Pregnant Minskin Arrives in Oregon Frozen as Solid as a Block of Ice Following a Fatal Cross-Country Flight in the Cargo Hold of an Airliner
"I have shipped animals to three continents and too numerous to mention over the years."
-- Breeder John Froais
The horrific crimes perpetrated by the breeders of both hybrid and pedigreed cats are by no means confined to clandestine and unregulated out-of-the-way catteries. After all, once they have completed their sexual and genetic shenanigans, they still must devise a means of delivering their Frankenstein creations to their partners in crime, i.e., the unconscionable members of the buying public.
The cheapest, fastest, and easiest way of achieving that objective is to cram these already outrageously abused cats into tiny cages and ship them in the cargo holds of airliners. By and large, these naked abuses fly underneath the radar until a breeder makes a stink about one or more of his valuable manipulations dying en route and costing him a small fortune.
Earlier this year, Cranston, Rhode Island, breeder John Froais used an unidentified airline in order to ship a pregnant Minskin to another breeder in Oregon. Tragically, the cat and her unborn kittens arrived at their destination frozen as solid as a block of ice.
In the recriminations that have followed, each side has accused the other of negligence. The airline, for its part, sent the dead cat's corpse to Houston where a necropsy performed at a veterinary clinic determined that she had died of uterine toxicity as the result of multiple dead kittens.
Out $2,500 due to the cat's unexpected demise, Froais had a conniption fit when he learned of her fate. "Even if she did die of natural causes, let's say a heart attack, why did she arrive frozen?" he told WPRI-TV of East Providence on March 3rd. (See "Cat Flown, Arrives to New Owner Frozen.")
Either point of view could be valid; it all depends upon what occurred first. The cat could have died from complications related to her pregnancy and then froze or she and her unborn kittens simply could have died from the cold. Presumably, an honest veterinarian would be able to ascertain which came first.
To its credit, the airline offered to return the cat to Froais so that he could commission his own post-mortem but he has demurred. "I've learned any evidence I could have gotten to prove death of hypothermia is out the window," he told WPRI-TV in the article cited supra. "They froze it, refroze it, froze it, and refroze it."
Although he certainly was not on hand to witness what transpired at the airport in Oregon, Froais claims that baggage handlers took the cat out of its cage and placed it in front of space heaters in an effort to thaw it out and thus cover up the fact that it had frozen to death. The carrier claims that it does not have any knowledge of that occurring.
So far, all that he has received in compensation is the cost of the cat's ticket although it is conceivable that the airliner may eventually reimburse him for the loss of his cat as well. Last year, for example, Delta Airlines fully compensated Jackie Douglass of Auburn, New Hampshire, after one of its baggage conveyor machines at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta ran over and killed a West Highland White Terrier puppy named Maggie Mae that she had ordered from a breeder.
For whatever it is worth, Froais insists that all he is after is accountability, not money. (See photo above of him with Masimo, an offspring of the dead cat.)
Froais can blame the airline all he wants but that in no way alters the fact that he is the one who is responsible for the deaths of the cat and her unborn kittens. Nobody who cared about a cat would ship it in the cargo hold of an airliner, especially a pregnant one! The entire idea is simply monstrous and constitutes the very epitome of animal cruelty.
Nevertheless, such outrageous behavior is par for the course with Froais. "I have shipped animals to three continents and too numerous to mention over the years," he boasted to WPRI-TV.
In that light it would be interesting to know how he gets around the lengthy quarantine laws and exorbitant kennel fees that countries like Angleterre impose upon cats and other animals that arrive from abroad. (See Cat Defender posts of August 18, 2008 and September 4, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Ronaldo Escapes Death after Retailer Coughs Up the Exorbitant Bounty That Quarantine Officials Had Placed on His Head" and "Tinkerbelle Is Freed from Death Row and Flown to Safety in England Capping Off a Storybook Ending to Her Travails in Florida.")
More importantly, the dangers that cats and other animals are subjected to when flying are almost too numerous to delineate. In addition to the numbing cold, those flown in the cargo holds of jets also are killed by hyperthermia.
These trips are traumatic enough even for those animals who somehow manage to survive them. Deprived of both familiar surroundings and human contact, they are not only bandied about like sacks of potatoes but subjected to loud, frightening noises unlike anything that they have previously experienced.
The broken claws and chipped teeth that many of them sustain as the result of futilely attempting to escape their enclosures are poignant testimonials to the stressful nature of these hellish voyages. "These are animals that are struggling to breathe, their hearts are racing, and they're in panic, suffering extreme stress and anxiety," is how veterinarian Lila Miller of the ASPCA in New York City described the experience to the New York Post on March 21, 1999. (See "It a Doggone Shame! They're Dropped, Crushed, Lost and Rerouted.")
Misguided owners also compound the dangers by sedating their pets. Sadly, some of them never revive.
Animals also have been known to die from the elements while stranded for long periods of time on the tarmac when flights are delayed. Careless baggage handlers not only lose cages but sometimes drop them thus allowing animals to escape and never to be seen again. This is believed to be one of the principal reasons that many airports have substantial populations of stray and feral cats.
Instead of taking responsibility for the airlines' negligence, some airports turn around and order these marooned cats to be exterminated. (See Cat Defender post of November 5, 2007 entitled "Port Authority Gives JFK's Long-Term Resident Felines the Boot and Rescue Groups Are Too Impotent to Save Them.")
Thanks to Section 710 of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the Twenty-First Century, Public Law 106-81 of 2000, it is virtually impossible to determine how many animals the airlines kill, injure, and lose each year. That is because this little known provision narrowly defines an animal to be "any warm or cold-blooded animal which, at the time of transportation, is being kept as a pet in a family household in the United States."
Consequently, the airlines are not required to report to the Transportation Department deaths and mishaps involving animals used in commerce. As a practical matter, that excludes livestock, laboratory animals, those sold in pet shops, trafficked in zoos, and shipped by breeders, such as Froais.
Current United States Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey who, at the behest of the airlines and those groups who abuse and exploit animals for profit and pleasure, authored that ridiculous piece of legislation while a member of the House of Representatives is now feigning total ignorance of his handiwork. "I believe current policies do not reflect congressional intent," he had the chutzpah to charge in a letter sent last October to then Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters. "I am surprised and disappointed that animals covered by this law have been defined in such a narrow fashion."
Departmental spokesman Bill Adams shot back on October 31st by arguing that its definition of an animal "properly carries out the mandate of the statute." Actually, it was the Federal Aviation Administration that made that particular determination after reviewing the text of the legislation, its legislative history, and comments made by its drafters.
Apparently, the airlines are Menendez's bailiwick in that earlier this year he launched a campaign to get them to lower the fuel surcharges that they tack on to every ticket that they sell. Although petrol is selling for considerably less than it was a year ago, the price of food is continuing to escalate and Menendez has not shown the least bit of interest in making it easier for the working class and the poor to feed themselves and their families. As a result, the needy are being forced to turn to soup kitchens and food pantries which are struggling to keep pace with the increased demand.
It seems only logical that if the surcharges on jet fuel are to be removed the same should hold true for the petrol surcharges that vendors imposed last summer on food that they deliver to restaurants and grocery stores. Like all American politicians, Menendez will not lift a finger to help anyone or the animals unless he first gets paid for doing so.
In another glaring example of flagrant dishonesty, the Air Transportation Association, a trade group which represents the airlines, claims that of the half a million animals transported by air each year in the United States less than one per cent are either killed, injured, or lost. Furthermore, it blames even that ridiculously low estimate on either preexisting medical conditions or faulty cages.
To hear the airlines tell it, they are completely blameless in spite of the fact that the mortality rate for baby chickens shipped in the cargo holds of airliners sometimes can be as high as fifty per cent. (See Humane Society of the United States, December 3, 2008, "Welfare Issues with Transport of Day-Old Chicks.")
Even though they are required under Section 710 to report all incidents involving family pets, the airlines rarely come clean. For example, a report issued by the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Transportation Department claims that only one pet died on the airlines during all of 2008. That was an English Bulldog named Blake who died en route from Miami to Rio de Janeiro aboard American Airlines Flight 905 on December 1st. A necropsy failed to determine the cause of the dog's death.
As far as it is known, the only halfway serious attempt to get to the bottom of this controversy was published November 2nd of last year by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and entitled "Airline Loophole: Many Animals' Deaths Not Tallied." After reviewing complaints filed with the Transportation Department, it concluded that during the "past year" (presumably either 2007 or parts of 2007 and 2008) United States-based airlines killed twenty-nine pets, injured thirteen others, and lost at least seven.
Other than reimbursing customers, both commercial animal abusers and pet owners, for their losses and refunding their tickets, the airlines are sometimes fined by the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is charged with enforcing the minimalist standards of the laughingstock Animal Welfare Act. For example, Delta Airlines was fined $187,500 in 2005 for killing two cats and six dogs between 2002 and 2004.
One of the cats was named Hereford who died in the cargo hold of a flight from Portland, Oregon, to Greensboro via Atlanta in November of 2003. In October of 2004, a five-year-old, fourteen-pound cat named Smokey died en route to Atlanta because it was shipped in a cage that was too small.
In September of last year, Northwest Airlines was forced to pony up $10,000 for losing a cat named Simbi in 2005 and one named Snowball in 2006. Other than what precious little information that can be weaseled out of the feds and the occasional heartbreaking story that the tabloids pick up, little is known about the extent of feline fatalities on airplanes.
Other critics of the airlines paint an even direr picture of this deplorable situation. The New York Post in the article cited supra puts the number of annual feline and canine mishaps in the air at in the thousands while the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) of Cotati, California, is only slightly less conservative in its estimate.
"Despite hundreds of incidents in which animals have been lost, injured, or killed while being transported by airplane, the airlines have shown little regard for the safety of the animals who are entrusted to them," the ALDF's Valery Stanley is quoted as saying in an undated article appearing on the web site of Michigan State University. (See "Emergency Travel Alert: Don't Transport Pets by Air!")
She goes on to point out the obvious. "The skies are not friendly to pets. Most airplane cargo holds are unsafe for animals. Until conditions improve, pet owners should never put their treasured companions aboard a plane. Doing so could seal their doom."
Storing pets underneath one's chair or purchasing an extra seat for them are alternatives although both have their drawbacks. In particular, flying is extremely stressful for all cats and large dogs will not fit underneath the seat.
The best method to transport pets is by car. For owners unwilling to drive, there are both regular taxi cabs and special pet taxis that can be engaged for a pretty penny. (See Cat Defender post of February 16, 2008 entitled "Saying Good-Bye to the Rat Race, Retired Forest Hills' Couple Hires a Taxi in Order to Transport Their Cats to Arizona.") The quarantine laws of certain countries make international travel with pets neither feasible nor desirable.
As egregious as it was for Froais to have shipped his pregnant cat cross-country in the cargo hold of an airplane, that should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the creation of hybrids is cruel and inhumane and should be outlawed. (See Cat Defender posts of December 19, 2008 and February 20, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Regardless of Whether He Is a Pixie-Bob or a Bobcat, It Is Going to Be a Blue Christmas for Benny after He Inadvertently Bites Santa Claus" and "Exotic and Hybrid Cats, Perennial Objects of Exploitation and Abuse, Are Now Being Mutilated, Abandoned, and Stolen.")
Par exemple, Minskins, a cross between Munchkins and Sphynxes, were developed by Paul McSorley of Boston in 1998. As of 2005, there were only about fifty of them known to exist.
The "Min" in Minskin is shorthand for "miniature legs" whereas the "skin" refers to the breed's almost completely hairless body. (See photo above on the left.) That pretty much describes the breed although there are reportedly variants with long legs and full coats.
The cats also have hairless stomachs and retain a kitten-like appearance in adulthood. In personality, they are said to be sweet, people-oriented, and to get along well with both dogs and children. Because of their lack of fur, their bodies feel warm when touched.
As appealing as those attributes may be to some individuals, true fans of the species would hardly consider Minskins to even be cats. After all, cats are supposed to have fur, long legs, be standoffish around strangers, and to fear dogs.
What is occurring here is that breeders are denaturing cats in order to create deviant subspecies that they can turn around and peddle for big bucks. They already have done the same thing to, inter alia, Savannahs, Toygers, and Asheras, all of which are described as possessing canine personalities. (See Cat Defender posts of May 19, 2005, April 13, 2007, and February 19, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Savannahs: More Feline Cruelty Courtesy of the Capitalists and the Bourgeoisie," "Killing and Torturing Wild and Domestic Cats in Order to Create Toygers Is Not Going to Save Sumatran Tigers," and "Asheras Are the Designer Chats du Jour Despite the Cruelties Inflicted During Their Hybridization.")
The long and the short of the matter is that individuals who want animals with canine personalities should buy a dog and stop exploiting and killing cats. They are, of course, far too lazy to be bothered with house training, walking, and coping with such troublesome psychological disorders as separation anxiety that come with dog ownership.
They likewise do not appreciate cats' legendary independence and aloofness and hybrids thus allow them to experience the best that both species have to offer without any of the negatives. The only caveat being that hybrids are not real cats.
The campaign mounted by breeders to run roughshod over the species has been greatly aided in recent years by the scientific community's decoding of the feline genome and the development of fluorescent proteins as genetic markers. (See Cat Defender posts of December 5, 2007 and October 20, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Decoding the Feline Genome Provides Vivisectors with Thousands of New Excuses to Continue Torturing Cats in the Course of Their Bogus Research" and "Swedish Academy Bestows Its 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Yet Another Trio of Vivisectors Whose Discoveries Are Maiming and Killing Cats.")
Stephen O'Brien of the National Cancer Institute, who worked on the feline genome project, gave the game away when he said, "One thing I'd like to discover is the genes for good behavior in cats --- the genes for domestication, the things that make them not want to kill our children but play with them."
As far as it is known, Minskins are fairly healthy cats although genetic diseases could manifest themselves later down the road as the breed matures. Their only obvious drawback is that they must be bathed at least once a week in order to keep their skin supple and healthy.
Munchkins on the other hand, which were created by Louisiana breeder Sandra Hochenedel in 1983, are prone to so many genetic maladies that the Federation Internationale Feline, the Governing Council of Cat Fancy, and Cat Fanciers' Association have refused to recognize the breed. (See photo above.)
Although technically classified as mutations as opposed to hybrids, Munchkins are prone to hypochondroplasia (short legs with regular size heads), lordosis (inwardly curved spinal columns), pectus excavatum (caved-in chests), joint problems, and breeding abnormalities.
Minskins inherit their almost hairless bodies from Sphynxes who have peach fuzz as opposed to genuine fur. (See photo above on the right.)
Although hairless cats allegedly date back at least as far as the Aztecs, Sphynxes did not emerge as a breed until a genetic anomaly in Devon Rexes was identified and exploited in 1966. Other than not having any protection against the elements, Sphynxes are prone to skin diseases and pot bellies.
Like hybrids and mutants, purebreds also are subject to numerous disorders. Persians, arguably the most inbred of all pedigreed cats, suffer from breathing difficulties due to their flat faces. Their bulging eyes also constantly weep which necessitates that they be wiped frequently by their caretakers. Males are afflicted with cryptorchidism.
Siamese are susceptible to lung cancer while kidney disease is the bane of British Shorthairs. Pain in and around their faces leads Burmese to scratch themselves while Scottish Folds sometimes develop cartilage problems elsewhere in their bodies as the result of having been bred so that their ears bend forward.
Claire Bessant of the Feline Advisory Board of Wiltshire has correctly labeled this profound exploitation of cats as a problem of human nature. "We've got to put some moral pressure on breeders not to create extremes and to think about the welfare of cats as a species," she told the Daily Telegraph on March 15th. (See "Inbred Pedigree Cats Suffering from Life-Threatening Diseases and Deformities.") "We should be very vigilant because we have pushed some of the breeds too far."
Maurice Melzak, editor of the web site PetStreet, points out that some purebreds have been so horribly exploited that they look as if they have been steamrolled. "It is purely arbitrary, not natural selection. It is man imposing his idea of what a cat should look like," he told the Daily Telegraph. "It is the tyranny of breeding."
The absurdity of this deplorable situation is made abundantly clear once the unchecked proliferation of defective, denatured, and considerably less fit hybrids, purebreds, and clones is contrasted with the systematic en masse extermination of tens of millions of perfectly healthy and genetically intact cats each year by shelters, veterinarians, birders, wildlife proponents, and other ailurophobes. (See Cat Defender post of November 17, 2008 entitled "Mr. Green Genes' Coming Out Party Ushers In a New Era of Unspeakable Atrocities to Be Committed Against Cats by Cloners and Vivisectors.")
As Carl Vechten observed way back in 1922, even well-meaning proponents of sterilization are contributing to this alarming development. "But it has become the general custom, except for those who keep kings for breeding purposes, to alter these toms, so that they grow into large, affectionate, and lazy animals, who sleep a good deal, eat a good deal, and are generally picturesque but not very active," he wrote in The Tiger in the House. "These toms are generally the favorites as pets. Personally I am more interested in cats who retain their natural fervor."
If these trends continue, cats as they are known today will eventually become extinct and only watered-down versions will remain. Cat-lovers then unwittingly will have delivered on a silver platter the victory that ailurophobes have so fervently sought for millenniums.
While it is conceivable that Bessant's notion of applying moral pressure might dissuade some conscientious individuals from purchasing purebreds, hybrids, clones, and the like, it certainly will not have any impact upon breeders like Froais and cloners like Betsy L. Dresser of the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. Being inveterate shekel chasers and vainglorious usurpers of the natural rights of both cats and their fellow humans, they are going to continue to abuse, exploit, and kill cats with impunity unless they are somehow stopped.
For example, feline mutilator Holly Crawford of Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, would still be raking in the big bucks if the authorities had not raided her place of business, seized her kittens, and arrested her. (See Cat Defender posts of January 9, 2009 and February 26, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Pennsylvania Pet Groomer Is Caught Piercing the Ears, Necks, and Tails of Cats and Dogs and Then Peddling Them on eBay" and "Dog Groomer Who Sold Mutilated Kittens on the Internet Is Finally Identified and Ordered to Stand Trial.")
Photos: WPRI-TV (Froais and Masimo), Catster (Minskin), Pockle of Wikipedia (Munchkin), and M. Minderhoud of Wikipedia (Sphynx).