting all these cats? Besides, there are usually laws in place which mandate that shelters hold domestic cats for at least a week before killing them. Why were not these procedures followed at the West Islip shelter?

Prosecutors on Long Island should subpoena the shelter's records in an effort to determine just how many cats DeSantis has trapped and dumped there in the past. The Fagones and other residents of the neighborhood should demand that this be done and any prosecutor unwilling to go the extra mile in order to uncover the full extent of DeSantis' devilry should be immediately removed from office. Regardless of whatever the outcome of the upcoming criminal proceedings, the Fagones should file civil suits against both DeSantis and the West Islip Animal Shelter.

Jesse Fagone remembers Coal as a unique, outgoing, and playful cat who "danced around" and liked to snuggle up with Nicholas. Sadly, Coal will not be doing any more dancing or snuggling; nor will he ever see even his fifth birthday. It is too late for him now but it is not too late to bring DeSantis and the shelter to justice and in doing so to save the lives of countless other cats.

Photos: Newsday (DeSantis and the Fagone children in 2002) and Kirk Condyles of The New York Times (Donna Fagone).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Kindhearted Dairyman, Sacked for Feeding Feral Cats, Files a $20 Million Lawsuit Against Cornell University

John Beck and Samantha
"That's what the farm is there for, to take care of animals, not mistreat them."
-- John Beck
A kindhearted sixty-seven-year-old part-time farmhand who was fired by Cornell University for feeding a group of feral cats living on campus has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the Ithaca, New York institution.

John Beck who milked cows on weekends at the Ivy League school's twenty-six-hundred-acre Animal Science Teaching and Research Center in nearby Harford (fifteen miles southeast of the main campus), was fired in August of 2003 after he repeatedly disobeyed orders to stop feeding the twenty or so feral cats who call the combination animal research and meat production farm home.

"I didn't want to see them starve," he told the New York Post on May 31st. (See "I Was Sacked For Feeding Cornell Cats.") "Have you ever heard cats howling for food? I would come to work at 11 at night and it's pretty disturbing hearing those cats crying."

In addition to buying dry food for the cats, Beck also scavenged leftover pizza from the center's lunchroom to give to them. He also reportedly trapped some of the cats which he either turned over to the Cortland County SPCA or had sterilized by the school's veterinary department. The fate of the cats surrendered to the SPCA is unknown but as a rule one-hundred per cent of all feral cats entering shelters are exterminated upon arrival.

Beck, who once cared for eighteen barn cats when he operated his own farm, defended his actions on the ground that since the cats had come to rely upon the school as a source of food the institution had a moral obligation to continue to feed them. "That's what the farm is there for, to take care of animals, not mistreat them," he told the New York Post.

The school, speaking through Mary George Opperman, told Beck in a letter that his feeding of the felines "was not consistent with the needs of the farm." She furthermore extended to him the beau geste offer that he was welcome to take the cats home with him.

As far as the lawsuit is concerned, the school has filed a motion in Tompkins County state Supreme Court to have it dismissed. While Beck readily admits that his chances of prevailing in court are slim, he told the New York Post that he had filed the suit as a matter of principle. "How can you fire someone for feeding cats?" he asked rhetorically.

His gutsy decision to take on the swelled-heads at Cornell has, however, garnered him a good deal of both sympathy and professional support. For example, Dr. Brenda Griffin of Auburn University in Alabama told the New York Post that not only do feral cats not pose any risk to livestock, but that they are invaluable in helping to keep the rodent population under control. Furthermore, she stated that cutting off their food supply would not make them go away.

More importantly, Dr. Griffin is acutely aware of the moral dilemma posed by Cornell's decision. "I don't know how anyone could advise someone not to feed them, that is cruel in and of itself," she added.

Beyond the hateful dismissal of a kindly ailurophile, this case has focused attention on one of academia's dirtiest secrets: its mistreatment of feral cats. With the exception of certain center city campuses which are comprised almost exclusively of office suites, nearly every university in the country has a feral cat problem. Most often students are to blame. They bring in cats to live with them in their dorm rooms and then turn them loose to fend for themselves at the end of the school year. Irresponsible cat owners from surrounding communities also use college campuses as dumping grounds for felines that they no longer want.

Dr. Brenda Griffin

On some campuses, conscientious students, teachers, and administrators have allocated funds to provide food, shelter, medical assistance, and desexing for their homeless cats. Kate Hofstra, for example, left money in her will for the care of the feral cats who live on the Hempstead, Long Island campus that bears her name. (See "Cats Find Refuge," The (Hofstra) Chronicle, February 3, 2005.")

At Auburn, Dr. Griffin directs a TNR (trap, neuter, and return) program called Cap Nap and teaches classes devoted to shelter medicine and feral cat care. More importantly, she is in the vanguard of a growing movement to put an end to pet genocide.

Highbrows on other campuses are not nearly so magnanimous. Being either too cheap or too lazy to do the right thing, they feign ignorance of the problem in the hope that it will solve itself. Still others, having no more regard for a cat than a termite, call in trappers and exterminators.

There is a widespread belief within the intelligentsia that they are exempt from the dictates of morality; because of their exalted positions, they falsely believe that the world owes them everything while they in turn owe no one anything. No group, however, lives in a vacuum and if colleges refuse to take responsibility for their homeless cats, who will?

Cats, like all animals, have an inalienable right to life and liberty. Cornell's steadfast refusal to provide for its cats is despicable. Not only is it an extremely rich school, but it would cost it very little to provide food, shelter, and veterinary care for its resident felines. It also has a very spacious campus that without doubt has more than enough room to accommodate a handful of cats.

Cornell's cavalier treatment of its cats is not surprising in light of its overall record on animal rights. For example, on the farm where Beck used to work, the school maintains thousands of dairy and beef cows as well as a herd of sheep. The professors experiment on these poor animals, genetically modify them, and then finally slaughter them. It is, in reality, more of a money-making factory farm than it is a school in that livestock are exploited for their milk, meat, and wool.

At other locations, Cornell maintains units where chickens, pigs, and horses are treated in an equally inhumane and exploitative manner. Tens of thousands of other animals are subjected to the horrors of vivisection and dissection in the school's research and teaching labs.

Although the toffs at Cornell attempt to cloak their abysmal animal rights record in the highfalutin rhetoric of the advancement of science, money, fame, domination, and the pursuit of sadistic pleasures are the real motivating factors behind their so-called research.

Bereft of any genuine appreciation of the manifold uniqueness and beauty of Mother Earth, the animals, and man (at his better moments, that is), the scientific community's propensity for evil is far greater than that of even the capitalists and the militarists. (See Cat Defender post of May 4, 2006 entitled "Scientific Community's Use of High-Tech Surveillance Is Aimed at Subjugating, Not Saving, the Animals.")

Photos: Wilson Cummer of the New York Post (John Beck and Samantha) and Best Friends Animal Society (Brenda Griffin).

Monday, June 12, 2006

Given Up for Dead, Sneakers Is Reunited with His Owner After Having Gone AWOL Ten-Years Ago

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology a long-lost cat has been reunited with his original owner after a ten-year separation.

Sneakers, a longhaired black cat (See photos), disappeared without a trace from Allison MacEwan's Seattle home in 1996. MacEwan, who had adopted the cat as a kitten a year earlier, placed ads in newspapers and passed out fliers in her neighborhood in an all-out effort to locate Sneakers but her efforts were for naught. "We made a full-bore effort to find the cat. But, no cat," she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on May 3rd. (See "From Seattle to Sacramento -- Cat's 10-Year Mystery.")

On April 29th, MacEwan got the shock of her life when Animal Care Services in Sacramento informed her by telephone that they had Sneakers. The reason that they knew it was him was because of a microchip that had been implanted in his shoulder eleven years earlier. "It was very surreal," the stunned water resources engineer told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer upon hearing the news. "I was completely surprised. I mean, completely."

She then flew to Sacramento and reclaimed Sneakers. Her daughters, who were ages four and six when he disappeared, were reportedly thrilled to get him back.

As far as it is known, Sneakers was found in Seattle in 1998 by an unnamed third party who, apparently thinking he was a female, renamed him Keisha before subsequently relocating to Sacramento. For whatever reason, Sneakers' new owner cruelly dumped him at Animal Care Services in late April. The cat's whereabouts between 1996 and 1998 remain a mystery.

There are certain similarities in Sneakers' plight and that of two other cats who were reunited with their previous owners because of microchips. When Cheyenne, a black American Shorthair, disappeared from Pamela Edwards' Bradenton, Florida home in 1997 she was either flown or driven to San Francisco by some unknown person or persons. She was, thankfully, reunited with her owner in 2004 when shelter personnel discovered an implanted microchip. (See Cat Defender post of December 9, 2005 entitled "Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes Unscheduled Trip to France in Hold of Cargo Ship.")

Likewise, when Plato, a three-year-old Siamese, disappeared from Erin DeBoard's Monterey, California home he was picked up off the street and transported to Portland, Oregon where he was later abandoned at a shelter. Because of an implanted microchip, he was eventually reunited with his owner after more than a year's hiatus. (See Cat Defender post of May 25, 2006 entitled "Plato's Misadventures Expose Pitfalls of RFID Technology as Applied to Cats.")

Locating a lost cat is seldom easy, but there are nonetheless a few tips worth remembering. First of all, cats are territorial by nature and it is therefore rare for one to voluntarily abandon its own turf. Consequently, initial searches for missing cats should be geographically limited. If a lost cat cannot be located on its own turf, it has most likely either met with foul play or has been abducted.

In such an instance, the search must be extended to shelters and veterinary hospitals. In cases where theft is suspected, the posting of a reward for the cat's safe return might prove to be fruitful, especially if the thief cares more for money than for feline companionship. Pet detectives, such as Carl Washington of Georgia, are another option but their services do not come cheap.

Despite their limitations, microchips do work miracles. Old-fashioned collars listing the owner's name and telephone number are also valuable, whether or not the cat has been microchipped. In the final analysis, however, cats have many enemies in this world and there is not any substitute for close personal supervision.

As miraculous as the stories of Cheyenne, Plato, and Sneakers are in themselves, it is no less amazing that each of their previous owners not only wanted them back but was willing to go to considerable expense and effort to reclaim them.

Not much is known about how the feline mind works but it would be interesting to know if any of these long-lost cats ever exhibits any prior familiarity with either their old owners or surroundings. Most likely they quickly forget people and places but it is entirely possible that upon being returned to their old haunts that their memories also return.

Contrary to the old adage, cats do not have nine lives but, given half a chance, they will certainly make the most of the one that they are given. As the implantation of microchips becomes more common, a corresponding increase can also be expected in the number of amazing stories that surface about cats who have seemingly returned from the dead.

Photos: WJAR-TV, Channel 10, Cranston, RI.