Bingo Is Placed Under House Arrest for Defending Himself Against a Neighbor Who Foolishly Intervened in a Cat Fight
"Er merkt schon, dass er sein Territorium, sein Revier verloren hat. Er waere viel lieber draussen."
-- Stella De Vito
Bingo is not a happy camper these days. The thirteen-year-old castrated black cat had lived his entire life as an indoor-outdoor cat in the Maihofquartier of Luzern until he was placed under house arrest by a Strafverfuegung issued on April 17th by the Amtsstatthalteramt.
That was the culmination of his having been declared to be dangerous after he bit a female neighbor on August 22, 2007 and again on December 19, 2008. His forty-eight-year-old guardian, Ana De Vito, also was fined four-hundred-eighty Swiss francs (US$471.60) by the tribunal. (See photo above of her with Bingo.)
That precipitate designation was made over the objections of Gieri Bolliger of the Stiftung fuer das Tier im Recht in Zurich. "Das ist sicher nicht normal," he told SF1-TV of Zurich on June 2nd. (See "Busse wegen Buesi: Kampfkatze von Amtes wegen.") "Bevor so eine Strafverfuegung erlassen wird, muessten die Strafuntersuchungsbehoerden wirklich abklaeren, ob der Tatbestand erfuellt ist, ob das Tier wirklich gefaehrlich oder boesartig ist." (See photo below of the Strafverfuegung.)
At the request of Blick of Zurich, sixty-year-old animal psychologist Heini Meier examined Bingo and concluded that although the cat was indeed suffering from anxiety, he was not dangerous. (See photo below of him, Ana, and Bingo.)
"Er ist gestresst," he told Blick on June 7th. (See "So gefaehrlich ist Kater Bingo wirklich.") "Das hoert man an seinem Miauen, er heult ja fast. Man sieht es auch am Gang und dem gestraeuben Schwanz, den er hin und herbewegt."
As to the source of Bingo's alleged aggression, Meier confirmed what Ana and her husband, Mario, had known right from the beginning. "Vielleicht warf man mit Gegenstaenden nach ihm," he theorized to Blick.
True enough, the neighbor had foolishly intervened in several squabbles between her cat and Bingo and as the result was bitten. It therefore was she who physically attacked Bingo and, possibly, even threw objects at him.
That drew the ire of legal expert Doris Slongo who said, in effect, that the unidentified neighbor had no one to blame for her subsequent injuries except herself. Much more importantly, she contends that the De Vitoes are blameless. "Deshalb ist der Katzenbesitzer nicht haftbar fuer den Schaden," she told SF1-TV in the article cited supra.
As a practicable matter, Tomi Tomek of SOS Chats in Noiraigue recommends that cat owners who feel compelled to intervene in these types of disputes use water. "Il ne faut pas separer des chats avec la main ou le pied, mais avec de l'eau," she volunteered to Le Matin of Lausanne on June 4th. (See "Bingo: ce chat est une terreur!")
Actually, that is only partially correct. As long as there is not any blood or torn flesh it is best to let cats settle their disputes themselves. Although these tiffs can be extremely loud, they most always sound considerably worse than they are in reality. Besides, human intervention does not accomplish much and usually is resented.
This case bears a disturbing resemblance to the fate that befell a five-year-old, longhaired polydactyl named Lewis from Fairfield, Connecticut, in 2006. (See photo below of him looking out the window.)
In an equally gross miscarriage of justice, a state court placed Lewis under house arrest for the remainder of his life after he fought with five different women over a three-year period. His owner, real estate broker Ruth Cisero, also was placed on probation for two years and ordered to perform fifty hours of community service following her conviction for second degree reckless endangerment.
Although the court pigheadedly refused to take cognizance of the circumstances surrounding these incidents, Lewis was every bit as innocent as Bingo. In some of the instances he was only defending himself after cat-owners had intervened in standoffs between him and their cats. One of the victims even instigated hostilities by either stepping on his tail or closing a door on him.
Lewis also had been repeatedly abused by bird advocates who had thrown eggs at him and doused him with water. One cat-hating neighbor even went so far as to illegally trap him and take him to a shelter. (See Cat Defender posts of April 3, 2006 and June 26, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Free Lewis Now! Connecticut Tomcat, Victimized by a Bum Rap, Is Placed Under House Arrest" and "Lewis the Cat Cheats the Hangman but Is Placed Under House Arrest for the Remainder of His Life.")
Once he had completed his examination of Bingo, Meier wound up recommending that the De Vitoes send the neighbor, who has since relocated elsewhere, a bottle of wine as a peace offering. It is doubtful, however, that such a gesture will help much unless she can be prevailed upon to go before the Amtsstatthalteramt and convince it to rescind its Strafverfuegung.
He also counseled that they, who at last report were still contesting the fine, take out insurance just in case Bingo gets into any more legal scrapes. Thankfully the De Vitoes' neighbors so far have not called for Bingo's scalp as did Cisero's counterparts in Fairfield with Lewis.
Besides, it is a sure bet that the De Vitoes would strenuously oppose any such attempt. "Einschlaefern kam nicht in Frage," Ana declared to Blick.
After having been unfairly assaulted on so many occasions, Bingo understandably has become suspicious of strangers. It is, however, the loss of his freedom that he is finding to be the most vexing.
"Er merkt schon, dass er sein Territorium, sein Revier verloren hat," daughter Stella told SF1-TV in the article cited supra. "Er waere viel lieber draussen."
Mario, for his part, steadfastly maintains that the cat who sleeps under the covers with his children and loves Miau von Denner is not a threat to the general public. "Notre chat est adorable, il dort toute la journee," he told Le Matin.
As was the case with Lewis, it is a pity that there were not either third-party, impartial witnesses to these alleged attacks or surveillance cameras. If either of them had been in situ it is likely that they would have shown him to have acted in self-defense.
It is important to point out that Bingo is not an isolated case. In fact, hundreds of cats throughout Switzerland have been designated by the authorities as dangerous. It is not known, however, how many of them have been sent to the gallows as the result.
That is not really all that surprising in light of Switzerland's notorious mistreatment of the species. For example, like the Chinese, Australians, and Peruvians, the Swiss not only eat cats but traffic in their pelts as well.
Photos: Sabine Wunderlin of Blick (Bingo and Ana, Strafverfuegung, and Meier with Bingo and Ana) and News 12-TV of Norwalk (Lewis).