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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

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Visit from Oscar Means That the Grim Reaper Cannot Be Far Behind for the Terminally Ill at a Rhode Island Nursing Home

Oscar Sitting on a Bed
"What is the cat doing here?" a young boy asked his mother.
"He is here to help grandma get to heaven," she replied.
-- David M. Dosa, "A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat."

The scientific community is in a tizzy following last week's publication in The New England Journal of Medicine of an article about a two-year-old gray and white cat named Oscar who is able to more accurately predict when a patient is about to die than attending physicians and nurses.

In an article entitled "A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat," Dr. David Dosa of Brown University details how Oscar has correctly predicted the deaths of twenty-five terminally ill mental patients at the Safe Haven Advanced Care Unit of the world-renown Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. When patients only have a couple of hours left to live, Oscar enters their room, hops in bed with them, snuggles up, and begins to purr. As soon as the patient dies, he gets up and makes his exit.

Perhaps just as telling, he has never shown much interest in patients who are either merely sick or dying but yet have a few days of life left in them. "This is a cat that knows death. His instincts that a patient is to die are often more acute than the instincts of medical professionals," Dosa told The Boston Globe on July 26th. (See "With a Purr, Death Comes on Little Cat Feet.")

"We've come to recognize him hopping on the bed as one indicator the end is very near," nurse Mary Miranda told The Globe. "Oscar's been consistently right."

"Caregivers are always there trying to make the patient comfortable until the very end," Pamela Toll, also a nurse, told The Globe. "But Oscar's a component of dying...It's kind of weird, but kind of lovely. He's become part of the death ritual, along with lowered lights, aromatherapy, and gentle music."

Oscar Making His Rounds

Oscar's prescience has two obvious benefits. It first of all allows the staff time to notify loved ones so that they can be with the patient at the end. Secondly, Oscar provides companionship for those without family and friends.

As any visitor to a nursing home or reader of Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook knows, these types of facilities can be enormously depressing for all concerned. It is therefore not surprising that Oscar's presence is much appreciated by most family members even though it is debatable just how many of the mentally-deranged patients are even aware of his presence.

"The staff was wonderful. But Oscar brought a special serenity to the room," Jack McCullough of East Providence, whose mother and aunt died at Steere, told The Globe. "What's more peaceful than a purring cat? What sound more beautiful to fill one's ears when leaving this life?"

Barbara L. Diamond would no doubt concur. "If there were to be a universal sound depicting peace, I would surely vote for the purr."

In his journal article, Dr. Dosa relates the poignant story of the death of a Mrs. K. "What is the cat doing here?" a young boy asked his mother after observing Oscar on top of his grandmother's bed. "He is here to help grandma get to heaven," she replied. Half an hour later, the woman died and Oscar quietly hopped down from the bed and unobtrusively left the room.

For his invaluable service to humanity, Oscar has been rewarded with a plaque from a local hospice. It hangs in the third floor corridor that he patrols and reads in part: "For his compassionate hospice care, this plaque is awarded to Oscar the Cat."

Once in a while, however, a family will resent his presence and the staff has to forcibly remove him from the room. On these occasions, Oscar remains outside the door yowling in protest and futilely pawing the woodwork, Clearly, he feels that it is his duty to help the dying cross over to the other side.

Oscar Waiting Outside a Patient's Room

Oscar's uncanny ability to predict the Grim Reaper's arrival has, as it would be expected, generated all sorts of palaver from those within and without the scientific community. The simplest and, consequently, most unscientific explanation is that cats are psychic. As Jules Verne once put it, "I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through."

Another possible explanation is that Oscar's highly-developed sense of smell is capable of detecting subtle metabolic changes in the terminally ill that presage death. In other words, death has a distinct aroma that eludes man but not cats.

Dr. Joan M. Teno, also of Brown, theorizes that Oscar may simply be mimicking the behavior of the staff. "Oscar is a normal cat with an extra-normal sense of death. He is drawn to death," she told The Globe. "Either he wants to give comfort. Or he is just attracted to all the quiet activity that surrounds a patient close to dying." (Her interview with the CBC's As It Happens on July 26, 2007 entitled "Oscar the Cat" can be heard at www.cbc.ca/aih.)

Although he concedes that cats give every bit as much affection as they take, Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, a veterinarian at Tufts and a frequent contributor to Pet Place, feels that Oscar could be attracted to the warm blankets, dim lights, aromatherapy, and soft music that the staff provides for its dying patients.

Teno's mimicry theory can be disposed of right away because cats are loners. Besides, Oscar is known to go about his work in a businesslike manner.

Oscar in a Contemplative Mood

"This is not a cat that's friendly to people," Dosa told The Guardian on July 26th. (See "The Nursing Home Cat That 'Predicts' Death.") Dodson's explanation likewise can be dismissed for many of the same reasons.

That cats can smell and anticipate death is not surprising. Knowing that the end is near, many of them have been observed wandering off to die alone. Other animals, such as deer, have been known to anticipate the deaths of other animals, such as cats. (See Cat Defender post of January 16, 2007 entitled "Dying of Kidney Failure, Nine-Year-Old Cat Named Sammy Is Shown Compassion by an Unexpected Friend.")

Because of their acute senses, animals are aware of a world of sights, sounds, smells, and other phenomena that totally elude man. Recent research has also demonstrated that some animals possess sophisticated language skills, self-awareness, and that they mourn the deaths of family members and friends.

All of these attributes, once foolishly thought to be the sole prerogatives of man, prove that animals are much more like humans than many people are willing to admit. Moreover, the fact that Oscar and, undoubtedly, other animals are able to predict death demonstrates that in certain important aspects they are actually superior to man. All of which is just one more reason that man should stop killing and abusing all animals.

Founded in 1874, Steere House is home to one-hundred-twenty patients. The floor on which Oscar works houses forty-one patients who are suffering from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, strokes, and other mental disorders. In addition to Oscar, the facility has five other cats, a rabbit, and an unspecified number of parakeets.

Oscar was adopted in 2005 along with another cat named Mayer (as in Oscar Mayer) in order to replace a cat named Henry who had died earlier. Without any prodding from the staff, he began his death vigils about six months after his arrival.

It would be interesting to know if any of the other cats that have resided at Steere ever exhibited any interest in the deaths of the inmates. Since, however, both The Globe and The New England Journal of Medicine are silent on this vitally important point, it is probably safe to conclude that Oscar's perplexing behavior has not been replicated before at Steere.

Oscar Rests on a Chair

If that is indeed the case, then it must be asked what makes Oscar unique? Or, in other words, what percentage of cats are psychic? There can be no doubt, however, that Oscar's prescience is going to spark extensive research into animal behavior and death.

His extraordinary behavior should not, however, be used as an excuse for ailurophobes to label all cats as being the familiars of the Grim Reaper. This could lead to similar types of abuse as those which accompanied the Roman Catholic Church's grotesque slander of the species as being the familiars of witches.

When he is not giving succor to the dying, Oscar, like all cats, spends a disproportionate amount of his time napping. The linen closet, the desk at the nurses' station, and on top of stacks of medical records are reported to be three of his favorite spots for snoozing.

Although he is dead serious about his work, the nurses and physicians at Steere insist that he can be gregarious and even clownish when he is off duty.

Photos: Dina Rudick of The Boston Globe (Oscar on bed and chair) and Stew Milne of the Associated Press (Oscar in corridor, outside door, and up close).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tottering on the Brink of Extinction, Texas Ocelots Must Overcome a Myriad of Obstacles If They Are Going to Survive

"You really hate to lose any of them when there are so few of them."
-- Jody Mays, United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The death earlier this month of a male Texas ocelot at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (LANWR) near the Mexican border has reduced the number of the endangered cats to around one-hundred. More importantly, he was one of only thirty to forty breeding-age adults left in the more than sixty-five-thousand-acre preserve.

By the time the body was discovered it was so badly decomposed that a necropsy was unable to pinpoint the cause of death. A bite inflicted by one of Texas's abundant supply of poisonous snakes is nonetheless thought to have been the likely cause of death.

"You really hate to lose any of them when there are so few of them," Jody Mays of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) told Reuters on July 16th. (See "Dead Ocelot Bad News for Falling United States Population.")

Although the cats used to be found in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Arizona, they are now restricted to a small corner of southeast Texas and even much of that area has been chopped up into farms, factories, and offshore condominiums. Subspecies of the Texas ocelot, found from Mexico to Argentina with the notable exception of Chile, are generally thought to be doing better than their Texas cousins.

Leopardus pardalis albescens are medium-sized cats that weigh between seventeen and twenty-four pounds, stand between sixteen and twenty-four inches tall, and are four to five feet in length. Their coats are distinguished by chain-like blotches and spots that are bordered in black but have lighter-colored centers. Background colors vary from light-yellows to reddish-grays. Their stomachs are white and the backs of their rounded ears are black with yellow spots. (See photo above of one at LANWR.)

Although those held in captivity are said to have high-strung, unpredictable, and comedic personalities, in the wild they lead solitary, nocturnal, and territorial existences. On the range they have a life-span of only seven to eight years whereas in captivity they have been known to live for as long as twenty years. (See photo below of an ocelot at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.)

Being carnivorous, they will eat just about anything that they are able to catch but in general their diet consists primarily of mice, opossums, and armadillos. If available, they also will prey upon anteaters, deer, squirrel monkeys, tortoises, crabs, fish, birds, and reptiles.

Of the myriad of factors conspiring against the cats, the demise of their desolate thorn brush habitat in the Rio Grande Valley is not only the most formidable but also the most difficult to reverse. "We've flown over south Texas and found that less than one per cent has this very special habitat of thorn brush," Texas A&M's Michael Tewes told The Dallas Morning News on June 25th. (See "Ocelots Hanging on to Small Part of Texas.")

The loss of habitat also has led to inbreeding. For instance, the two known colonies in south Texas are not only cut off from each other but from their Mexican cousins who reside about one-hundred miles south of the border.

According to Mays, inbreeding is not only causing the cats to become smaller but it is also noticeable in the uniform coloring of their noses. On a more practical level, it reduces the cats' fertility levels and makes them more susceptible to disease. Coupled with traditionally small litters, long gestation periods, and a high infant mortality rate, inbreeding could prove to be the ocelots' coup de grace.

Unlike bobcats, coyotes, and other more adaptable animals, ocelots do not like to leave the safety of the brush and seldom hunt by day. This, quite naturally, further restricts their habitat and food supply.

As destructive as habitat loss and inbreeding are, they pale in comparison to the number of ocelots that are deliberately run down and killed each year by motorists. "The primary form of mortality for ocelots is being killed on roads," Tewes told The Dallas Morning News.

In this respect, the ocelots' plight mirrors that of the Iriomote wildcat whose ranks also are being decimated by motorists and developers. (See Cat Defender post of November 27, 2006 entitled "After Surviving on Its Own for at Least Two Million Years, Rare Japanese Wildcat Faces Toughest Battle Yet.")

Taken separately or altogether, none of these factors could have reduced ocelots to their precarious state had it not been for the wholesale carnage inflicted upon them by fur traffickers and purveyors of exotic pets. For example, at one time as many as two-hundred-thousand of the cats were killed each year for their pelts.

Since the pattern found on each pelt is unique, fur coats made from thirteen of them used to retail for as much as $40,000. More startling, this was still going on as late as the 1980s even though ocelots have been protected by the Endangered Species Act since its inception in 1972.

Always on the lookout for a fast and easy buck at the expense of the animals, purveyors of exotic pets soon found that individuals, such as Salvador Dali, would pay up to $800 for an ocelot. Although buyers were willing to pay dearly for an exotic-looking cat, they had no intention of living with one that was truly wild. Consequently, they had their pet ocelots sterilized, declawed, defanged, and their scent glands removed.

Just as wildlife officials and other conservationists failed to protect the cats' habitat from dismemberment so, too, did animal rights groups fail to protect the cats against the hideous crimes of fur traffickers and marketers of exotic pets. Had either of these groups fulfilled their responsibilities, ocelots undoubtedly would be in far better shape today.

In addition to captive breeding programs at zoos, wildlife officials are working with private landowners in south Texas in an effort to preserve the cats' remaining habitat. With both development and population growth showing no signs of abating anytime soon, this does not look particularly encouraging. In fact, the ocelots' habitat will more than likely continue to contract.

Although ocelot crossing signs and speed restrictions have been put in place at LANWR, this has not stopped motorists from running down the cats. (See photo above.) The Texas Department of Transportation is considering digging underpasses to enable the cats to safely bypass busy roads but time is running out fast and these safe passages are needed now as opposed to later.

Most controversial of all, wildlife officials are planning to trap, tag, and import ocelots from Mexico to bred with the Texas cats. It is hoped that this will not only increase the number of ocelots living in Texas but also expand their gene pool.

This plan will not work, however, unless a secure habitat can be established for the cats. Otherwise, the imported cats are likely to meet with the same fate as those already living in Texas. It is also likely to reduce, and possibly even weaken, the Mexican colonies as well.

The proposed immigration control fence along the border will cut through seventy miles of the cats' habitat and this could possibly also adversely affect their chances of survival. Although the cats do not venture across the border all that often anymore, construction of the fence will take another sizable chunk out of their rapidly dwindling habitat.

"We know as habitats become fragments whether by roads, fences or walls animals become much less capable of roaming widely," Joel Berger of the Wildlife Conservation Society told Reuters on July 25th. (See "United States Border Fence Seen Harming Ocelots, Butterflies.") "As these restrictions occur animals become isolated and with isolation the risks of local extinctions greatly increase."

Imprisoning additional ocelots in zoos is not the answer either. Already forty-two American zoos own ocelots and dozens more of the cats are serving life sentences at similar facilities all around the globe.

As a last resort, it would be preferable if the Texas cats were relocated to Mexico as opposed to vice versa. After all, the welfare of the species should trump parochial interests.

This is not about to happen, however, and as the cats continue to slide toward extinction Sue Booth-Binczik of the Dallas Zoo and the USFWS are squandering precious time and resources trapping, tattooing, and releasing mice. (See photo above of Booth-Binczik at work.) Since there is nothing in the record to indicate that the cats are perishing from hunger, this research is of dubious merit.

Caught between the capitalists and their unchecked greed on the one side and wildlife officials with an agenda all their own on the other side, it is going to be extremely difficult not only for the cats to survive but also for them to retain an iota of their precious freedom and dignity.

Moreover, deadly hurricanes, droughts, fires, and disease could spell imminent doom for them.

Photos: USFWS (ocelot), Wikipedia (ocelot at Woodland Park Zoo), Janet and Gary's Web Page (ocelot crossing sign), and G. Daniel Lopez for The Dallas Morning News (Booth-Binczik).

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Cat Behaviorist Is Summoned to Key West in Order to Help Determine the Fate of Hemingway's Polydactyls

"The cats reside on the property just as (they) did in the time of Hemingway himself. They are not on exhibition in the manner of circus animals. The City Commission finds that the family of polydactyl Hemingway cats are indeed animals of historic, social and tourism significance...an integral part of the history and ambiance of Hemingway House."
-- Key West City Commission

Dr. Terry Marie Curtis, a cat behaviorist at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, was scheduled to arrive today at the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West in order to make an evaluation of the health of the author's world famous polydactyl cats. (See photo above of one of them reclining.)

Curtis' eleventh-hour mission is the latest development in a four-year legal and political battle that has pitted the museum against both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Key West SPCA. (See Cat Defender posts of January 9, 2007 and August 3, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Papa Hemingway's Polydactyl Cats Face New Threats from Both the USDA and Their Caretakers" and "USDA Fines Hemingway Memorial in Key West $200 a Day for 'Exhibiting' Papa's Polydactyl Cats Without a License.")

The trouble began in 2003 when the museum made the catastrophic mistake of enlisting the services of Debra Schultz of the SPCA in getting its forty-six or so cats sterilized. What museum officials did not realize at the time was that she is a sterilization fanatic who in short order had neutered practically all of the tomcats except for one named Ivan.

Had she not been stopped, the polydactyls, whose ancestors have lived at Hemingway's mansion for more than seven decades, would have become extinct. The museum therefore had no choice but to give her the bum's rush.

Mad as hell at having her fun spoiled, she ratted out the museum to the USDA. The agency then dispatched agents to Key West who rented rooms at a nearby guesthouse that overlooked the museum so that they could videotape the comings and goings of Hemingway's cats.

What followed has been a Kafkaesque nightmare for both the cats and the museum. To begin with, the feds claimed that the museum was exhibiting the cats without a license in contravention of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Although the cats are sans doute one reason why the memorial is such a popular tourist attraction, the museum contends that the AWA applies only to animals exhibited by zoos, circuses, and other entertainment enterprises.

"It is just insanity the time and money that has been spent on this," Cara Higgins, an attorney representing the museum, told the Miami Herald on July 9th. (See "Feds, Key West Stage Catfight over Hemingway House.") "These are local, domestic cats who are born here, live here, and die here. They are not lions and tigers and bears that are being transported from state to state, like a traveling circus."

Needless to say, the USDA vociferously disagrees and began by fining the museum $200 a day for not having a license. When the museum belatedly applied for one the feds refused to issue it because the museum would not imprison the cats in cages.

The USDA next suggested that the brick wall that surrounds the compound be made taller and topped off with an electrified fence but the museum refused to comply with this directive on the grounds that doing so would jeopardize its status as a National Historic Monument. The museum also turned down the USDA's recommendation that it hire a night watchman in order to keep tabs on the cats.

It did, however, pony up $15,000 for a sprinkler system but it apparently did little to curb the cats' roaming. Last year, the museum installed an unsightly mesh wire atop the wall and it appears to be working satisfactorily as far as everyone except the USDA is concerned.

After having spent around $200,000 in a series of futile attempts to appease the USDA, the museum sought relief from the courts last year. On December 18th, however, United States District Court Judge K. Michael Moore, sitting in Miami, threw out the museum's lawsuit on the grounds that it first had to exhaust its administrative remedies before it could apply to the federal courts for relief.

Press reports do not spell out the details but presumably the case is now before an administrative law judge or a special master who has assigned Curtis to look into the well-being of the cats. (See mug shot of her above.)

On her web site she states, "Behavior problems constitute the number one reason dogs and cats are relinquished to shelters and/or euthanized. The reason I have chosen to work in the field of animal behavior is to try and make a difference in these statistics. I want to communicate to the public and the referring veterinary community that many if not most of a pet's behavior problems are solvable."

That is highly commendable but in this case the aberrant behavior belongs to the USDA, not the cats. Moreover, while she may be able to help the court to decide whether museum officials are fit guardians for the cats, she cannot resolve the larger legal issue. Au contraire, whether or not the AWA applies to Hemingway's cats is an issue that can only be decided by either a judge or Congress.

The administrative law judge is most likely hoping that Curtis will be able to come up with a compromise that will satisfy both parties. While that is certainly not out of the question, the fact that the USDA and the museum have been at loggerheads for so long does not bode well for an amicable resolution to this dispute. Consequently, this matter could wind up back in the federal courts where it could drag on for years.

While the museum may be stuck in the mud with its legal battle against the USDA, it is making some progress on the political front. In particular, the Key West City Commission declared earlier this month that the cats are not being exhibited and as such the museum is exempt from complying with a city ordinance that limits ownership of domestic animals to four per household.

"The cats reside on the property just as (they) did in the time of Hemingway himself. They are not on exhibition in the manner of circus animals," The Guardian quoted the commission as ruling in its July 9th edition. (See "Reprieve for Hemingway's Six-Toed Cats.") "The City Commission finds that the family of polydactyl Hemingway cats are indeed animals of historic, social and tourism significance...an integral part of the history and ambiance of the Hemingway House."

That is the only sensible and humane way to look at the situation. The USDA did not have any business getting involved in this issue in the first place. Being too lazy and derelict in its duties to go after the producers and importers of contaminated pet and human food, vivisectors, sportsmen who abuse racehorses, greyhounds, and Siberian Huskies, as well as zoos, circuses, and stage shows that feature animals, the USDA apparently thought that Hemingway's cats would be easy pickings.

To its credit, the SPCA has raised some valid concerns about the cats' welfare. In particular, at least one cat, Toby, was struck and killed by a motorist after he wandered out of the compound.

Gwen Hawtof, a former president of the organization, claims that the museum failed to properly care for a cat named Mark Twain while he was suffering from cancer. The museum has vociferously denied this charge and insists that all of its cats receive weekly visits from a local veterinarian.

Hawtof also seems to be particularly jealous of all the money that the museum is raking in at the gate as well as through its robust sale of souvenirs and other memorabilia. "These are living beings that they are making millions off of," she told the Miami Herald in the article cited supra. "We just wanted (the museum) to step up to the plate and do what's right. What bothers me is the amount of money they have spent on lawyers instead of their cats."

Since both she and Higgins seem to be so inordinately concerned with money perhaps there is more to this dispute than meets the eye. Both groups no doubt have plenty of it and want even more.

Coupled with Hawtof's envy there is also Schultz's conviction that the only good cat is a sterilized one. In particular, she harbors an especially nasty grudge against Ivan for not only being a street corner Romeo but also for helping himself to the food that she puts out for her TNR colonies. (See photo above of the feline Don Juan.) In fact, she has trapped him on at least six separate occasions.

Perhaps Curtis will be able to lay to rest all concerns regarding how the museum treats its cats. If not, this is a job for an impartial animal rights activist from outside the Key West area.

While it is possible that the museum could be neglecting the cats in favor of profits, there is not any solid evidence to support such a claim. Besides, it is in the museum's self-interest to take good care of Papa's polydactyls.

It is imperative, however, that it do a better job of safeguarding the cats from the machinations of both motorists and sterilizers like Schultz. The cats are safe so long as they remain on the grounds of the compound but the streets outside may have become too congested for them. (See photo above of one of the cats hanging out in an alley alongside the museum.)

The cats, whose lineage can be traced back to a polydactyl named Snowball that was given to Hemingway's sons way back in 1935 by a sea captain named Stanley Dexter, are an international treasure that must be preserved. Moreover, they belong at Hemingway's old haunt on Whitehead Street.

Photos: Marc Averette of Wikipedia (black cat), University of Florida (Curtis), Cammy Clark of the Miami Herald (Ivan), and Wknight94 for Wikipedia (cat in the alley).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Up to Their Old Tricks, Wildlife Officials Reintroduce Fishers to the Northeast to Prey Upon Cats and to Provide Income for Fur Traffickers

"People were upset because their cats were being taken in broad daylight in the city. I remember in one instance they had a window down low and the screen removed. A cat was just sitting there in the open window and that was all the fisher needed to take the cat."
-- John Hall of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department

Wildlife officials have come up with an ingenious new plan to kill cats and it involves the reintroduction of a weasel-like animal known as a fisher to the densely-populated northeast.

Martes pennanti weigh between four and fifteen pounds and are between two and four feet long; the disparity in size, called dimorphism, is accounted for by sex with males being approximately twice as large as females. They have dark-brown pelts with black legs and tails. Some of them have white fur on their chests. (See photos below.)

Their real advantage as predators comes from their hind paws which can be rotated one-hundred-eighty degrees; this allows them to descend trees headfirst which is something that even cats cannot do. They also have razor-sharp teeth and are known for their eerie cries which are reminiscent of a child screaming.

They have traditionally preyed upon mice, shrews, rabbits, and porcupines but since their reintroduction to the northeast they have acquired a taste for cats. As the result, hundreds of house cats and probably thousands of feral cats from Maine to New Jersey have fallen victim to these rapacious predators in recent years.

Although their traditional habitat ranged from the Sierra Nevada to the Appalachians as well as New England, southern Alaska, and most of Canada, fur trappers during the nineteenth century eliminated just about all of them from the northeast with the exception of parts of New York and Maine. In the 1960s, wildlife officials transplanted one-hundred of the animals from Maine to Vermont and by a decade later they had migrated into Massachusetts.

More recently, wildlife officials have reintroduced fishers into Connecticut and Pennsylvania and the animals are now found throughout the Garden State. It is unclear whether they have wandered in on their own from the Keystone State or have been reintroduced on the sly by devious wildlife officials.

They were ostensibly reintroduced at the behest of fur trappers as well as to check the porcupine population. They kill porcupines by repeatedly biting them in the face until they bleed to death after which they turn them over and eviscerate them. It is unclear just what crimes the porcupines committed in order to deserve such a ghastly fate.

There is no denying, however, that wherever they have been reintroduced cats have begun to disappear shortly thereafter. For instance, in 2004 fishers were killing cats in the center of Rutland, Vermont.

"People were upset because their cats were being taken in broad daylight in the city," John Hall of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department told the Boston Globe on August 25, 2005. (See "On the Wild Side: Once Nearly Extinct, Weasel-Like Fishers Thrive in the Suburbs, Where Their Ravenous Feeding Habits Threaten Family Pets.") "I remember in one instance they had a window down low and the screen removed. A cat was just sitting there in the open window and that was all the fisher needed to take the cat."

In the Bay State, fishers are now found from Westford to Worcester and from Lowell to the Cape. Of the ten to twenty cats that are reported missing each week in Boston's northwest suburbs several are thought to be the victims of fishers.

In New Jersey, they have been sighted in the northern part of the state and as far south as Hopewell, near Princeton. Par exemple, Hopewell resident Diana Cooper strongly suspects that injuries sustained by her cat, Fortune, on two separate occasions last year were inflicted by fishers. (See photo at the top of the page of her and Fortune.)

Erika Templeton, another resident of Hopewell, recently witnessed her cat, Penny Lane, being chased by what she believes to have been a fisher. Her neighbor, Kate Dresdner, also saw what she thought was a fisher last month while she was walking her dog. An unidentified man living seven kilometers away in Pennington believes that two recent attacks on his cat were also perpetrated by fishers.

As is their usual modus operandi, wildlife officials are oscillating between ignorance and downright callousness. After first stating that it was unlikely that fishers were even in the Garden State because of the level of development and volume of vehicular traffic, Mick Valent of the New Jersey Division of Wildlife was forced to make a clean chin of things after he was shown a photograph of one of them on the prowl.

"I think it's kind of neat that they're coming to New Jersey," he finally admitted to The New York Times on July 4th. (See "A Cat Fight? Sort of, Only Louder and Uglier.")

Valent also downplayed the threat posed by fishers to cats. "There's more to be concerned about with bobcats and coyotes, and even dogs that run around," he said. Earlier, Julie Robinson of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department had the audacity to tell the Boston Globe that attacks on cats by fishers were "folklore."

Valent's and Robinson's callous disregard for the lives of cats and the feelings of their owners is seconded by Trina Moruzzi of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife who told The Times, "There are a lot of threats to cats." She went on to utter the non sequitur that a single fisher was unlikely to terrorize an entire town's feline population. Being a biologist, she is acutely aware that where there is one fisher there are bound to be plenty more of them.

Of course, it is entirely predictable that wildlife officials would take the side of fishers since trapping them is big business in Massachusetts and elsewhere. On its web site, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife wholeheartedly endorses the diabolical American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors campaign.

Hopewell Animal Control Officer Belinda Ogitis is not even ready to admit that fishers have moved into southern New Jersey. "We would be losing cats. We would be losing small dogs" if that were the case, she told The Hopewell Valley News on June 28, 2007. (See "Nocturnal Cat-Eating Predator Stalks Valley.")

Like Valent, Robinson, and Moruzzi, she is instead inclined to blame hawks, owls, raccoons, and skunks for the recent spate of attacks on cats. Moreover, she has announced that she will not act until she is either shown photographs, feline corpses, or trapped fishers.

The glee expressed by wildlife officials over the deaths of so many cats at the hands of fishers is nothing new. Last autumn, wildlife personnel in Washington State were in ecstasy after raccoons and coyotes invaded the backyards of residents in Olympia and Everett and killed dozens of cats and even a few dogs. (See Cat Defender posts of August 28, 2006 and October 2, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Marauding Pack of Vicious Raccoons Rip Ten House Cats to Shreds and Terrorize Residents but Wildlife Officials Refuse to Intervene" and "Coyotes, Cheered on by Wildlife Officials, Join Raccoons in Killing Cats and Dogs in Washington State.")

To fully comprehend the magnitude of the duplicity of wildlife officials it is important to keep in mind that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) exterminates tens of thousands of raccoons (10,518 in 2004) and coyotes (75,674 in 2004) at the urging of farmers and ranchers. Yet when residents in Washington State last year requested that cat-killing raccoons and coyotes be humanely trapped and relocated elsewhere wildlife officials refused.

To put it succinctly, wildlife officials do not have any qualms about killing the animals that they are sworn to protect so long as financial interests so dictate but when it comes to protecting the interests of homeowners they insist that wild predators have an absolute right to invade their backyards and to kill their cats and dogs.

As far as bird lovers are concerned, it almost goes without saying that they break out the champagne every time that a cat is killed. The New Jersey Audubon Society, for example, has repeatedly praised coyotes for the "excellent job" that they are doing by killing cats on Higbee Beach in Cape May.

As thoroughly reprehensible as their attitude toward cats is, wildlife officials, both state and federal, treat wild animals even worse. In addition to raccoons and coyotes, they also exterminate millions of birds, rabbits, foxes, beavers, opossums, prairie dogs, bears, cougars, wolves, snakes, and any other animals that either get in their way or becomes a hindrance to the financial interests that they represent. (See Cat Defender post of September 5, 2005 entitled "United States Government Exterminates Millions of Wild Animals at Behest of Capitalists.") These killings are in addition to the millions of wild animals that hunters kill each year with the blessings and assistance of wildlife officials.

Wildlife officials also slaughter with impunity animals protected by the Endangered Species Act. Most prominently, since 1998 the USFWS has gunned down eleven Mexican gray wolves. (See photo above.) It has killed an additional twenty members of Canis lupus baileyi while attempting to trap and radio collar them and removed another twenty-two of them from the wild. Consequently, only fifty-five of the animals remain in the wild.

"The greatest threat to the Mexican gray wolf today is the USFWS," Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a July 10th press release. (See "Hundreds of Scientists Warned Against Wolf Killing Before Feds Shot New Mexico Wolf.") "The Bush Administration has turned the agency into a wolf-killing machine. No wolves were shot by government agents until 2003; killings escalated to five in 2006 and are already at three this year. Two-thousand-seven is on a trajectory to become another record killing year."

The USFWS and state wildlife officials are also killing hundreds of wolves in Alaska and the Rockies either with guns, poison, or through their tagging initiatives. Hunters are also expected to be allowed in on the killing spree in Idaho and elsewhere out West almost any day now.

Wolves, like all animals, have become guinea pigs of both the scientific community and wildlife officials who view them as inanimate matter to be manipulated at will. Consequently they are forcibly bred in captivity, transported from one locale to another, trapped and tagged repeatedly and, ultimately, exterminated on the whims of morally-warped scientists and bureaucrats. (See photo above of caged Mexican gray wolves being bandied about by wildlife officials on horseback.)

When it comes to manipulating and killing animals for profit, fun, and ego enhancement, the United States is far from being the sole practitioner of these sinister arts. For instance, only last week Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney proposed that dingoes be reintroduced into New South Wales in order to prey upon cats, dogs, and foxes. (See photo below.)

While proclaiming this to be a measure aimed at protecting native wildlife, Dickman simultaneously proposed that sheepherders abandon their flocks and instead start slaughtering indigenous kangaroos for their meat. (See Sydney Morning Herald, July 10, 2007, "Fox on the Run as Dingo's Day Dawns.")

If implemented, this will be just one more in a long series of half-baked immoral conservation measures undertaken by the white imperialists that have ended in unmitigated disaster. (See Cat Defender post of September 21, 2006 entitled "Aussies' Mass Extermination of Cats Opens the Door for Mice and Rabbits to Wreak Havoc on Macquarie.")

Once all the facts are examined a picture slowly begins to emerge concerning the true motivations and objectives of wildlife officials. They are first of all the pimps of farmers, ranchers, trappers, and hunters. Secondly, they have certain animals, such as cats, that they hate and want to eradicate.

Thirdly, like the scientific community, they want to play God by deciding which species are to be allowed to live and under what circumstances. (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.")

Like all other species, fishers are merely pawns in the life and death games that wildlife officials play with all animals, both wild and domestic. Nowhere in any of their actions is there any genuine appreciation or love for animals.

With the introduction of fishers, wildlife officials have scored a coup by presenting cat lovers with a fait accompli. As clever as they are, they have not, however, obliterated the right to private property and it is highly unlikely that property owners are going to tolerate for long fishers invading their backyards and killing their cats. Consequently, wildlife officials will eventually be forced to trap and remove the animals lest homeowners take matters into their own hands.

Fishers belong in rural areas where they are not a threat to cats. The trapping and killing of them for their pelts should also be proscribed by law.

Finally, the machinations of wildlife officials should be exposed and their authority to play Russian roulette with the lives of animals should be taken away by Congress and the state legislatures. By their actions they have proven themselves unfit to operate even a public toilet, let alone to decide the fate of millions of animals.

Photos: Laura Pedrick of The New York Times (Diana Cooper and Fortune), Anna Wojtowicz of Wikipedia (fisher), Wikipedia (fisher climbing a tree), USFWS (Mexican gray wolf and wildlife officials transporting wolves on horseback), and Joern Brauns of Wikipedia (dingo).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Accidentally Trapped in a Shipping Crate, a Calico Cat Named Spice Survives a Nineteen-Day Sea Voyage from Hawaii to San Bernardino

"It's always a good day when the cat's alive. We didn't know what we would find."
-- Pamela Escamilla

Every few weeks or so a new story surfaces concerning an heroic cat that has miraculously survived a long and arduous misadventure without either food or water. The common denominators in these extraordinary tales are invariably such common modes of conveyance as ships, vans, and trains on the one hand and packing crates of one sort or another on the other hand that cats inadvertently get trapped in against their will.

The latest such incident involves a plucky three-year-old calico cat named Spice who was accidentally trapped inside a shipping container in Waikoloa Village on Hawaii's Big Island on June 15th. She was then forced to endure nineteen nerve-racking days alone in the dark without either food or water as the twenty-foot container wended its way across the Pacific in the cargo hold of a ship. (See photo above.)

The ship first docked in Long Beach on June 29th but the container was not opened until it reached its final destination in San Bernardino on July 3rd.

Once it was unsealed, Spice's owner, thirty-nine-year-old Pamela Escamilla, immediately noticed that there was cat hair scattered about the crate and, putting two and two together, began hurriedly unpacking items in a frantic search for Spice. At first she feared the worst but then to her relief Spice poked her little head out from behind some bicycles.

The cat was then rushed to a local veterinarian in just the nick of time. Her kidneys had shrunk due to a lack of water and her bowels had backed up, but the vet was nonetheless able to get some food and water into her.

She is now being fed a steady diet of soup made from chicken bone marrow and is expected to make a complete recovery. "It's always a good day when the cat's alive," Escamilla told the San Bernardino County Sun on July 4th. (See "Curious Cat Survives High Seas. Calico Cooped Up for Eighteen (sic) Days.")

Although Spice's disappearance was noted before the Escamillas departed Waikoloa Village, apparently no one thought to check the packing container before it was sealed. Compounding matters further, the Escamillas left Hawaii without Spice.

That petit fait alone demonstrates writ large just how little the Escamillas care about their cat and it certainly does not bode well for Spice's chances of survival in California. It is doubtful that they would have left the Big Island if either their thirteen-year-old son Ryan or their nine-year-old daughter Brooke had disappeared. (See photo below of Ryan and Brooke with Spice.)

Last October, a cat from Crowley, Texas named Neo became trapped inside a neighbor's moving van and as a consequence wound up in Longmont, Colorado. Luckily for him, the employees of Golden Van Lines went the extra mile in order to return him to his owners. (See Cat Defender post of November 6, 2006 entitled "Trapped in a Moving Van for Five Days, Texas Cat Named Neo Is Finally Freed in Colorado.")
During the autumn of 2005, a cat named Emily from Appleton, Wisconsin wandered into an industrial plant where she became trapped inside a cargo container that was bound for Nancy, France. Like Neo, she was fortunate enough to be rescued by cat-friendly employees of a laminating company called Raflatac who not only paid for the thirty days that she was forced to spend in quarantine as mandated by French law but also arranged for her repatriation. Continental Airlines magnanimously flew her home gratis. (See Cat Defender post of November 9, 2005 entitled "Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes Unscheduled Trip to France in Hold of Cargo Ship.")

Earlier this spring, a cat named China spent thirty-five days trapped with a consignment of motorcycle wearing apparel in the hold of a cargo ship that was bound from Shanghai to Hendersonville, North Carolina.

At the moment she is being held at a veterinarian's office where she is serving out a rather lengthy quarantine. One or more employees of Olympia Moto Sports, the company where she was accidentally shipped to, have expressed interest in adopting her once she gets out of quarantine in October.

At first it was feared that China would be put to death because no one was willing to foot the bill for her time in quarantine, but hopefully that issue has been laid to rest and this long-suffering cat will now be allowed to go on living. (See Cat Defender post of May 17, 2006 entitled "North Carolina Shelter Plotting to Kill Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in the Cargo Hold of Ship from China.")

In 2001, Port Taranaki's resident feline, Colin's, made headlines when she was shanghaied aboard a tanker and wound up in South Korea. Luckily, the port's superintendent, Gordon MacPherson, thought enough of her to travel to South Korea in order to reclaim her and return her to Australia. (See Cat Defender post of May 31, 2007 entitled "Port Taranaki Kills Off Its World Famous Seafaring Feline, Colin's, at Age Seventeen.")

Trains, as well as ships and moving vans, can also be pitfalls for cats. Par exemple, last March a cat named Rascal wandered onto a freight train that had come to rest outside her house in South Bend and as the result wound up in Chattanooga. Like Neo and Emily before her, she was fortunate enough to have been rescued by the employees of a cat-loving company and has since been reunited with her family. (See Cat Defender post of June 7, 2007 entitled "Rascal Hops Freight Train in South Bend and Unwittingly Winds Up in Chattanooga.")

All of these amazing stories underscore the need for cat owners to be vigilant whenever shipping crates, trains, vans, and ships are nearby. The hustle and bustle that commonly accompanies the presence of these objects quite often frightens cats and thus prompts them to seek refuge in the very objects that lead to their undoing.

As extraordinary as these tales of survival are in themselves, it is important to remember that they need not have occurred in the first place if the cats' guardians had been more attentive. Fewer such stories will no doubt impoverish both feline literature and folklore, but the up side is that a smaller number of cats will be forced to endure such trying ordeals. Besides, for every story with a happy ending there are probably dozens more than end in tragedy.

Photos: KNBC-TV, Los Angeles (Spice) and the Escamilla family (Spice with Ryan and Brooke.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Burned Nearly to Death by Laughing Teenage Girls, Two-Month-Old Kitten Named Adam Is Fighting for His Life in Santa Rosa

"I was in shock. I didn't know whether I should grab him with my hands or a wet towel. I picked him up and walked him to the bathroom and turned on the water in the sink. He turned his head and started lapping water from my hand. I didn't think he was going to make it until he looked me in the eye. He wanted to live."
-- Sarah Bowlan

A two-month-old black kitten named Adam is waging a valiant struggle to live after having been set on fire by two laughing teenage girls in the Apple Valley section of Santa Rosa, seventy kilometers north of San Francisco, on June 20th. (See photo above of him taken shortly after the attack.)

He sustained second and third degree burns over seventy-five per cent of his tiny body. In particular, the skin was burned off his back, his ears were shriveled, and his tail was so badly burned that it had to be amputated. He has already undergone several skin grafts and if infections can be prevented he just might be able to make it.

Staff at the Animal Hospital in Cotati, thirteen kilometers from Santa Rosa, have given him morphine to ease his excruciating pain and antibiotics to ward off infections. His burns are swabbed in a saline solution and his bandages are changed regularly.

His appetite has returned and he is responding well to being petted and having his head scratched. His around-the-clock care includes being taken home each evening by veterinary nurse Tina Wright or one of the other staffers. (See photo below of her with Adam on her shoulder.)

"He doesn't have his tail anymore and he has several more surgeries to go, but he seems happy, he plays," Wright told the San Francisco Chronicle on July 10th. (See "Two Girls Charged in Abuse of Kitten.") "He doesn't have any idea that anything is wrong with him." (See photos below of Adam crawling on a bed and playing with a leash.)

As Hamlet once said, therein lies the rub. Unlike humans, cats and other animals do no have any concept of evil and are therefore defenseless whenever they encounter it. This difference makes it imperative that all men and women of bon sens take their responsibilities toward protecting the animals seriously.

If this sad and heartbreaking case were just another example of juvenile monsters preying upon cats and kittens that would be disturbing enough; unfortunately, it also lays bare one of the many problems associated with TNR.

The details are sketchy but an unidentified man trapped Adam, five other kittens, and an adult tomcat on a farm on June 19th. He then committed the unpardonable faux pas of leaving the caged cats outside his apartment building overnight. The next morning, only der Kater remained; the other two cages containing Adam and five other kittens were gone.

Later in the day, eleven-year-old Cesar Rojas and an unidentified friend from Pagano Court Apartments saw two teenage girls down along the banks of Paulin Creek douse Adam with an accelerant and then set him on fire. Enjoying their devilry to the hilt, the girls were laughing as they carried out their heinous crime. After the perpetrators fled, Rojas and his friend went to the creek and rescued Adam.

"It was barely breathing when we got it," Rojas told the Chronicle on July 11th. (See "Outrage Over Burning of Kitten.") "It wanted to live."

The boys then delivered Adam to the manager of Pagano Court who in turn contacted cat activist Sarah Bowlan.

"I was in shock. I didn't know whether I should grab him with my hands or a wet towel," she recalled for The Press Democrat on June 26th. (See "Burned Kitten Clings to Life.") "I picked him up and walked him to the bathroom and turned on the water in the sink. He turned his head and started lapping water from my hand. I didn't think he was going to make it until he looked me in the eye. He wanted to live."

After belatedly realizing that Adam's burns were too severe for her to attend to, Bowlan handed over Adam to Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County on June 22nd who took him to the Animal Hospital of Cotati. The unharmed tomcat was brought to Forgotten Felines on June 20th and neutered; the remaining five kittens have not been seen again and their fate remains unknown.

Some people believe that the girls released them but Forgotten Felines' boss Jennifer Kirchner has her doubts. "The reason we're suspicious is that we never recovered the other trap, nor have we found any evidence of the other kittens," she told the Chronicle in the July 11th article cited supra. "The kittens were wild so they would have headed for cover, but we would have expected someone to see (sic) something."

Since the trapper retains Forgotten Felines to sterilize the cats that he captures, it has been speculated that he works for the organization. On its web site, Forgotten Felines goes to great lengths, however, to dispel that notion by stating categorically that he is neither one of their employees nor one of their volunteers. More importantly, the group states that its number one rule in trapping cats is never to leave a baited trap, empty or occupied, unattended.

That is, of course, the only proper and humane way to trap a cat. It is also the exception to the rule.

Most traps are set during the evening hours and left unattended overnight. This is bad enough in itself in that it forces cats to spend up to as long as twelve hours in a cage. To deliberately leave seven caged cats outside an apartment building overnight, however, is criminal and the trapper should not only be prosecuted but barred from trapping any more cats.

Practitioners of TNR should take their responsibilities seriously and never leave traps unattended. Moreover, they should ensure that sterilized cats receive postoperative care and are not released too soon after surgery because their incisions sometimes rupture.

Feral colonies should also be fed and watered every day and provided with shelters against the elements. The cats also should be given real meat and grain to eat at least once a week; a steady diet of cheap kibble is not good for them.

Two fifteen-year-old girls were arrested on July 6th and charged with felony cruelty to an animal. Even if convicted the severest sentence that they are eligible for under the law is three years in reform school. The charges against the pair could be upgraded, however, should it be determined that they either harmed or killed the missing five kittens.

This despicable act of animal cruelty has incensed many residents in and around Santa Rosa. Joyce Cormack, for instance, told The Pres Democrat on July 11th that she was angry "because the life of an animal is just as sacred as the life of a human." (See "Retribution Outcry over Kitten Burning.") "My immediate feeling was that I wanted justice to be done and not just a slap on the wrists of this (sic) person."

Other residents are ready to mete out justice themselves. "If I ran into her and knew who she was, I'd probably attack her," Petaluma resident Karen Roy told The Press Democrat. "I really want her to pay for it. I want her to realize what a horrible crime she committed and if she can't, I don't care about her."

Randy Lopez, a college student from Fairfield, told The Press Democrat that the burning has sickened and angered him also. "My initial reaction was, of course, one of inflicting violence in the same tone."

Even Wright has been shocked by the extent of the brutality and the severity of Adam's injuries. "I've been a veterinary nurse for twenty-five years and I've never seen anything like this in my entire life," she told The Chronicle.

The public's justifiable outrage has prompted Sonoma County District Attorney Stephen Passalacqua to declare to The Press Democrat in the June 11th article cited supra that "animal cruelty will not be tolerated in this county." He went on to add, "I certainly understand the public's dismay over the maltreatment of an innocent animal. We hope that by filing charges these individuals will be held accountable and that it will prevent similar behavior in the future."

Passalacqua is on the right track but bringing charges against these two teenage monsters will not be sufficient to stem the mounting tide of feline assaults and killings. This can only be accomplished through the enactment of significantly stronger animal cruelty statutes that are vigorously enforced.

For instance, it was only about two years ago that two teenage hoodlums from Huntly, New Zealand did the same thing to three caged felines. (See Cat Defender post of September 22, 2005 entitled "Two New Zealand Teens Douse Three Caged Cats with Glue and Burn Them to Death.")

Last autumn, a group of teenage thugs from the Atlantic City suburb of Pleasantville tortured and then burned to death a kitten. (See Cat Defender post of October 5, 2006 entitled "New Jersey Teens' Idea of Fun: Beat Up a Defenseless Kitten and Then Burn It to Death.") Even college kids have been known to kill cats for sport. (See Cat Defender post of September 22, 2005 entitled "College Students in South Africa Cook a Cat to Death in a Microwave Oven.")

Across the pond, air guns and fireworks are often the weapons of choice when juveniles decide to maim and kill cats. (See Cat Defender posts of May 7, 2007 and November 30, 2006 entitled, respectively, "British Punks Are Having a Field Day Maiming Cats with Air Guns but the Peelers Continue to Look the Other Way" and "Yobs Celebrating Guy Fawkes Day Kill Twelve-Year-Old Cat Named Tigger with Fireworks; Cat Named Sid Is Severely Burned.")

It could be argued that juveniles who abuse and kill cats, dogs, and other animals are only following the examples set by their worthless parents and other adults. After all, Rousseau in his book on education, Emile, counseled parents to teach by example.

Most noticeably, Animal Control, shelters, and veterinarians murder tens of millions of cats every year in the United States and not a single day passes without bird lovers and wildlife proponents blanketing the moneybags media with their outrageous claims that all cats are vermin and should therefore be immediately exterminated.

Ailurophobia also runs deep in the heart of academia. Earlier this year, for instance, a principal who had previously shotgunned to death two kittens at one school was rewarded with a similar job at another institution. (See Cat Defender post of May 3, 2007 entitled "Principal Who Shotgunned to Death Two Kittens at Minnesota School Is Rewarded with Similar Post in Idaho.")

The manner in which the so-called learned men and women of the universities treat cats and other animals is equally reprehensible. (See Cat Defender posts of February 12, 2007 and September 11, 2006 entitled, respectively, "God-Fearing Baptists at Eastern University Kill Off Their Feral Cats on the Sly While Students Are Away on Christmas Break" and "Selfish and Brutal Eggheads at Central Michigan University Target Colony of Feral Cats for Defamation and Eradication.")

All of these individuals, groups, and institutions are partially to blame for every cat that is either abused or killed. In the case of juveniles, a lion's share of the blame goes to their parents who are failing to give them the proper moral education and supervision that would prevent these horrific crimes from occurring in the first place.

Forgotten Felines is generously footing the bill for Adam's care and Bowlan has gone door-to-door to collect more than $900 in private donations. She also has been making and selling snow cones in order to raise money for Adam.

One indication of the pervasiveness of ailurophobia that exists in this country has been the inordinate amount of criticism that has been hurled at those who are attempting to save Adam's life. The most despicable of all has come from Bob MacKenzie, a reporter for KTVU-TV in San Francisco. (See photo above.)

In a June 30th interview with Kirchner, he callously told her that since Adam's monetary value was zero he was not worth saving. (See "Teenage Girl Suspected in Cotati Kitten Burning.")

"Why shouldn't he be saved?" Kirchner, to her eternal credit, fired back. "This kitten is alive and valuable. I wouldn't be able to euthanize him because, for one, we don't have the money, but I will find the money to care for him."

On her organization's web site she elaborates by stating that Adam will not be killed "because he appears to have a will to live. If at some point in the future, he or his body appear to give up, so will we. Right now there are so many people sending positive energy and thoughts his way, I can't imagine that he won't survive."

Some Santa Rosa residents are even jealous that Adam has received so much attention while teenage victims of gang violence are routinely ignored.

"People are angry and it was wrong, but it bothers me that they're doing so much for the cats and when a person gets killed they just let it pass," twenty-year-old Arturo Mendosa told the Chronicle in the July 11th article cited supra. "It makes me angry that they're doing more for animals than for us."

Sentiments such as those are not only ailurophobic but patently untrue. Abuse, defamation, and either forced sterilizations or exterminations are about all that most cats can ever expect to receive from this violent, moneygrubbing hellhole of a society. On the other hand, even marginalized groups receive free housing, welfare, medical care, and an opportunity to attend school.

While it is certainly true that the capitalist media have always glorified violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, smoking, and promiscuous sex, individuals should have more common sense than to get involved with gangs and drugs. Society should do more to help the underprivileged but they must also help themselves. More importantly, being jealous of the love that caring individuals shower on cats is wrongheaded because compassion for animals usually translates into compassion for people.

Animal Hospital owner Katheryn Hinkle, who also has been criticized for attending to Adam, told The Press Democrat in the June 26th article cited supra that her staff intends to continue to do so for as long as there is a chance that he will survive.

"Feral kittens are the garbage of the community," she added. "Already he's got one strike against him. It's not his fault. We want to do our part to make this a better place than that." (See photo above of her playing with Adam on the bed.)

In a world full of so much moral depravity, callousness, and unspeakable cruelty, all individuals who love cats can be thankful for the existence and unstinting efforts of Katheryn Hinkle, Jennifer Kirchner, and Sarah Bowlan. As for little Adam, his condition is improving every day and it looks like he is going to eventually be all right.

Photos: Mark Aronoff of The Press Democrat (Adam shortly after attack), Crista Jeremiason of The Press Democrat (Adam with Tina Wright), Forgotten Felines (Adam crawling on bed, playing with leash, and with Hinkle), and James Klim, DDS (MacKenzie).

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Hungry and Disheveled Cat Named Slim Is Picked Up Off the Streets of Ottawa by a Rescuer Who Refuses to Return Him to His Owners


"Obviously, I have no intention of returning him to the city streets to be neglected again. If you really do care about his well-being, you'll be happy that he now lives a safe, sweet, peaceful, happy life."
-- Slim's Rescuer

About a month ago, an unidentified person rescued a seventeen-year-old black and white longhaired cat named Slim from the streets of Ottawa. He was thin and hungry, his fur dirty and matted, and his torso covered with sores. He was also sans his tail as the result of a previous unexplained mishap.

Since he was wearing a collar and tags, his rescuer knew immediately who his owners were and could have promptly returned him. Because of his poor condition, however, the rescuer decided it would be best to hold on to him instead.

Not wanting Slim's lawful owners, Michel Giroux and Tanya Guay, to fret about him, the rescuer sent them an anonymous letter on June 30th that bore the salutation "About Your Cat."

"This is to inform you that I have your cat," the handwritten epistle began. It went on to lecture Giroux and Guay about their flagrant neglect of their cat.

The real shocker, however, was the rescuer's declaration that she (it is presumed to be a woman) had absolutely no intention of relinquishing him. "Obviously, I have no intention of returning him to the city streets to be neglected again," the letter is quoted as stating according to a July 4th report on the CBC. (See "Catnapper Claims Missing Pet Living in Country Comfort.") "If you really do care about his well-being, you'll be happy that he now lives a safe, sweet, peaceful, happy life."

The missive went on to explain that the rescuer had provided Slim with a home in the country on a lake. He is also being fed a diet consisting of all-natural cat food and even has a new love interest in the form of a "sweet female cat." The writer additionally stressed that Slim is now "incredibly happy and healthy."

Receipt of the epistle has left Giroux appalled. "Who does this person think she is to decide this cat is neglected?" he groused to the Ottawa Sun on July 4th. (See "Cops Hunt Cat Burglar.")

Calming down a bit, he did admit to the CBC that he and Guay are relieved, as well as angry, that Slim is safe. "This person has taken it upon themselves (sic) to think that they have saved a cat when in point of fact, this cat is not neglected and he's loved and we just want him home," he added.

Michel Giroux and Tanya Guay with the Anonymous Letter

Adopted from a shelter at the tender age of three-months-old, Slim has been allowed to roam the streets of Ottawa's New Edinburgh neighborhood in much the same carefree fashion that Booth Tarkington's fictional Gipsy did in the author's celebrated novel, Penrod and Sam.

He is therefore well-known in the neighborhood and would sometimes be AWOL for as long as two days at a time. He was also a regular diner at the homes of several of Giroux and Guay's neighbors.

"He had his route and he had his families that he liked to visit. And they knew that and they knew where he lived," Guay confessed to the CBC. Despite his roaming, "He always checked in," she added.

Although it is not known if New Edinburgh is a neighborhood conducive for roaming cats, the fact that Slim has survived for seventeen years is an indication that it must be a relatively quite residential area. It also is not known if he has been sterilized, although it is doubtful that he would be such a welcome sight if he were impregnating every female cat in the neighborhood.

After initially fearing that he might have slunk off somewhere to cross the Rainbow Bridge by his lonesome, his owners reported him missing to the Ottawa Humane Society and blanketed the neighborhood with three-hundred-fifty posters bearing his likeness. They also have filed a complaint with the police who are said to be actively seeking Slim's rescuer.

Since cats are said to belong to places as opposed to people, Giroux fears that Slim will attempt to walk back home but will not make it because of the traffic and other dangers associated with such a long journey. "This watching the sun set while eating organic cat food -- I don't really think this is his thing," he told the Ottawa Sun. He instead believes that Slim is happiest prowling the streets of New Edinburgh.

Although her intention was only to reassure Slim's owners, the rescuer probably erred in writing to them. There cannot be all that many lakes in and around Ottawa so consequently the police may eventually locate her. While it is certainly not a crime to rescue a cat off the streets, knowingly holding on to someone else's cat is a crime and if found out she will be prosecuted.

This case is very similar to another famous cat custody battle that involved a Russian Blue. In that case, aspiring Manhattan poet Chavisa Woods allowed her cat Oliver to slip out of her Lower East Side walk-up. (See Cat Defender post of January 3, 2006 entitled "Manhattan Court to Rely Upon 1894 Dog Law to Decide Custody Battle over a Russian Blue Cat Named Oliver Gatsby.")

Oliver Gatsby

The cat was rescued from the mean streets by a cat lover who took him to KittyKind on Union Square. KittyKind, it might be recalled, was headed at that time by now convicted cat hoarder Marlene Kess. (See Cat Defender posts of May 26, 2005 and March 29, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Cat Hoarder Masquerading as Cat Savior Kills More Than 200 Cats" and "Famed Manhattan Cat Hoarder Marlene Kess Gets Off with a Fine and Community Service.")

The cat was then adopted by an unidentified attorney who renamed him Gatsby. All went fine for about a year until Woods somehow found out what had happened to her cat and sued to regain custody of him.

A much anticipated landmark ruling on pet ownership was aborted when the attorney, proceeding under le nom de guerre of Jane Doe, capitulated after a preliminary ruling went against her.

The cases are dissimilar in several key aspects but both underscore the point that cats are considered under the law to be property and as such the courts tend to side with their original owners, no matter how negligent they may have been in their responsibilities to their cats. Slim may very well be better off with his new caretaker but it is doubtful that she will prevail in court if discovered and charged.

On a strictly practical level, any cat found disheveled and starving in the streets presents a prima facie case of animal neglect. There may be perfectly good reasons for a cat to wind up in such circumstances, but once a cat ventures off its owner's property it becomes prone to a thousand dangers. It could be run down deliberately by a motorist or attacked by a dog or a raccoon. It also could be killed by either bird lovers, wildlife proponents, or Animal Control.

Cats have an inalienable right to be outdoors and to roam but their caretakers should first make sure that the environment is conducive to such behavior before turning them loose.

Finally, this case once again highlights the ineffectiveness of collars, tags, tattoos, and microchips in protecting cats. All of these devices are totally worthless against the machinations of both catnappers and ailurophobes.

Giroux and Guay may eventually get their cat back but it will be only because of the letter that Slim's new caretaker sent to them.

Photos: Tanya Guay (Slim), A.D. Wilson of the Ottawa Sun (Giroux and Guay), and Chavisa Woods (Oliver Gatsby).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bird and Wildlife Proponents, Ably Assisted by The Press of Atlantic City, Launch a Malicious Libel Campaign Against Feral Cats

"Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it."
-- Edmund Burke

Like a swarm of hungry, disease-spreading mosquitoes attacking an unprotected arm on a summer's day, bird lovers and wildlife proponents have launched a virulent campaign against southern New Jersey's feral and stray cats. Their objective is, of course, to demonize cats to the point that they are able to gain public support for their extermination campaigns. (See photo above of a trio of Atlantic City's famous Boardwalk cats.)

The opening salvo in this heated war was fired on June 21st by Pleasantville's Eric Davis of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (See logo below) in a mendacious and cleverly worded anti-cat diatribe that was immediately gobbled up as prime rib by the unprincipled editors of The Press of Atlantic City. (See "A Better Idea for Both Cats and Plovers: Trap, Neuter, Adopt.")

Like a couple of sewer rats going after a piece of moldy cheese, inveterate liars and longtime cat haters Linda Cherkassky of Voorhees and Doug "Mad Dog" Donato of Margate were quick to offer their unconditional support to the USFWS in July 2nd letters also published by The Press. (See "Feral Cats Aren't Wildlife" and "Ban Feeding of Feral Cats.")

With scarcely any evidence to support their preposterous claims, Davis, Cherkassky, and Donato falsely accuse cats of being the number one enemy of birds and wildlife. Even if this were the case, it would still have to be balanced against the number of cats and kittens that birds, wildlife, and their supporters kill each year.

Moreover, they are contradicted by Pete Bacinksi and Scott Barnes of the New Jersey Audubon Society who blame foxes, raccoons, and sea gulls for having an even greater detrimental impact upon nesting shore birds than feral cats. (See Newark's Star Ledger, July 1, 2007, "Respect Beach Rules to Protect Nesting Birds.") More to the point, the authors argue that human traffic and n'oreasters are more harmful to birds than animal predation.

From that inauspicious beginning, Davis and Cherkassky proceed to repeat verbatim the American Bird Conservancy's nonsensical fascist dogma that since cats are not native to North America they have forfeited their right to exist on these shores. If that is to be the standard by which all species are to be judged, then neither the USFWS, the ABC, Cherkassky, nor Donato have any right to be here because they, too, constitute an invasive species. The same rationale would equally apply to America's more than one-hundred-thirty-seven species of non-native birds.

Unlike Davis, Cherkassky, Donato, and their ancestors who came to America as either fortune hunters or criminals on the lam, Felis domesticus were, like African slaves, forcibly shipped to America and elsewhere against their will. In particular, the first cat is believed to have been brought to Peru in 1535 by the Spanish conquistadors in order to combat the rampant spread of rats that they and other imperialists (Vikings, e.g.) had introduced to the Americas.

Considering their history as victims of imperialism, the invaluable contributions that they have made in protecting grain stores and checking the spread of diseases carried by rats, as well as their inalienable right to both life and liberty, cats have without question earned the right to live wherever they please or circumstances dictate and that includes outdoors. Contrary to whatever megalomaniacal and fascist views that they may harbor, bird lovers and wildlife proponents do not own the great outdoors in America or anywhere else.

The trio next trots out the often repeated lie that outdoor cats are more prone to disease and therefore less healthy than indoor cats in spite the fact that it has been refuted by Dr. Nancy Trun of Duquesne, Kansas City-area veterinarian Sheila Dodson, and others. It is indisputable, however, that outdoor cats are eating considerably less contaminated commercial cat food than are house cats.

It is doubtful that any commercial pet food is good for either cats or dogs. Dry food causes urinary tract problems in cats and canned meats are comprised largely of slaughterhouse offal and roadkill. Cooping up cats indoors is harmful for both their physical and mental health as Cats Protection in Haywards Heath, Sussex and Nathan Winograd, formerly of the San Francisco SPCA (SFSPCA), have testified.

The allegation that cats spread deadly diseases has not only never been substantiated but, more importantly, it is precisely birds that spread the deadly West Nile Virus, influenza, and all sorts of other diseases. Wildlife, such as raccoons and foxes in particular, are also known to spread rabies.

As to what should be done about America's estimated seventy million homeless cats, Davis, Cherkassky, and Donato are first and foremost adamantly opposed to TNR. Despite its overuse by zealous practitioners, such as Alley Cat Allies and others, TNR so far has been proven to be the only halfway humane method of curbing feline overpopulation. It more than likely will be eventually replaced by feline contraceptives which are currently under development.

It is on this particular point that Davis demonstrates his deceitfulness by arguing that TNR should be scrapped in favor of a policy of trap, neuter, and adopt. He is lying through his teeth because he knows as well as everyone else that one-hundred per cent of all feral cats trapped by Animal Control and other non-practitioners of TNR are immediately exterminated. None of them are put up for adoption and many of them are killed even before they arrive at shelters.

For her part, Cherkassky is far more honest, albeit murderous, when she argues that all feral cats should be killed outright. As far as this monster is concerned, cats are merely vermin and do not have any rights. Furthermore, she and Donato would even like to see the feeding of feral cats, but not birds of course, criminalized. (See photo below of an unidentified man feeding the Boardwalk cats.)

The trio's strident opposition to TNR is in marked contrast to the opinions expressed by Jan McHugh-Smith, the current head of the SFSPCA, who is an avid supporter of TNR. "I think feral cats are in our environment. They're part of our ecology," she told the San Francisco Chronicle on June 23rd. (See "San Francisco SPCA Offers $2,000 Reward" and Cat Defender post of July 2, 2007 entitled "Cats Are Being Poisoned with Antifreeze in San Francisco but Animal Control Refuses to Take Killings Seriously.")

Not about to leave any stone unturned, the cat haters invoke both the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty as authorizing them to kill cats with impunity. While it is extremely doubtful that the drafters of those pioneering conservation measures ever intended them to be used as subterfuges in order for ailurophobes to kill cats, bird and wildlife proponents purposefully neglect to inform the public that they routinely violate both acts, as well as the Marine Mammals Protection Act of 1972, whenever it suits their evil designs.

It must first of all be remembered that the sodium pentobarbital-laced corpses of millions of cats exterminated by shelters each year are dumped in landfills where birds and wildlife, some of which are protected by the ESA, either feed upon them and die immediately or are later killed by predators because they become too drowsy to defend themselves. This petit fait alone calls into question the assumption that bird and wildlife advocates are acting in the best interests of the animals that they are sworn to protect.

For instance, wildlife officials have recently petitioned the Commerce Department for the authority to kill California sea lions in the Columbia River. This action is being undertaken at the behest of commercial fishermen who are too greedy to share the salmon with the sea lions. (See Associated Press, June 24, 2007, "Sea Lions Once Again Winning Against Columbia River Hazers," the CBC's As It Happens, June 25, 2007, "Oregon Sea Lions," and Washington Post, June 27, 2007, "Leaving No Tracks," which details Dick Cheney's role in this sordid affair.)

Pimping for commercial interests is par for the course as far as the USFWS is concerned. Par exemple, in 2004 it exterminated almost three million beavers, opossums, prairie dogs, raccoons, rabbits, bears, cougars, foxes, coyotes, wolves, snakes, and birds at the request of mainly ranchers and farmers. Its primary function is not to protect wildlife not rather to serve as a publicly financed de facto death squad for the capitalists. (See Cat Defender post of September 5, 2005 entitled "United States Government Exterminates Millions of Wild Animals at the Behest of Capitalists.")

Bird lovers are every bit as bloodthirsty as wildlife proponents. In its 2007 State of the Birds report, the Connecticut Audubon Society, backed up all the way by the diabolical ABC, called not only for the eradication of all feral cats but also Canada geese, mute swans, mallard ducks, and deer. (See Cat Defender post of March 15, 2007, "Connecticut Audubon Society Shows Its True Colors by Calling for the Slaughter of Feral Cats, Mute Swans, Mallards, Canada Geese, and Deer.")

Famed cat hater Jim Stevenson (See mug shot above) of the Galveston Ornithological Society has even bragged on his web site that he has gunned down hundreds of cats. (See Cat Defender posts of November 22, 2006 and May 1, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Evil Galveston Bird Lover Is Finally Arrested After Having Gunned Down Hundreds of Cats" and "Houston Chronicle Launches a Propaganda Offensive on Behalf of Serial Cat Killer Jim Stevenson.")

Psychopaths such as Richard DeSantis (See mug shot below) of West Islip on Long Island illegally trap their neighbors' cats and then turn them over to shelters to be killed. (See Cat Defender posts of June 15, 2006 and March 9, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Serial Cat Killer on Long Island Traps Neighbors' Cats and Then Gives Them to Shelter to Exterminate" and "Long Island Serial Cat Killer Guilty of Only Disorderly Conduct, Corrupt Court Rules.")

Robert and Debbie McCallum of the Seattle suburb of Edmonds attempted to do the same thing to Laura Martin's cat but were foiled. (See Cat Defender post of October 30, 2006 entitled "Collar Saves a Cat Named Turbo from Extermination After He Is Illegally Trapped by Bird-Loving Psychopaths.")

Both Davis and Cherkassky, like most wildlife and bird advocates, always preface their anti-cat screeds by making an obligatory declaration about how much they love cats and that they are only advocating that they be exterminated for their own good. That sort of sophistry is akin to a genocidal maniac attempting to excuse his war crimes on humanitarian grounds!

Since bird and wildlife proponents devote about ninety-eight per cent of their time and resources to defaming and killing cats, it is scarcely surprising that they have almost nothing to say about the really important threats faced by all animals, such as war, global warming, habitat destruction, pesticides, pollution, and genetically engineered crops. In addition to these travails, birds are plagued by diseases such as the West Nile Virus and Vogelgrippe, collisions with tall buildings, communications towers, and wind farms, predation by other birds, wildlife, and rodents, and noise pollution which interferes with their ability to teach their fledglings how to sing, fly, and hunt.

A scarcity of food also may be a factor in avian mortality rates. For instance, in recent weeks more than a thousand malnourished greater shearwaters have been found dead in the Bahamas and along the eastern seaboard from Florida to the Carolinas. (See Associated Press, July 4, 2007, "Surge of Dead Seabirds Alarms Scientists.")

It is too bad that most cats harbor an antipathy for the water because otherwise the South Jersey trio could accuse them of depleting the shearwaters' food sources. Given time, however, they will surely come up with some reductio ad absurdum in order to lay the blame for these deaths at the feet of cats.

Although birds and wildlife have a right to both life and liberty, they are far from being the angels that their supporters portray them to be. Birds, in particular, kill cats, rodents, mammals, insects, and other birds.

In addition to spreading deadly diseases, they also foul ponds, streams, yards, and streets with excrement. In this context it is important to point out that nobody has ever complained about cats pooping on their heads.

Birds also start forest fires and destroy crops. It is a minor yet often overlooked petit fait, but der Strohpuppen are not erected in order to protect crops from cats.

Last autumn, raccoons in Olympia and coyotes in Everett invaded residential backyards and killed dozens of cats and dogs while Washington State wildlife officials stood idly by laughing. (See Cat Defender posts of August 28, 2006 and October 2, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Marauding Pack of Vicious Raccoons Rip Ten House Cats to Shreds and Terrorize Residents but Wildlife Officials Refuse to Intervene," and "Coyotes, Cheered on by Wildlife Officials, Join Raccoons in Killing Cats and Dogs in Washington State.")

Over the past year the situation has only gotten worse and coyotes are now routinely killing house cats in downtown Seattle while peregrine falcons are attacking caged parrots. (See The Seattle Times, July 4, 2007, "Coyotes Chow Down in Town.") Just as before, wildlife officials are yuking it up as heartbroken cat owners are left to cry in their beers.

Cat haters are by no means limited to the rank and file of the USFWS, state wildlife officials, and individuals such as Cherkassky and Donato. The views expressed by them are wholeheartedly shared by, inter alia, the ABC, the National Audubon Society, PETA, National Geographic, The (sic) Wildlife Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Wildlife Federation.

In spite of whatever professional differences of opinion that they may have, they are all united by their inveterate hatred of cats and their total lack of integrity. Devious and deadly, these unscrupulous liars will never rest so long as a single cat is left to roam the face of the earth.

As Edmund Burke said a long time ago, "Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it." In other words, cat haters only become more emboldened with each new success.

Well-connected and with money to burn, they are especially adept at inveigling the capitalist media and legislators into doing their bidding. For example, on April 25th the ABC enticed the normally reliable Common Dreams into posting on its web site one of its anti-cat screeds. (See "Next U.S. Species to Go Extinct May Be Two Hawaiian Birds.")

Later on May 25th, it teamed up with The Wildlife Society in order to prevail upon the Environmental News Network (ENN) to post another of its malicious libels directed against cats. (See "The Wildlife Society and the American Bird Conservancy Remind Pet Owners That the Great Outdoors Is Not a Great Place for Cats.")

Since both pieces were posted as press releases, neither Common Dreams nor ENN would allow readers to respond the ailurophobes' lies. This is, of course, the way that bird and wildlife proponents prefer to play the game.

Cherkassky and Donato also have the resources and time to defame cats on a full-time basis. Full of bile but yet too lazy to come up with anything original, Cherkassky mails the same letter that she sent to The Press to seemingly every newspaper and television station on the planet and they stupidly reprint her stale lies over and over ad nauseam.

Although not nearly as prolific as Cherkassky, "Mad Dog" Donato plays the same game with just as much fervor. Back in late 2003 and in early 2004, he invoked the SARS scare in a failed attempt to con the City Council in Atlantic City into killing off the Boardwalk cats. This despicable action was attempted in spite of the fact that Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, an epidemiologist with the State of New Jersey, had testified at the time that there was absolutely no evidence that domestic animals can transmit SARS to humans.

The capitalist media's willingness to provide cat haters with a forum in order to propagate their lies is an indication that they either support them or that they have scrapped any pretext of adhering to sound journalistic practices. As any halfwit outside the media knows, there are at least two sides to every story and fairness dictates that both sides be heard.

As Sherlock Holmes was fond of saying, the game is afoot. In other words, the machinations of bird and wildlife proponents should serve as a wake-up call for all cat lovers.

As obnoxious, ruthless, and despicable as they are, these morally-warped cat hating monsters must nonetheless be confronted and exposed. Like all evildoers, they are creatures of darkness and as such their prejudices and crimes will not be able to withstand the light the day.

Photos: Flickr, Enfield, CT (Boardwalk cats), USFWS (logo), Galveston Police Department (Stevenson), Newsday (De Santis), and Flickr, Iirrae (man feeding cats).