Odin Is Placed Under House Arrest by the Authorities in Weißenstein for Straying into the Garden of a Virulent Cat Hater
"Ich kann meinem Kater beim besten Willen nicht die Grundstücksgrenze erklären! Jetzt muss er halt mit unserer zweiten Katze im Haus bleiben, denn der Nachbar hat sogar gedroht Fallen aufzustellen."
-- Silvia Leitner
(This article originally was written for publication on 7 April 2011.)
In Norse mythology, Odin was the supreme deity but in the Lansach section of Weißenstein in Villach, Kärnten, his feline namesake is anything but omnipotent. In fact, he is now under house arrest as the result of having had the temerity to set foot in an unidentified cat-hating neighbor's precious little garden.
It is unclear how long this dispute has been germinating but in January Odin's owner, Silvia Leitner, received a written notice from the authorities in Weißenstein accusing her of being "tatenlos zusehen" for allowing Odin to roam. (See photo above of her with Odin and daughter Angelina.)
The bureaucrats did not stop there, however. "Ihre Nachbarn fühlen sich in ihrer Lebensqualität eingeschränkt," the official reprimand continued. "Bitte sorgen Sie dafür, dass Ihre Katze am Grundstück, wenn möglich, nicht mehr herumstreunt."
Later, the irate neighbor amplified on precisely how Odin's rambles allegedly were diminishing her quality of life. "Unser Grundstück ist bei Katzen aus der Nachbarschaft beliebt. Sie koten in den Garten und aufs Auto, zerkratzen Müllsäcke, in der Paarungszeit schreien sie nachts," she told the Kleine Zeitung of Graz in the second of two articles dated January 20th. (See "Kater 'weint' im Hausarrest.") "Durch offene Fenster und Türen kommen sie ins Haus. Bei aller Toleranz: Auf die Dauer ist das zu viel."
Leitner's initial response to the bureaucrats' directive was one of incredulity. "Ich kann meinem Kater beim besten Willen nicht die Grundstücksgrenze erklären!" she protested to the Kleine Zeiting in the first of two articles dated January 20th. (See "Kater in Nachbars Garten: Jetzt hat er Hausarrest!")
Once her nasty neighbor had publicly berated her as well as threatened to set out traps she was forced not only to lock up Odin inside but his female companion, Lisa, as well. "Jetzt muss er halt mit unserer zweiten Katze im Haus bleiben, denn der Nachbar hat sogar gedroht Fallen aufzustellen," she continued in the same article.
Despite the blatant lies spread by the "Cats Indoors" crowd at the American Bird Conservancy and their allies, cats accustomed to coming and going as they please never truly can be happy imprisoned indoors. In addition to creating behavioral problems, indoor environments are polluted and therefore lethal to cats. (See Cat Defender posts of August 22, 2007 and October 19, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Indoor Cats Are Dying from Diabetes, Hyperthyroidism, and Various Toxins in the Home" and "Smokers Are Killing Their Cats, Dogs, Birds, and Infants by Continuing to Light Up in Their Presence.")
It is not even necessary to be familiar with the medical literature in order to arrive at that conclusion. Common sense alone dictates that all living creatures thrive when afforded freedom and wilt when imprisoned. Just as no human ever would want to be imprisoned inside, the same obviously is true of cats as well.
Not surprisingly, both Odin and Lisa are having a difficult time adjusting to their incarceration. "Odin sitzt oft am Fenster, kratzt an der Glasscheibe und maunzt kläglich," Leitner told the Kleine Zeitung in the second article dated January 20th. "Für Lisa, unsere Katze, ist es sogar noch schlimmer." (See photo below of them with Angelina.)
In fact, Odin is so bored with life on the inside that he even was glad to see a television crew which visited him and Lisa on January 20th. "Er begrüßte ein TV-Team freundlich und wird wohl die Herzen der Zuschauer erobern," Leitner told the Kleine Zeitung in the second article dated January 20th.
Tired of scrapping with her neighbor, Leitner would like to see a peaceful resolution to this dispute that would allow her cats to safely venture outside once again. That goal also is shared by Ernst Glanzer of the Weißenstein bureaucracy.
"Über Hundekot gibt es immer wieder Beschwerden. Diese Probleme wurden bislang leicht aus der Welt geschafft," he opined to the Kleine Zeitung in the first article dated January 20th. "Katzen waren aber noch nie betroffen! Wir bieten den Beteiligten ein vermittelndes Gespräch mit dem Bürgermeister an."
The chances of that ever coming to fruition do not look promising, especially now that the gardener has taken the extraordinary step of attempting to have Odin declared to be a dangerous animal under Kärtner's Landes-Sicherheitspolizeigesetz zur Haltung von gefährlichen Tieren. Even though that absurd maneuver is likely to fail, it nevertheless demonstrates just how determined she is to get rid of Odin.
"Das betrifft Dauergebell von Hunden," Marina Zuzzi-Krebitz of Landestierschutzvereins explained in the first article dated January 20th. "Streunende Katzen am Land sind nun wirklich ortsüblich."
Free-roaming cats in Kärnten are required to be sterilized because their tendency to delineate their territories with urine has been deemed by the authorities to be a public nuisance. Since he has been neutered, that is a moot point as far as Odin is concerned.
It nonetheless is revealing that bird droppings, mouse turds, and the urine and excrement left behind by other animals is tolerated without any public outcry in Weißenstein and elsewhere. Both men and women regularly use the streets of Manhattan, including ritzy Fifth Avenue, as an open latrine and few individuals complain. Only cats engender this type of illogical hatred from irate citizens and public officials.
Beyond that, it is difficult to gauge how österreichisch jurists have dealt with free-roaming cats in the past. In neighboring Deutschland, zum Beispiel, there is a substantial body of case law that requires neighbors to tolerate up to two free-roaming cats on their Grundstücke.
Most important of all, ailurophobes are not allowed to either trap or harm their neighbors' cats in any fashion. If they do so, they can be held both criminally and civilly liable. (See Cat Defender posts of January 19, 2011, August 26, 2010, and June 10, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Bird Lover in München Illegally Traps Rocco and Then Methodically Tortures Him to Death with Water and Pepper Spray over an Eleven-Day Period," "In Stark Contrast to Ailurophobic America, Ziegelchen's Illegal Trapping by a Gardener in Altstädten-Burbach Is Roundly Condemned in Deutschland," and "Cat-Hating Gardener in Nordrhein Westfalen Is Told by the Local Authorities to Remove a Board of Nails from His Yard.")
In the United States, it is perfectly legal for gardeners, bird advocates, and wildlife biologists to team up with Animal Control officers and shelters in order to remove and eradicate free-roaming cats. (See Cat Defender post of August 19, 2010 entitled "Music Lessons and Buggsey Are Murdered by a Cat-Hating Gardener and an Extermination Factory Posing as an Animal Shelter in Saginaw.")
In Lansach, Odin is far from being the only free-roaming cat; im Gegenteil, it is customary for area residents to allow their cats outside. It therefore is unclear what prompted the bureaucrats in Weißenstein to single out Odin for selective prosecution.
After all, Kärnten's Tierschutz-Ombudsfrau, Ingrid Fischinger, is on record as being in support of Odin and Leitner. "Das Verhalten von Katzen ist zu tolerieren, denn sie nutzen nun mal alle drei Dimensionen des Raumes," she told the Kleine Zeitung in the second January 20th article cited supra. "Sie haben keinen Respekt vor Grundstücksgrenzen."
Although it is rare to hear of cats officially being placed under house arrest for straying, anti-roaming ordinances in the United States achieve the same result, albeit often with deadly consequences. (See Cat Defender post of March 19, 2010 entitled "Trapped and Killed by the Delaware County SPCA, Keecha's Life Is Valued at Only $1 by a Pennsylvania Arbitration Panel.")
It is far more common for cats to be placed under house arrest after they have been involved in scraps with dog owners, bird advocates, and other cat-haters. The most famous such cat was Lewis who is owned by real estate agent Ruth Cisero in Fairfield, Connecticut.
In 2006, a judge placed him under house arrest for the remainder of his life after he was involved in five scraps with women from his neighborhood over a three-year period. Cisero did not escape punishment either. Convicted of second degree reckless endangerment, she was placed on probation for two years and ordered to perform fifty hours of community service.
The charges against Lewis were, quite obviously, completely bogus. For example, some of the women were inadvertently scratched when they idiotically intervened in scraps between their cats and Lewis.
One accuser stepped on Lewis's tail and closed a door on him. Bird lovers threw eggs at him and doused him with water. One of the women even went so far as to illegally trap and hand him over to a shelter.
Predictably, all of these inveterate liars and cat abusers were let off scot-free by the courts. (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.")
A similarly unjust fate befell a thirteen-year-old castrated black cat named Bingo in Luzern when he, too, was placed under house arrest on April 17, 2007 for biting a female neighbor twice over a sixteen-month period. His owner, Ann De Vito, also was fined the equivalent of US$471.60 in Swiss francs.
As was the case with Lewis, Bingo's accuser threw objects at him and intervened in squabbles between him and her cat. In addition to eating cats and trafficking in their pelts, the Swiss ludicrously have designated hundreds of cats, such as Bingo, as being dangerous. (See Cat Defender post of October 17, 2009 entitled "Bingo Is Placed Under House Arrest for Defending Himself Against a Neighbor Who Foolishly Intervened in a Cat Fight.")
In the American backwater of Minneapolis, Dan Niziolek and the staff at Animal Care and Control are pulling out all the stops in order to do in octogenarian Lee Noltimier's nineteen-year-old cat, Hoppy. Because he twice was involved in scraps with dogs and their owners, Animal Control has vowed to seize and kill him if he is involved in a third fracas.
As things now stand, Noltimier is required to put Hoppy in a harness and on a leash whenever he takes him outside. Even at home he is required to be either segregated in a separate room or in a pet carrier whenever Noltimier receives visitors.
Moreover, Noltimier was required to implant a cancer-causing microchip in Hoppy, vaccinate him against rabies, and to annually license him with the city. (See Cat Defender post of October 18, 2009 entitled "Minneapolis Is Working Overtime Trying to Kill an Octogenarian's Cat Named Hoppy for Defending His Turf Against Canine Intruders.")
The escalating worldwide trend of placing cats under house arrest for either roaming or acting in self-defense, the enactment of anti-roaming statutes, cats indoors agendas, leash laws, licensing requirements, and mandatory vaccinations, sterilizations, and microchipping constitute a frontal assault on the inalienable rights of all cats. Moreover, the taking away of their freedoms is not only detrimental to both their physical and mental health but denatures them as well.
That, along with the mischief that such measures engender, is something that former Illinois Governor Adlai E. Stevenson understood all too well when on April 23, 1949 he vetoed an anti-roaming law that had been pushed through the legislature by cat-hating bird advocates. "I cannot agree that it should be the declared public policy of Illinois that a cat visiting a neighbor's yard or crossing the highway is a public nuisance. It is the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming," he pointed out. "Many live with their owners in apartments or other restricted premises, and I doubt if we want to make their every brief foray an opportunity for a small game hunt by zealous citizens -- with traps or otherwise."
Municipalities, such as Weißenstein, that impose these draconian restrictions upon cats therefore have got it all wrong. Au contraire, legislators and jurists should follow the example set by the Germans and protect the perogatives of cats by severely punishing those individuals and groups who illegally trap and harm them in any way.
Furthermore, it should be put to gardeners, birders, and others who do not want their presence to find nonlethal methods of deterring them. Tall fences, brick walls, ultrasound, motion detectors, and organic deterrents are just a few of the options available to them.
Should Leitner ultimately fail to convince the authorities in Weißenstein to respect the rights of her cats, the only options left open to her would be to either install cat fencing or to personally supervise Odin's and Lisa's rambles. Under a worst case scenario, she should be prepared to relocate elsewhere should relations with her neighbor from Hölle and the authorities deteriorate to the point that the lives of her cats are put in jeopardy.
Photos: Leitner Family (Odin, Silvia, and Angelina) and ZORE of the Kleine Zeitung (Odin, Lisa, and Angelina).