Cats Are Being Poisoned with Antifreeze in San Francisco but Animal Control Refuses to Take the Killings Seriously
"It's an excruciating death. It (antifreeze) crystallizes in the kidneys. It's just like being stabbed in the kidney repeatedly. It takes about seventy-two hours to die. It's pretty heinous."
-- Lana Bajsel of Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue
Two recent newspaper articles have called into question not only San Francisco's commitment to safeguarding the lives of cats but also its claim that it has achieved no-kill status.
Most disturbing of all, some fiend is poisoning a colony of feral cats in the Excelsior District with ethylene glycol, the active ingredient found in antifreeze. To date, only one dead cat has been found but at least ten others are unaccounted for and presumed to have been poisoned.
Lacing cat food with antifreeze is not only a proven and effective way of killing felines but it also provides ailurophobes with a sadistic thrill because of the enormous amount of pain that it inflicts. "It's an excruciating death. It crystallizes in the kidneys. It's just like being stabbed in the kidney repeatedly. It takes about seventy-two hours to die. It's pretty heinous," Lana Bajsel (See photo above) of Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue told the San Francisco Chronicle on June 23rd. (See "San Francisco SPCA Offers $2,000 Reward.")
Through some pretty good detective work of her own, Bajsel was not only able to discover what is killing the cats but also the identity of the culprit as well. Unfortunately, she has been unable to interest Animal Control in this case.
"Aside from seeing him (the suspect) do it or having someone see him do it or him confessing, there's nothing we can do but warn the community," is how Captain Vicky Guldbech of Animal Control (See photo above) explained her department's do-nothing attitude to the Chronicle.
Despite the fact that killing a cat is a felony and carries a one-year jail term in San Francisco, Guldbech proudly admits that in twenty-three years on the job she has never secured a conviction against anyone! As shocking as that is, it is only par for the course for a profession that is dedicated to killing cats and dogs, not saving them.
Moreover, Guldbech does not even pretend to take the loss of feline lives seriously. For instance, although she paid a call on Bajsel's suspect, she gave up the chase as soon as he refused to come to the door. Likewise, when a dog was poisoned she abandoned the investigation when she learned that the suspect had done a runner.
Guldbech is quite obviously a worthless bum who represents everything that is wrong with the enforcement of animal protection laws. Whenever a man or a woman has been murdered the authorities certainly do not close the case just because the suspect either refuses to answer the door or blows town.
Animal Control has plenty of resources at its disposal and it could either order a stakeout of the cats' feeding station or it could install surveillance cameras in the area. The killer could be easily apprehended but neither Guldbech nor her agency is the least bit interested in bringing this monster to justice.
To its credit, the San Francisco SPCA (SFSPCA) is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the killer but that is not good enough. It, too, has a team of investigators at its disposal who should be working furiously to crack this disturbing case. (See photo above of the organization's feral cat coordinator Mary Ann Buxton feeding the cats.)
For the past ten years, former SFSPCA head Nathan Winograd has been blowing long and hard to anyone who will listen that San Francisco is a no-kill city. Now, as head of the nationwide No Kill Advocacy Center in San Clemente, he is working to get other communities to also become no-kill. (See photo below.)
Words, like numbers, can seldom be taken at face value and there exists a considerable amount of misunderstanding and misrepresentation concerning no-kill facilities. For instance, to receive the no-kill imprimatur from Winograd's group, a shelter needs to save only ninety per cent of the animals that it impounds. (See The No Kill Advocate, issue number 3, 2007.)
Exceptions are made for cats suffering from Panleukopenia and FeLV, vicious dogs and those afflicted with parvovirus, as well as animals suffering from cancer and renal failure. Severely injured cats and dogs are also routinely killed.
SFSPCA's current president, Jan McHugh-Smith, has even gone so far as to publicly refute Winograd's assertion that San Francisco, both the city and county, have achieved no-kill status. (See mug shot of her below.) In particular, she confessed to the Chronicle in a June 23rd companion piece that both her agency and Animal Control kill cats that they are unable to place in either homes or colonies. (See "What Happens to Feral Cats?")
According to her, of the eight-thousand animals impounded annually by both agencies only eighty-one per cent are spared the gallows. To put it another way, San Francisco is killing nineteen per cent of the cats and dogs that arrive at its shelters.
Since McHugh-Smith and Winograd cannot both be telling the truth, one of them is quite obviously lying. While the achievement of no-kill status is certainly a lofty goal, lying to the public helps neither the animals nor the cause.
On the positive side, McHugh-Smith is an enthusiastic supporter of feral cat colonies. "I think feral cats are in our environment. They're part of our ecology," she said.
She went on to point out that when New Orleans tried to exterminate its feral cats the city became overrun with rats. The same thing has occurred in Sacramento and on Macquarie. (See The Sacramento Bee, May 5, 2007, "With Cats Away, Rat Nuisance Climbs" and Cat Defender post of September 21, 2006 entitled "Assies' Mass Extermination of Cats Opens the Door for Mice and Rabbits to Wreak Havoc on Macquarie.")
Whether in homes, managed colonies, barns, fields, or alleys, cats have an inalienable right to life and liberty. In furtherance of this worthy goal, shelters and Animal Control officers must be sacked and replaced by adoption agencies and sanctuaries. Cat killers, whether they be bird lovers or wildlife proponents, must be arrested, prosecuted, and sent to jail. Only a policy of zero tolerance will put an end these despicable killings.
Photos: Mike Kepka of the San Francisco Chronicle (Bajsel and Buxton), Animal Planet (Guldbech), Abolitionist Online (Winograd), and SFSPCA (McHugh-Smith).