Gracie's Life Is Placed in Grave Danger after the Snug Harbor Cultural Center Attempts to Drown Her and Steals Her Food Bowls
"She (Gracie) needs to stay where she is. You can't just take a cat like that and make her a house cat; she'd flip out."
-- Diane Figur
The Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, located on the North Shore of Staten Island, may be renown for its museums, gardens, performance spaces, and artists' studios, but the shabby and utterly disgraceful manner in which it is treating its oldest and most beloved resident, a sixteen-year-old gray cat named Gracie, has shattered its carefully crafted public facade and exposed one of its dirtiest secrets. (See photos of her above and below.)
In human terms, Gracie is the equivalent of eighty years old and she has spent her entire life on the grounds of the eighty-three acre cultural hideaway. Now, the mean-spirited arty-farty bigwigs who run the show have decreed that she must go.
"We would like to make an appeal to the no-kill animal rescue and adoption organizations to help Gracie find a loving home, rather than keeping her in the unprotected outdoors," the institution's Lynn Kelly told the Staten Island Advance on July 21st. (See "Snug Harbor Wrestles with a Problem (feline) Named Gracie.")
There even has been some reckless talk that "smelly" Kelly plans on having Gracie trapped and handed over to the knackers at Animal Care and Control (ACC) where in all likelihood she would be killed off shortly after arrival. (See photo of Kelly at the bottom of the page.)
For example, in 2009 ACC exterminated 9,097 cats and 4,523 dogs out of the 41,712 that it impounded. It fobbed off another 17,641 on obliging rescue groups and shelters while it secured homes for only 8,192 of its inmates.
The killing thus continues unabated despite blowhard Mayor Mike "Dirty Bloomers" Bloomberg's decade-old pledge to transform the richest city in the world into a no-kill haven for cats and dogs. (See the New York Times, April 12, 2010, "Percentage of Animals Put to Death in Shelters Reaches Low.")
Since usually two to three times as many cats are impounded as dogs, it is a pretty safe bet to assume that ACC kills at least sixty per cent of all cats that it impounds. Moreover, it is not even certain that its sketchy statistics include the thousands of cats who die each year due to unsanitary conditions at the city's overcrowded death camps in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.
Shelters are not necessarily a good thing, but the city nonetheless is too bloody cheap to even provide the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx with holding facilities. New Yorkers may be famous for their deep pockets but, if the turth dare be told, their arms are even shorter.
Although Gracie has persevered at Snug Harbor over the years, it has not been any bed of roses. Local residents had her sterilized and vaccinated upon arrival and continue to provide her with food and water.
Despite the readily observable fact that the weather in the northeast is either rotten or downright horrible eight months out of the year, her caretakers inexplicably have left her out in the elements for all of these years. It also would appear that they have spent virtually no time with her because she is still rather skittish around humans.
It is a mundane point but individuals who care about homeless cats need to realize that caring for them involves considerably more than just simply dropping off food and water each day and then hurriedly scampering back to their comfortable and secure bourgeois existences. If they truly believe in their hearts that roughing it in blizzards and sub-freezing temperatures is such great fun they should try it themselves!
In addition to being forced into living like a refugee in the only home that she ever has known, officials at Snug Harbor reportedly have made prior attempts over the years in order to get rid of her. Exactly what those ouster proceedings have entailed never has been disclosed.
It has been revealed, however, that earlier this year Snug Harbor resorted to violence when an unidentified employee flooded Gracie's sleeping quarters near a heat vent underneath the stairs of Building G, which houses the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art and the Box Office. Along about the same time her food and water bowls also were stolen.
Once her precarious situation became known, an online petition in support of allowing her to remain garnered more than six-hundred signatures in the space of four days last month. That, along with the negative publicity that Snug Harbor has received, seems to have, at least for the time being, put the kibosh on the organization's evil designs.
"I have confirmation that Gracie will be allowed to stay at Snug Harbor," Lila Levey of the Staten Island Council for Animal Welfare (SICAW) stated July 31st on the group's Facebook page in an addendum to her original entry of July 13th. (See "Gracie a Sixteen-Year-Old Feral Cat Being Forced from the Only Home She Has Known Needs Your Help. Be a Voice for the Voiceless.") "Please know that Gracie is being closely monitored and any change will not be acceptable and we'll be sure to let you all know."
SICAW does not spell out precisely what measures it has put in place in order to ensure Gracie's safety. After all, it is very easy to kill a cat. Snug Harbor could poison her, shoot her, or trap and give her to ACC without her benefactors being any the wiser until it was too late.
That is particularly worrisome in that Snug Harbor is an affiliate museum of the Smithsonian Institution which operates the National Zoo in Washington. More importantly, that is where Nico Dauphiné toils away at her dirty deeds. (See Cat Defender post of July 12, 2011 entitled "The Arrest of Nico Dauphiné for Attempting to Poison a Colony of Homeless Cats Unmasks the National Zoo as a Hideout for Ailurophobes and Criminals.")
It is not widely known but the federal government hates cats with a passion. That is true not only of the Smithsonian, but the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA's Wildlife Services and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, the Pentagon, United States Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Forest Service, and the National Park Service, just to mention a few of its cat-hating divisions. C'est-à-dire, any entity with any remote connection to the feds is a bad omen for cats.
It additionally is interesting to note that in none of its public pronouncements has Snug Harbor ever accused Gracie of any wrongdoing; on the contrary, the institution acknowledges that she avoids people and stays out of the way. Obviously, the staff has let her know in no uncertain terms that her presence is not welcome.
In order to mask its virulent ailurophobia, Snug Harbor instead is relying upon the pretext that feeding animals is strictly verboten in New York City's one-hundred-sixty-five or so parks. It is making that ludicrous claim in spite of the fact that birds, fish, guinea pigs, and insects are fed daily and with much fanfare at the Staten Island Children's Museum, which is located within its complex.
The same holds true for the thousands of animals unjustly incarcerated at the Central Park Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn, and Queens Park at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It also is extremely doubtful that the authorities ticket the hundreds of denizens and tourists alike who every day feed the birds, squirrels, and other animals that live in the city's parks.
Only recently the Unsinkable Molly Brown made the headlines when she took up residence on Governors Island. Presumably, she is being fed and watered and, if not, local humane groups should be investigating. (See Cat Defender post of July 25, 2011 entitled "The Unsinkable Molly Brown Rides the Waves of Outrageous Fortune to a Safe Harbor on Governors Island but It Is Uncertain What Has Happened to Her.")
It therefore seems perfectly clear that in New York City it is only illegal to feed cats in parks and, especially, one named Gracie at Snug Harbor. It is even more remarkable that it took "smelly" Kelly and her henchmen sixteen years to conjure up that bit of prejudicial nonsense.
Appealing to Snug Harbor to have a heart and thus to show some compassion and decency is therefore a total waste of time. Time and time again it has demonstrated through its gross neglect and horrendous abuse of Gracie that it has none of either to offer.
It additionally is so blinded by its irrational hatred of cats that it fails to realize what a truly valuable asset Gracie is and that it should be feeding, sheltering, and protecting her if for no other reason than out of what Count Alexis de Tocqueville once called self-interest rightly understood. "She is like an icon there," Diane Figur of nearby Randall Manor told the Staten Island Advance in the article cited supra. "Think of all the children and people that have passed by her; there really is something special about that cat."
None of that in any way helps Gracie who is living on borrowed time in a perilous environment. It therefore is incumbent upon her guardians to take whatever steps that they deem appropriate in order to ensure her safety and continued well-being.
"She needs to stay where she is," Figur added to the Staten Island Advance. "You can't just take a cat like that and make her a house cat; she'd flip out."
That also is the considered opinion of SICAW. "She is a much loved golden gal, and will enjoy her little porch because we gave her a voice when she so desperately needed one," the organization declared in the Facebook entry cited supra.
That is, of course, their decision to make but it is difficult to see how that they can ensure her continued safety without legal assistance. One possible option would be to have an attorney slap a cease and desist order on Snug Harbor.
Even if they ultimately decide to keep her at Snug Harbor, it is the very epitome of cruel and inhumane behavior for them not to provide her with a winterized shelter that is safe and warm. No cat, especially a senior citizen, should be sentenced to spend winters outdoors in the snowbelt.
It would take some doing but cats are far more adaptable than Figur and others are willing to admit and Grace just might be able to adjust to domesticated life provided that she were placed in a home that had a large yard. A stable supply of good quality meat, milk, love, and a warm spot beside the fireplace during the wintertime mean an awful lot to a cat.
Her new guardian would need to be someone that she either already knows and trusts or a person who is experienced in socializing cats. In the latter case, it would be best to give Gracie plenty of space and freedom and not to force her into anything. Cats, after all, like to take their own sweet time and tend to make up minds as it suits them.
One possibility would be to provide her with a private room that no one else would enter except to feed her and to change the litter box. The room ideally would be connected to a large fenced-in yard by a cat flap.
Such an arrangement would not only preclude her from attempting a perilous trip back to Snug Harbor but it would provide her with a measure of freedom and independence. In time, she might discover that she would like some companionship and therefore venture into other parts of the house.
If not, that would be fine as well. The important thing is that she be given a safe and warm place to live.
Since her caretakers have cruelly left her to the mercy of both the elements and her enemies at Snug Harbor for so long it is unlikely that they are going to have an epiphany anytime soon and do right by Gracie. It is a monumental failure of human nature but even when many ailurophiles look at a cat they see it only through the prism of their own needs; the individual cat and its needs and desires remains as foreign to them as the stars in a distant galaxy.
Sadly, the world is chock-full of cats like Gracie who are treated as vermin by their detractors and as second-class citizens by those who claim to have their best interests at heart. Not surprisingly, that is exactly how the poor and downtrodden are treated by such infamous poverty pimps as social workers, the Christians, and Jews.
For example, a cat named Olivia has been forced to subsist in a parking lot in Modesto, California, for the past eleven years. Although the machinations of motorists, auto emissions, and the elements bedevil her fragile existence she, unlike Gracie, at least has the support and protection of the lawyers, clerks, and district attorney who work nearby. (See Cat Defender post of January 29, 2011 entitled "After Scrimping by in a Polluted Parking Lot for Eleven Years, Olivia Is Ready for a Loving and Permanent Home.")
Photos: Jay Somma-Hammel of the Staten Island Advance (Gracie) and Next Left Notes (Kelly).