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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bone-Lazy, Mendacious Firefighters Are Costing the Lives of Both Cats and Humans by Refusing to Do Their Duty

"Everybody is so concerned with animals. But where were all the people when this poor animal was stuck on the telephone pole?"
-- Bob Burns

It is a pathetic commentary on the conduct of both public officials and the animal protection community alike when a cat trapped atop a telephone pole is ignored by everyone except an avowed cat-hater. As hard as that is to comprehend, it nevertheless was the no-win predicament that a cat in Stevinson, California found itself in back in January.

To make matters worse, this story does not have a happy ending. After being stranded atop the pole for at least four days, the cat succumbed to the cumulative effects of hunger, dehydration, fatigue, and the biting cold and plunged to its death on January 22nd.

"You could tell by the way the cat was (resting) at the bottom of the pole that it probably froze, rigor mortis set in, and it fell off," almond grower Bob Burns told The Modesto Bee on January 24th. (See "Really Tough Getting Help for Cat Stuck Up Pole.")

Burns, who first became aware of the cat's plight on January 19th, spent the next several days in a frustrating attempt to procure help for it from both public and private groups. "I knew that cat wasn't going to last long," he later remarked to The Bee. (See photo above of him standing in front of the telephone pole from which the cat fell to its death.)

Among the agencies contacted by Burns were: the Merced County Fire Department in Stevinson, Merced County Animal Control, Stanislaus County Animal Services, Merced County Sheriff's Department, Livingston Police, Merced and Turlock irrigation districts, Pacific Gas and Electric, numerous animal rescue groups, local newspapers, and even a Sacramento television station.

"I called every agency you could imagine," Burns said. "I've got an entire page of phone numbers people gave me."

Unfortunately for the cat, all that Burns received for this effort were lies and the runaround. The Merced Fire Department even had the audacity to inform him that it did not own either a ladder or a cherry picker!

A dog owner himself, Burns makes no bones about his dislike for the feline species. "To be honest, I don't like cats," he declared to The Bee. "My ex had two cats, and in order for us to stay together, I had to deal with them. This one looked like one of my ex's."

Nevertheless, he does not like to see any animal suffer and the lack of concern demonstrated by the authorities has left him disillusioned. "Everybody is so concerned with animals. But where were all these people when this poor animal was stuck on the telephone pole?"

That one is a no-brainer. Like most public officials nowadays, they were sitting on their fat, lazy fannies counting all the welfare money that they have so adroitly cadged from gullible taxpayers.

Historically, rescuing stranded cats has been the responsibility of fire departments, but in recent years most of them have become too derelict in their duties to be bothered. Their gross negligence consequently is not only costing feline but human lives as well.

On February 27th in Orange, California, twenty-seven-year-old Scott Buehler fell thirty-five to forty-feet to his death while attempting to rescue a cat that had been stranded for two days in a fifty-foot-high Cypress tree. (See photo of him on the right.)

Trained as a firefighter but working as a foreman at USS Cal Builders, Buehler was able to get his arms around the cat but, tragically, the branches on which he was standing gave way and he plunged to the concrete below. The unnamed cat suffered minor injuries when she fell with him but is expected to live.

Once again, the local fire department's refusal to do its job cost another life. "When cats get hungry, they typically come back down," Captain Ian MacDonald of the Orange Fire Department opined for The Orange County Register on February 28th. (See "Man Who Died Trying to Help Cat Was Experienced Climber.") That fatuous statement is patently untrue as incidents in Stevinson and elsewhere have repeatedly proven.

MacDonald then proceeded to defend his department's rank cowardice and bone-laziness by declaring, "Also, laddering a tree has a level of risk involved. Knowing that the cat will come down, we don't take unnecessary risks."

Since firefighters risk their lives on a regular basis by entering burning buildings and in disposing of hazardous materials, rescuing a stranded cat should be a piece of cake for them. What MacDonald is saying in effect is that the life of a cat is not worth saving.

Even more shockingly, he also is implying that the lives of good Samaritans like Buehler are not worth saving either. "He was a great guy -- easy going, liked to be around friends and would always make you feel welcome," is how roommate Dante Maddox eulogized Buehler.

In this instance, Animal Care Services belatedly did decide to take action but its officer arrived on the scene after the fact. Better late than never does not count when lives at stake; the officer should have been dispatched forty-eight hours earlier.

A comedy of errors unfolded at the public library in downtown Augusta, Georgia on February 28th when a frightened gray and white cat became stuck in a tree. (See photo below.)

Animal Services were initially summoned but they right away pleaded nolo contendere due to a lack of proper equipment. Since stranded cats are such a common occurrence, concerned citizens have a right to know why the agency was so unprepared to deal with this emergency.

The local fire department was then contacted but it first demurred by saying that it was scared to death of cats. When it finally did show up, the ladder that it brought along was too short in order to reach the cat.

It is difficult to believe that any halfway intelligent person would put up with such deliberate lies and nonsense. First of all, anyone who confesses to being afraid of a cat is either a liar or has no business of being a firefighter in the first place.

Besides, with all the heavy coats, gloves, and masks that they deck themselves out in a cat would have a dreadful time locating any flesh to tear into even if it were so inclined. Secondly, since all fire departments from time to time are called upon to battle multi-story blazes, they quite obviously have ladders of all lengths and descriptions at their disposal and to contend otherwise is a barefaced lie.

As was the case in Orange, the local authorities' abdication necessitated the intervention of two employees of the library who scaled the tree and shook the cat down into a bed sheet.

Concerned onlooker Michelle Binder summed up the deplorable situation in a nutshell when she told WJBF-TV of Augusta on February 28th, "I don't think people care enough to spend tax dollars on saving a cat or a dog." (See "Cat Stuck in a Tree -- Call the Fire Department!")

At the corner of Old Scugog Road and Milville Avenue in the Hampton section of Clarington, Ontario, an orange and white stray cat named Hydro One spent at least two days trapped atop an electrical pole last month. Compounding matters further, the weather was extremely cold and the cat was perched precariously close to live electrical wires.

Animal rescue workers and the local fire department were contacted by concerned residents but they refused to act because of the live current. Tammy Twiddy, who regularly feeds the cat, then contacted the local utility company, Hydro One.

At first, it too handed her that old saw about placing a bowl of salmon at the bottom of the pole and being patient. When this did not work the company was finally forced to dispatch a work crew who had Hydro One back on terra firma by 9 a.m. on February 21st. (See photo below of Hydro One and Twiddy.)

Speaking of the rescue effort, Twiddy told Clarington This Week on February 21st, "It's amazing how many people have been coming and leaving food" to try and get him down. (See "Much A-Mew About a Cat.") "Normally, every morning he comes to the door for something to eat."

On the Isle of Man, a thirteen-year-old black house cat named Mogel had an almost identical experience to Hydro One when he became trapped atop a thirty-five-foot-high electrical pole on or about February 18th. (See photo below on the right.) Likewise, only a a few precious inches stood between him and sure and certain death in the form of cables carrying thirty-three-thousand volts of deadly electricity.

In marked contrast to American and Canadian authorities, the Manx Electricity Authority (MEA) did not hesitate to cut power and dispatch a crew in order to rescue Mogel. Moreover, the utility urges residents not to attempt such rescues themselves but instead to telephone for assistance.

"Live electricity can jump across a gap and he would only need to have got a bit closer to the wires to be electrocuted," MEA engineer Alan Capon told Isle of Man Today on February 18th. (See "Mogel the Cat Avoids a Fur-Raising Shock.") "Fortunately for Mogel he remained far enough away from the conductors."

Francisco Hernandez, superintendent of Susan Manor in Asbury Park, New Jersey, found out firsthand just how difficult it is to get help for animals whose lives are imperiled when a kitten became stranded up a tree on March 5th. To begin with, the fire department, SPCA, and Humane Society all gave him the cold shoulder.

"No one was able to help," he told the Asbury Park Press on March 8th. (See "Public Works Department to the Rescue for Stuck Kitten.") "They either didn't have the right equipment or they couldn't come."

Hernandez was not, however, deterred by their abdication of responsibility. "You just feel bad for an animal stuck like that," he said.

A telephone call to the police put him in touch with the Department of Public Works (DPW) which in turn borrowed a cherry picker from a tree surgeon in neighboring Tinton Falls. By the following afternoon, DPW supervisor Frank Canella and his crew had the kitten down from the one-hundred-foot-high tree.

"They did a great job," Hernandez later told the Press. "I have to thank the cops, too. They really took an interest."

An analogous situation unfolded February 9th in the Chattanooga suburb of Soddy-Daisy when a retired tree surgeon had to be pressed back into service in order to rescue a domestic cat named Topper from a tree in Tom Hendrickson's backyard. (See photo below.)

Topper, who had spent most of a week atop the fifty-foot-high tree, was forced to endure high winds and several storms before he was noticed by Hendrickson's daughter. "He was getting weak in his meow and we had three stressed out little girls who were really concerned about him," Hendrickson told WTVC-TV of Chattanooga on Valentine's Day. (See "Cat Survives High Winds and Storms...Fifty Feet Up in a Tree!")

Other than being hungry, dehydrated, and frightened, Topper came through his perilous ordeal pretty much unscathed.

In the event that his owner does not come forward to reclaim him, he may have found himself a new home. "My daughter, wife, and son have become attached to him," Hendrickson confessed to WTVC-TV.

In February of last year, Christopher and David Drake were forced to rescue a cat named Stinky from a rooftop in New Albany, Indiana after the local fire department could not be prevailed upon to mount a rescue attempt. (See Cat Defender post of February 20, 2007 entitled "Stray Cat Ignominiously Named Stinky Is Rescued from Rooftop by Good Samaritans After Fire Department Refuses to Help.") Like the Hendricksons, the Drakes were at last report considering adopting Stinky.

With public servants pursuing their own agendas and animal rescue groups largely out to lunch on this issue, concerned animal lovers more and more are being forced to rely upon their own devices in order to rescue stranded cats. They have recently however picked up an important ally, however, in the person of twenty-eight-year-old Marc Matthews of Morris Cove, Connecticut.

As owner and operator of Connecticut Tree Care, Williams quickly became acquainted with the the plight of stranded cats. Having a Siamese and a pit bull as housemates did not hurt either.

Out of those peculiar circumstances, Marc's Cat-in-a-Tree Rescue Service was born. More astonishingly, this is a free service in that he is donating any gratuities that he receives from grateful cat owners to animal rescue groups.

"There's nobody around to do it," is how he described his motivation to the New Haven Register on September 24, 2007. (See "Local Man Establishes Cat-in-a-Tree Service, for Free.") "I can't see leaving them up there when I have the skill to get them down. Not everything is about money."

Although Williams also gladly returns fallen baby squirrels to their nests, cats are the big beneficiaries of his service. "There is a real need for this and I think it's wonderful that instead of charging he's donating to animal rescue organizations," Eunice Lasala of the feline rescue group, Branford Compassion Club, told the Register in the article cited supra.

While Williams' highly commendable work is no doubt having a big impact upon the lives of stranded cats in the New Haven area, the fact remains that there are not many people like him on this earth. Meanwhile, cats and those who attempt to save them are continuing to die needlessly.

The conduct of fire departments across the land is reprehensible. Since they have the equipment and expertise, they are the logical candidates to rescue stranded cats.

Moreover, they earn good salaries and have little else to do other than battle an occasional conflagration. If the MTA is willing to rescue a cat lost in the labyrinth of the New York City subway system, firefighters should be up to the far simpler task of rescuing cats from trees and utility poles. (See Cat Defender post of March 7, 2008 entitled "Georgia Is Found Safe and Sound After Spending a Harrowing Twenty-Five Days Lost in the Bowels of the New York City Subway System.")

The same logic applies to utility companies. When cats become stranded on their electrical poles they have a professional responsibility to get them down safely.

The callousness of animal welfare groups is equally inexcusable. Since they are acutely aware of the intransigence of fire departments and utilities, they should be prepared in advance to make emergency rescues. Ignoring the problem is not going to make it disappear.

Although cats have been getting stranded on heights from time immemorial, no one is exactly sure as to why. The explanation most often advanced is that they climb heights in order to escape predators.

Once atop a tree or a pole, they either develop acrophobia or lack the savior-faire in order to descend tail first. Unlike margays and fishers, they are unable to rotate their hind paws one-hundred-eighty degrees and therefore climb down head first.

As things now stand, cat-owners and those concerned with animal welfare are pretty much left to either mount rescue efforts themselves or to hire professional tree climbers. Unfortunately, the latter are not always available and when they are they usually charge an arm and a leg; consequently, cats, like the one in Stevinson, and their would-be rescuers, such as Buehler, are going to continue to die.

Photos: Adrian Mendoza of The Modesto Bee (Burns), MySpace (Buehler), WJBF-TV (cat at Augusta library), Walter Passarella of Clarington This Week (Hydro One and Twiddy), Isle of Man Today (Mogel), and WTVC-TV (Topper).