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Cat Defender

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Ronaldo Escapes Death after Retailer Coughs Up the Exorbitant Bounty That Quarantine Officials Had Placed on His Head


"This tiny kitten has come all the way from Portugal and survived a three-day journey in a container without his mother. This little cat has already survived against the odds and deserves a chance."
-- Petrina Alderman


Imagine being scarcely more than ten-days-old, separated from your mother, stone-broke, and given a fortnight to come up with $3,200 or face the hangman. As cruel and insane as all of that sounds, it is nonetheless the dire straits that Ronaldo recently found himself in after he arrived in not-so-merry old England on a lorry from Portugal. (See photo above.)

Trapped inside a shipping crate, he was discovered sometime during the first week of August by dock workers at the distribution center of clothing retailer Matalan in Corby, Northamptonshire. They immediately contacted Northamptonshire Animals Needing Nurturing and Adoption (NANNA) in nearby Irthlingborough who took custody of the famished, dehydrated, and frightened kitten. After christening him Manuel, they immediately began bottle-feeding him around the clock.

The good-for-nothing troublemakers that comprise the Northamptonshire County Council soon got wind of his arrival and promptly sicced the dogs on him in the form of undercover agents from Trading Standards who descended upon NANNA like a swarm of hungry locusts and spirited away the kitten to an unknown quarantine location. Quarantine officials then renamed him Ronaldo and placed a bounty on his tiny head.

"Our initial inquiries lead us to believe this animal may have arrived into the country in a vehicle that has come from abroad," an unidentified spokesman for the Council screeched to the Kettering Evening Telegraph on August 9th. (See "Kitten Survives Epic Journey but Now Faces Death Sentence.") "In these circumstances we are duty bound to take all appropriate precautions to protect against the risk of any possible rabies infection."

As per usual, that is pure hogwash. Shaking down cat-lovers for $3,200 is what this is all about and nothing more. Even if the rabies threat were real, putting a price on the head of a newborn kitten or any animal is unconscionable.

Nevertheless, cat-lovers were presented with a fait accompli of either ponying up or allowing quarantine officials to kill Ronaldo. "This little kitten has come all the way from Portugal and survived a three-day journey in a container apparently without his mother," Petrina Alderman of NANNA told the Evening Telegraph. "This little cat has already survived against the odds and he deserves a chance."

Next came the inevitable appeal for donations. "We are desperate to raise enough money to keep him alive so when he has finished being in quarantine we can bring him back here and give him a second chance at life," she continued.

Fortunately for Ronaldo, Matalan generously agreed to sponsor him. "We decided to donate the full amount because the kitten was in one of our depots and it has touched everyone in the office," the retailer's Carly Hughes told the Evening Telegraph in a follow-up article also dated August 9th. (See "Clothing Shop Steps In to Save Kitten Ronaldo.") "They were all chuffed to bits to be able to help him." (See photo below of one of the retailer's one-hundred-ninety outlets.)

Pet food supplier Royal Canin has agreed to pay for his food, milk, and to provide him with a bed but even that has not placated NANNA which is still badgering the public for additional funding in order to cover the cost of Ronaldo's care and veterinary bills. These incessant appeals for money prompts one to wonder what NANNA, the County Council, Trading Standards, and the quarantine center do with all the tax dollars and other monies that they receive.

They must either be pocketing it or blowing it on eating, drinking, and illicit sex because it certainly looks like spending tax dollars on the public good is passe.

Au fait, the entire quarantine process has all the trappings of an elaborate scam. First of all, there have not been any confirmed cases of rabies in either animals or humans in Portugal in recent memory. Moreover, since the incubation period for the disease can be as short as two-weeks or as long as a year, it is difficult to fathom how locking up cats for six months significantly enhances either animal or human health.

Although quarantine laws are by definition discriminatory, the English nonetheless allow kittens born to pregnant cats in quarantine to be released after only eight weeks of confinement and this petit fait puts the lie to the notion that safeguarding public health is of paramount importance. Au contraire, kittens born in quarantine are released earlier solely because they were born on English soil, not because they are per se any healthier than those that have arrived from abroad.

More to the point, tourists and immigrants are not quarantined and they often carry far more dangerous pathogens than do cats. Likewise, livestock entering the country is not quarantined and customs officials can do little to keep out invasive plants and animals.

Finally, this situation is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that both countries are integral members of the European Union although the English, unlike the Portuguese, have never signed on to the Schengen Acquis.

Money thus appears to be the raison d'etre behind quarantine laws in both England and America. For example, quarantine officers in Nottinghamshire pulled this same maneuver with Ginger last month as did shelter officials last year in Hendersonville, North Carolina with a cat named China. (See Cat Defender posts of August 11, 2008 and May 17, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Trapped Inside a Crate, Ginger Licks Up Condensation in Order to Survive a Nightmarish Sea Voyage from China to Nottinghamshire" and "North Carolina Shelter Plotting to Kill Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in Cargo Hold of Ship from China.")

The game that quarantine centers are playing with the lives of defenseless cats is a refined version of the same ruse that pet stores and shelters practice with such adroitness. With all of these groups and institutions, it is only the money that matters; cats are merely a commodity that they wheel and deal in, hold for ransom, and kill as their wallets dictate.

All of this is terribly wrong. Cats have an unconditional right to live regardless of whether they have any money or not and for quarantine officials to harm them in any way is tantamount to cold-blooded murder.

Secondly, it is cruel and unjust to imprison cats in cages for six months. They have not broken any laws and they certainly have not received anything remotely resembling due process of law. Besides, disease is rampant at kennels and the care that cats receive is slipshod at best.

Thirdly, it is morally repugnant for any veterinarian or MD to withhold treatment from any animal or individual due solely to an inability to pay. Members of the medical community who do so are a disgrace to their profession and should be stripped of their licenses to practice medicine.

As for Ronaldo, the details of his misadventures are sketchy. Most likely, he was born in the shipping crate but became separated from his mother either while she was out looking for food or somewhere en route to Corby.

The truck in which he was traveling left an unidentified Portuguese city, crossed Spain, and then traveled up the French coast. When it arrived at Coquelles it most likely took the Chunnel to Corby.

In quarantine, Ronaldo is being bottle-fed and is said to be looking well. He will be returned to NANNA in February where an effort will be mounted in order to place him in a good home.

Deprived of his mother's milk for three days, it is a miracle that he did not die in the shipping crate. The second miracle occurred when Matalan agreed to ransom his life. After all that he has been through, surely the Fates can pull one more miracle out of their sleeves for such a deserving young cat.

Photo: Alison Bagley of the Kettering Evening Telegraph (Ronaldo) and BBC (Matalan).