Old, Poor, and Sickly, Jeanne Ambler Is Facing Eviction for Feeding a Trio of Hungry Cats
"They all feel hunger. They all feel affection. They all feel pain. They're beings, God's creatures, just as we are."
-- Jeanne Ambler
Bird advocates, wildlife biologists, and other ailurophobes recently have had considerable success in enacting municipal codes and housing regulations that ban the feeding of cats. In one particularly outrageous incident, an eighty-one-year-old retired tutor from Hillsborough Community College currently is living under the threat of imminent eviction for feeding a trio of homeless cats at Nantucket Bay Apartments in Temple Terrace, twelve kilometers outside of Tampa.
Having lived through a pair of myocardial infarctions, Jeanne Ambler also suffers from arthritis so severe that she is forced to use a battery-powered wheelchair in order to get around. On top of all of that, the crooks and rotters who run this miserable society expect her to scrape by on a monthly Social Security check that amounts to a piddling $683.
Even more egregiously, she is forced to fork over $516 of that to the very same blighters who are attempting to throw her in the street. (See photo of her above.)
Although she is elderly, infirm, and poor, her enemies are numerous, well-heeled, and totally unscrupulous. About the only thing that she has going for her is that she is right and they are wrong.
"They (the cats) all feel hunger. They all feel affection. They all feel pain," she told ABC-TV of Tampa on July 7th. (See "Eighty-One-Year-Old Cat Lover Faces Eviction and Fines.") "They're beings, God's creatures, just as we are."
If he were alive today, St. Francis of Assisi would no doubt agree. "God requires that we assist the animals when they need our help," he once said.
Although Ambler has resided at Nantucket Bay for more than a decade, it is unclear exactly how long she has been feeding the cats. Needless to say, the dispute has heated up considerably in recent months. (See photo below of her feeding one of them.)
In June, Temple Terrace sent her an edict demanding that she stop feeding them and is threatening to fine her $250 a day if she fails to comply. On July 1st, Nantucket Bay issued her a seven-day eviction notice for what it termed creating unsanitary conditions and disrupting the peace.
On July 6th, her monthly rent check was returned to her. Although the eviction process could drag on for years, the fact that her lease expires in October could have a negative impact on her case.
In addition to Temple Terrace and Nantucket Bay, Ambler is at loggerheads with several tenants who hate cats so vehemently that they are willing to dispossess a fellow senior citizen in order to harm them. Of course, they are far too dishonest to ever come out and say that; instead, they use various subterfuges in order to cloak their ailurophobia.
For Paul Fisher, president of the Residence Council, it is Ambler's foul mouth. "This nice elderly, eighty-one-year-old woman, when approached by myself and others and asked to cease has told us all to go ... ourselves," he groused like an old puritan with virgin ears to ABC-TV in the article cited supra.
For neighbor Chris Clifford it is Ambler's poodle, Punkins, and his habit of urinating on the lawn that serves as the lightning rod for him to go after her cats. "When I renew a lease, there are rules that I have to agree or disagree with," he pontificated to ABC-TV. "The real issue isn't with the dog. It's about cats."
Obviously, Clifford is not only a cat-hater but a suck-up to those in power to boot. He also does not have any toleration for either differences of opinion or taste.
Seventy-eight-year-old resident Jane Seymour in turn claims that Ambler's feeding of the cats is attracting raccoons, opossums, armadillos, squirrels, and foxes. "I just think they (sic) should feed animals in the house and not put food outside," she told the St. Petersburg Times on July 6th. (See "Cat Lover Facing Crackdown by Temple Terrace Officials.")
First of all, wild animals are everywhere and since Nantucket Bay Apartments are located alongside a conservation area it is going to be teeming with wildlife regardless of whether Ambler feeds her cats. For example, JFK Airport in Queens was built alongside a nature reserve and ever since that time the feds have been slaughtering birds.
In particular, the USDA's Wildlife Services currently is in the process of rounding up and gassing at least twenty-five-thousand Canada geese at JFK and other airports located in New York City and on Long Island. Yet scarcely a word of protest has been heard against this mass slaughter from either bird advocates or wildlife biologists.
In England, however, the authorities take a much more humane approach to problems of this sort. (See The Independent, July 20, 2010, "Wildlife Under Aerial Attack.")
Secondly, it would be interesting to know if either Temple Terrace or Nantucket Bay ban the feeding of birds, squirrels, and other animals. If not, their ban on the feeding of cats is not only discriminatory but hypocritical as well.
Thirdly, if Ambler cleans up after the cats and does not leave food unattended, her feeding of them could not be attracting wildlife. Furthermore, it is a good bet that discarded food, litter, unsecured trash cans, and the voluntary feeding of all sorts of animals are more to blame for attracting wildlife than is Ambler's feeding of the cats.
Much more importantly, there is not anything wrong with having wildlife frequent the complex. In most instances, it is precisely developers who have appropriated their rapidly diminishing habitats for their own selfish, exploitative reasons. Individuals in turn purchase these properties so that they can view wildlife out their front windows.
Furthermore, it is idiotic for people to expect cats and other animals to comprehend and observe their arcane rules regarding private property. In the final analysis, they were here first and since they are considerably less destructive than humans they and their needs should be given priority.
The Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB) recently joined the fray and is, predictably, attempting to end it by trapping and removing the cats. At last report, only one of the three cats had been trapped and its fate is unknown.
"We decided to offer a helping hand to remove the cats, keep her in her home, hopefully make peace with everybody, and give the cats a good home as well," the organization's Mary Ann O'Donnell told ABC-TV on July 16th. (See "Eighty-One-Year-Old Cat Lover No Longer Alone in Her Fight to Avoid Eviction.")
That also is the opinion of Ambler's sixty-three-year-old daughter, Judy Heeschen. "I just really hope somebody will come forward and say, 'Hey, we can take these three cats'," she told the St. Petersburg Times in the article cited supra.
As sickening and warped as that kind of thinking is, it nonetheless is the norm with the police, Animal Control, and rescue groups. In the end, disputes of this sort almost always are settled by killing the cats.
HSTB tells the public that the cats will be relocated but in all probability they will be killed unless some citizen comes forward and demands to adopt them. Besides, once the cats are trapped no one is going to care either what happens to them or hold HSTB to its word.
When Nathan Winograd once said that homeless cats do not belong in shelters he was only half-right; in reality, no cat belongs in any shelter. Just about every one of them are killed upon arrival and even those imprisoned in cages are eventually killed once the legally-mandated holding period expires.
Moreover, since most shelters are overcrowded and filthy, disease is rampant. As soon as a cat catches so much as a cold that provides its captors with a convenient excuse to murder it.
Ambler's cats have an inalienable right to not only live but to live at Nantucket Bay Apartments. That is their home and there is a good chance that they were born there. It even is conceivable that they were cruelly abandoned by the tenants. If so, their welfare and safety are preeminently the responsibility of the management of Nantucket Bay.
In choosing to attack Ambler, the city of Temple Terrace, Nantucket Bay Apartments, and her fellow residents have exposed themselves not only as cat-haters but to be totally lacking in sympathy for the elderly. Their behavior has been nothing short of disgraceful and if any of them had an ounce of decency they would be ashamed of themselves.
The large international law firm of Holland and Knight has graciously stepped forward and agreed to defend Ambler pro bono. That is certainly good news and probably means that the suits at Nantucket Bay can forget about trying to evict her.
The fate of the cats is an entirely different matter, however. In all likelihood the HSTB will prevail and they will be removed and likely killed.
Since this dispute always has been about saving the cats, such a denouement would be a Pyrrhic victory even for Ambler. Real estate giants like Nantucket Bay and towns like Temple Terrace thus will be free to continue evicting and killing cats at will.
Another alternative would be for Ambler to adopt the three cats. Since she already has a cat named Impy in addition to Punkins, doing so might possibly be difficult depending upon the size of her abode. Moreover, cats accustomed to having their freedom do not willingly surrender it.
Such an arrangement also would hand Temple Terrace, Nantucket Bay, and all other groups who cruelly want to lock up cats indoors another victory. Other cats are bound to show up at the complex sooner or later and they, too, would be subject to eviction and death sentences if the status quo remains unchallenged.
Considering all the sacrifices that she already has made, it is difficult to ask any more of Ambler. Nevertheless, maybe she will be able to summon the strength in order to continue the fight to save these cats now that she has legal representation.
If so, she and her attorneys should strive to secure the right for them to remain at Nantucket Bay in perpetuity and for Ambler to continue to feed and care for them. That is the only just solution.
"I grew up during the Depression. I know what it feels like to be hungry," she confessed to the St. Petersburg Times in the article cited supra. "It just seems incredibly cruel. It's like starving a child."
Ambler is by no means the first woman living in senior citizen housing to find herself up the spout for feeding a cat. An almost identical situation happened to seventy-six-year-old Bernice Fuller of Mayfair Apartments in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in June of last year. (See photo of her above on the right.)
On June 6th, she was given a thirty-day eviction notice for feeding a cat named Bojangles. Although several other tenants also fed him, Wellons Foundation Management Services, which operates the government-subsidized complex, singled out Fuller for retribution. (See photo below of Bojangles.)
"She (the unidentified property manager) acted like a little old Hitler," Fuller told WRAL-TV of Raleigh on June 17, 2009. (See "Tenant Says She's Being Evicted for Feeding Stray Cat.") "You know, do as I say or else."
Don Wellons, president of Wellons Foundation, responded with the customary litany of lies that all cat-haters recite by rote just as if they were the gospel truth. "When a resident feeds a cat every day, then it is a pet. In this circumstance, this is a stray cat that has not been to a vet for its vaccinations," he roared like a hurricane to the Rocky Mount Telegram on June 17, 2009. (See "Management Defends Actions at Mayfair.") "We have residents who have complained."
Without specifying either which residents or how many of them had complained, Wellons went on to accuse Bojangles of being a health threat. "If this stray cat was (sic) to scratch a resident and the resident got rabies or an infection, then who would be responsible for the damages?" he groused like a mean-spirited old miser counting his precious pennies.
First of all, rabies is extremely rare in cats. Secondly, it is tough enough for strangers to get within scratching distance of a domesticated cat let alone either a stray or a feral.
Besides, as Miguel de Cervantes pointed out all those years ago: "Those who will play with cats must expect to be scratched." Accordingly, anyone who either corners or abuses a cat and is therefore scratched by it acting in self-defense is responsible for either his or her own medical treatment. It would be ludicrous to hold Wellons liable.
As is the case with Temple Terrace, the dispute in Rocky Mount was resolved at Bojangles' expense when on June 15, 2009 the Edgecombe-Nash Humane Society trapped and forcibly removed him from Mayfair Apartments. In his hour of greatest need, even Fuller double-crossed him and consented to his inhumane ouster.
He was then transported to Riverside Veterinary Hospital in Rocky Mount where he was diagnosed by veterinarian Chandra Meachem-Tucker to have an injured leg, a mild case of heartworm, and to be FIV-positive. An unidentified Good Samaritan donated $150 toward his care but at last report Meachem-Tucker was holding him hostage and not allowing anyone to adopt him until she received the $100 due her for treating him.
Since he is FIV-positive, Bonjangles likely will be sterilized and forced to spend the remainder of his life indoors even if adopted. "He seems very calm," Meachem-Tucker told the Rocky Mount Telegram on June 17, 2009. (See "A New Home for Bojangles?") "He should be able to acclimate to an indoor cat."
While he was interned at Meachem-Tucker's surgery, Bojangels' room and board was being paid for by Edgecombe-Nash. If someone did not come forward and agree to adopt him, Meachem-Tucker had threatened to kill him. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to ascertain what happened to him.
After selling Bojangles down the river to the knackers at Riverside and Edgecombe-Nash, Fuller was scheduled to have met with Wellons Foundation Management Services on June 19, 2007 in order to discuss the eviction proceedings against her. There can be little doubt, however, that she is still living at Mayfair because, with Bojangles now out of the picture, management no longer had a valid case against her.
Because of Wellons' dictatorial style of management, that is not necessarily any bowl of cherries. For in addition to evicting Bojangles, it gave residents six days in order to remove all flower gardens that they had planted and it closed a community center that had been used for church services on weekends. Later, in November of last year, it banned residents from displaying Christmas lights outside their apartments.
The repulsive decisions taken by management at both Nantucket Bay and Mayfair demonstrate just how horribly low-income senior citizens are treated in this country. The operators of these complexes are able to get away with their abhorrent conduct in large part because their residents are divided amongst themselves and therefore unable to put up a united front.
The unholy alliance that exists in this country between the business community and government is another major cause. With each passing year the United States more and more resembles a fascist state.
Finally, in addition to individuals like Ambler and Fuller, others have been arrested and fired from their jobs for feeding cats. (See Cat Defender posts of February 26, 2007 and June 14, 2006 entitled, respectively, " Charged with Feeding a Feral Cat Named Fluffy, Retired Ohio English Teacher Beats the Rap" and "Kindhearted Dairyman, Sacked for Feeding Feral Cats, Files $20 Million Lawsuit Against Cornell University.")
Photos: Stephen J. Coddington of the St. Petersburg Times (Ambler), WRAL-TV (Fuller), and Moggies (Bojangles).