Chucked Out in the Trash, Tabitha Winds Up in an Oxygen Chamber with Four Broken Ribs, an Injured Lung, and Pneumonia
"She was truly left for dead and had some suffocation injuries. It's a touch-and-go situation right now."
-- veterinarian Andrea Looney
An approximately six-week-old black kitten named Tabitha is waging a valiant struggle to live after having been wrapped in a plastic grocery bag and then tossed in a Dumpster at an apartment complex in Albany, New York. Suffering from four broken ribs, a damaged lung, and pneumonia, she is confined to an oxygen chamber and veterinarians initially gave her only a thirty to forty per cent chance of living. (See photos of her above and below.)
Discovered on September 23rd by an alert maintenance man who was mowing the lawn, Tabitha weighed less than one pound and could barely either open her eyes or breathe. Rushed to Upstate Veterinary Specialties (UVS) in nearby Latham, she was placed on painkillers and antibiotics as well as oxygen.
"She was truly left for dead and had some suffocation injuries," Andrea Looney of UVS told the Albany Times-Union on September 30th. (See "Gravely Injured Kitten Lives in Oxygen Chamber.") "It's a touch-and-go situation right now."
Despite the overwhelming odds against her, Tabitha so far is holding her own. "If she didn't have a little wheeze-rattle, you'd be hard pressed to know that she was so seriously injured and at such risk just days ago," Orange Street Cats (OSC), which has assumed responsibility for her care, stated October 8th in an untitled posting on its Facebook page.
An earlier posting on October 7th stated that although she still was having difficulty breathing, her condition had not worsened. The veterinarians apparently are hoping that her injured lung will heal on its own and not require surgery.
Otherwise, she has been off of pain medication since October 6th and is said to be getting bored with life inside the oxygen chamber. For the time being, she is amusing herself by frolicking with a stuffed bunny and other toys and that certainly is a positive development.
It is unclear how she suffered the internal injuries. More than likely, her previous owner attempted to squeeze the life out of her before chucking her in the trash. It also is conceivable that she could have sustained the life-threatening injuries when additional refuge was deposited in the Dumpster on top of her.
It also is disturbing that press reports do not make any mention of either the police or humane officials even being willing to investigate this horrific and unconscionable act of animal cruelty. For starters, the authorities, if they were the least bit serious about apprehending the culprit, would have begun by searching the contents of the Dumpster for clues.
Secondly, they could have canvassed the apartment building door-to-door looking for additional kittens. Since most litters contains between four and six kittens, any resident in the possession of fewer than that number would have some explaining to do.
Even that would not have been conclusive since some kittens arrive in this world stillborn and others almost immediately are fobbed off by their owners on friends and strangers alike. Additionally, the perpetrator simply could have disposed of the remainder of the litter in the same fashion that he attempted to get rid of Tabitha.
Since some apartment dwellers tend to be nosey-parkers, they might know which tenants keep cats. The building superintendent and maintenance workers who are in and out of the units making repairs also would be in a position to possibly assist the authorities.
So far, Tabitha's emergency veterinary treatment has cost OSC in excess of $2,700 and that figure is expected to climb significantly higher in the difficult weeks and months ahead. That in turn has forced the organization, which specializes in rescuing and sterilizing cats, to appeal to the public for financial assistance. Anyone interested in helping Tabitha can do so by contacting OSC either by telephone at (518) 533-5242 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OSC also needs help in finding homes for some of the remaining seventy-two cats that it, in justified defiance of the local authorities, trapped and rescued from a condemned house at 198 Orange Street during the summer of 2010. (See Albany Times-Union, August 18, 2010, "Cat Love Trumps Law.")
Although sterilizations are what the group does best, OSC was not about to turn its back on Tabitha. "But we're not going to say 'no' when a little Tabitha comes by," the organization's Diane Metz explained to the Times-Union in the September 30th article cited supra. "We've just gone with it. We've decided that's 'Bewitched's' daughter, and she's magical."
Although the kitten was given its moniker by her rescuers at the apartment complex, Metz's mentioning of Bewitched most likely is an obscure reference to the popular 1960's television sitcom of the same name whose plot centered around an advertising executive who unwittingly marries a real-life witch and their daughter, also a witch, was named Tabitha.
Tabitha's plight is strikingly similar to the fate that befell a kitten named Duff from Spokane in August of 2009. (See photo of him on the left above.)
That was when he was entombed in a black canvas bag which in turn was sealed up inside a duffel bag and then tossed out with the trash. After spending six days in the trash, Duff finally was rescued on August 20th when maintenance workers reprogramming a garage door overheard his plaintive cries for help.
"This kitten was very lucky to be found at 11:00 this morning, otherwise it probably would have died today," Nicole Montano of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) said at that time. "We are thankful to those who rescued this kitten from what would have been a (sic) horrific death."
Only rarely are those who abuse kittens in such a cavalier manner apprehended, but in this case the culprit, Donivan Crews, was arrested but inexplicably charged with only "confinement in an unsafe manner." As for Duff, although he was emaciated and covered in urine and feces when rescued, he otherwise was in remarkably good shape considering his trying ordeal.
Best of all, his rescuers were scheduled to have adopted him. (See Cat Defender post of October 3, 2009 entitled "Deliberately Entombed Inside a Canvas Bag for Six Days, Duff Is Saved by a Pair of Alert Maintenance Workers at an Apartment Complex in Spokane.")
Tabitha is by no means the only cat in recent memory to have been tossed out with the trash in upstate New York. For example, last December 23rd a gray cat dubbed Jack-in-the-Box was sealed up in a cardboard box and left by the curb between One-Hundred-Ninth and One-Hundred-Tenth streets at Third and Fourth avenues in the Lansingburgh section of Troy. (See photo of him with veterinary assistant Natasha Stalker directly above.)
Luckily for him, local resident Melissa Lombardo reached him before the garbagemen. Lombardo, who was out walking a pit bull named Phoebe whom she was at the time fostering, made the discovery when she heard the cat crying and Phoebe started sniffing at the box. (See photo below of the cardboard box in which he was found.)
"I was shocked and sad," Lombardo told WXXA-TV of Albany on December 23rd. (See "Abandoned Cat Found 'Miracle on One-Hundred-Tenth Street'.") "I felt bad for the cat. It was obviously scared. It was crying."
Lombardo telephoned the Troy Police who came and collected Jack and transported him to the Troy Veterinary Hospital where he was treated for exposure. Other than that, he was expected to make a full recovery. "Considering what he has been through he came in a really good condition and he's doing really good now," veterinarian Laura Engel told WXXA-TV.
Nevertheless, it was still a close shave for Jack. In particular, he very easily could have frozen to death in that Decembers in Troy usually are brutally cold and snowy. Even if the elements had not done him in, he easily could have been killed by either the garbage collectors or crushed to death later when they dumped their load, most likely at either a landfill, incinerator, or recycling facility.
Normally, that would have been the end of the matter. No one would have bothered to investigate it and the perpetrator would have gotten away with his crime. Fortunately, Captain John Cooney of the Troy Police is a rare bird amongst lawmen.
"It's just a horrible crime; it's cruel and inhumane. Every step that we can take including door-to-door canvassing of the neighborhood and probably a search of the garbage in the pile will be done in order to get some resolution to the crime that occurred here," he vowed to WXXA-TV in the article cited supra. "It's certainly a criminal investigation. The Cruelty Animal Statute which covers this type of incident is a misdemeanor but, this is going to get a little extra look. The box the cat was found in has been secured as evidence and its beer checked for trace evidence. We'll go as far as fingerprints, DNA evidence on the box."
Just as the Washington Humane Society (WHS) demonstrated back in May through its investigation and apprehension of Nicole Dauphiné of the Smithsonian Institution for allegedly attempting to poison a colony of homeless cats in Washington, good, old-fashioned detective work is the only way that animal abusers ever will be caught and made to pay for their crimes. (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.")
Police departments and humane groups that wallow in self-righteous moral denunciations and offer up only minuscule reward money as substitutes for undertaking concrete action had just as well keep their traps shut and wallets secured for all the good that they accomplish. Any group halfway serious about putting a stop to animal cruelty must do like Cooney and the WHS and commit the resources and intellectual acumen to the cause.
Cooney's due diligence paid off on December 30th with the arrest of forty-eight-year-old Michael T. Walsh of 10 Woodbridge Drive. (See photo of him on the right below.)
Walsh, who later pleaded not guilty to three counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, had taken the kitten off the hands of Robin Becker who had evicted him because he allegedly was urinating outside his litter box. Although he pledged to Becker to take Jack to a shelter, he instead dumped him in the trash once he, allegedly, starting fouling the box with still more piss.
Later in court, Walsh further claimed that in dumping Jack he was doing him a favor. "I did not want to bring it to a shelter because I did not want them to put the cat to sleep," he vowed to the Albany Times-Union on January 3rd. (See "Man Thought He was Protecting Cat.") "I took it to an alley in Lansingburgh and left it on the side. I figured that someone would find it and give it a good home."
In addition to espousing an overly sanguine view of human nature, Walsh's explanation does not hold water in that abandoning a boxed-up kitten in the cold and at a garbage pickup site is guaranteed to lead only to its succumbing to either hypothermia or a trash compactor. While it is true that just about all shelters are dressed-up extermination camps, anyone who cared the least little bit about a cat at least would abandon it in a secure wooded area, preferably where there are barns and other outhouses that would provide it with a measure of shelter.
For her part, old Becker bird has pleaded total ignorance as to Walsh's true intentions. "I looked up at TV and saw my cat on TV," she shrieked to the Times-Union in the January 3rd article cited supra. "I said 'Oh my God, that's my cat!' I heard the news story and flipped out."
Statements such as those prove that she is every bit as full of it as Walsh. First of all, it takes kittens that grow up indoors a while to get used to using a litter box.
Just as importantly, Walsh and Becker conveniently have forgotten that when they were young their mothers had to change their diapers and empty their pots de chambre for the first two years of their lives. Compared to humans, kittens are considerably quicker on the uptake.
Likewise at the other end of life's cycle, old men and women often loose control of their bladders and bowels and yet no one would dare suggest that they be either chucked out in the cold or killed. When either a cat or a dog becomes incontinent, however, a date with the hangman normally is de rigueur.
In the final analysis, anyone unwilling to clean up a little urine and poop left behind by either a kitten or a senior cat does not have any business adopting one in the first place. True love does not wane just because a bladder no longer is as resilient as it used to be and a sphincter no longer functions as it should.
Everything eventually turned out all right for Jack in that he was scheduled to have been adopted into a new home during the first week of January. That joyful denouement to this tragic incident served as a fitting bookend to what Cooney initially had termed "the miracle on One-Hundred-Tenth Street."
Just as Lombardo saved Jack's life by her timely intervention, an unidentified pedestrian did likewise for a black cat named Titch from Westcliff in Essex on January 8, 2010. Having overheard Titch's cries for help from inside both a plastic bag and a backpack, the pedestrian reached into the trash and freed her. (See photo above of Titch with RSPCA inspector Matthew Gough.)
Fortunately, Titch was unharmed and later adopted. (See Cat Defender post of February 24, 2010 entitled "Sealed Up in a Backpack Inside a Plastic Bag and Then Tossed in the Trash, Titch Is Rescued by a Passerby in Essex.")
On February 3rd of this year, a four-month-old nearly blind kitten named Pacman was found inside a small box in a Dumpster in Middletown, Connecticut. (See photo of him below.)
"I was behind the blade," Mike Armetta of Dainty Rubbish Service told the Record Journal of Meriden on February 7th. (See "Kitten Saved from Trash Compactor.") "It's a miracle that the animal didn't end up in there (the compactor)."
Pacman will require major surgery in order to save the sight in one of his eyes but other than that he was said to be doing well in the aftermath of his close brush with disaster. Taken to the Humane Society's no-kill facility in Meriden, he was said to be "eating like a horse."
Although Pacman's surgery and care will cost the shelter a pretty penny, its director, Marlena DiBianco, was not doing any more complaining about that than OSC is about the exorbitant cost of attending to Tabitha. "They saved it," she told the Record Journal. "I was really happy they did that."
Both Pacman and Tabitha would have faced entirely different fates if they had been found by anyone associated with PETA. (See Cat Defender post of October 7, 2011 entitled "PETA Traps and Kills a Cat and Then Shamelessly Goes Online in Order to Brag About Its Criminal and Foul Deed.")
Armetta has expressed an interest in adopting Pacman as soon as he recuperates from his surgery so things may eventually work out for him. No arrests have been made in the case.
In September of 2010, a six-month-old cat named Smokie from Kingston upon Hull in Yorkshire was discovered at the last minute trapped in a trash can inside the crushing machinery at a recycling center. Luckily, the alert staff overheard his cries and saved him from being crushed and recycled. He then was taken to a veterinarian where an implanted microchip identified him as belonging to Susan and Philip Hirons who live a quarter of a mile from the recycling center.
Smokie also had the good fortune to come through his death-defying ordeal physically unscathed although his nerves, quite understandably, took a beating. His owners additionally believe that, as so often is the case, his trusting nature made him an easy target for this type of horrific abuse.
"Smokie had a miraculous escape. I am really annoyed by this. Whoever did this to him must be sick," Susan told the Yorkshire Post on September 21, 2010. (See "Copycat Fears as Kitten Found in Bin at Crusher.") "How did they sleep knowing he was hungry, cold, frightened and about to go into the landfill site and get buried alive?"
The circumstances in this case leave little doubt that Smokie was purposefully stuffed into the trash can. "There's no way he could have got in the bin by accident," Susan added to the Yorkshire Post. "I wonder if people are copying that woman who threw a cat in a wheelie bin?"
By that she is referring to forty-five-year-old spinster Mary Bale of Coventry who on August 21, 2010 was captured on a surveillance camera stopping to pet Stephanie and Darryl Andrews-Mann's four-year-old cat, Lola. After making sure that the coast was clear, she picked up Lola and stuffed her in a trash can before hurrying on her way. (See photo of her and Lola above.)
Lola was rescued fifteen hours later when Darryl overheard her crying from inside the trash can and the surveillance tape eventually led to Bale's arrest. Once her case finally came to trial, she was let off with a £250 fine plus £1,171 in court costs. (See The Sun, October 20, 2010, "Cat Chucker's Claim Trashed.")
Although the incident led to her being fired from her job as a cashier at the Royal Bank of Scotland in nearby Rugby and made her the bête noire of cat lovers everywhere, Bale remained unrepentant to the very end. "I don't know what the fuss is all about," she complained to the Daily Mail on August 26, 2010. (See "Grey-Haired Bank Worker Who Dumped Cat in Wheelie Bin Could Face Court as RSPCA Prosecutors Review Case.") "It's just a cat."
"It's the 'only' that's the problem: they're only animals, and we're the only species that matters," Michele Hanson pointed out in The Guardian on August 28, 2010. (See "Cat Litter Episode Shows How Our Pets Are Both Protected and Persecuted.") "But we're not."
Even when malice aforethought is not intended, innumerable cats either wander into trash recycling centers on their own or wind up there by accident. Some of them, such as seven-week-old Penny from Chester in Cheshire and Aflie from Kirknewton in West Lothian, Scotland, are saved at the last minute but countless others are crushed to death. (See Cat Defender posts of August 23, 2007 and May 4, 2010 entitled, respectively, "An Alert Scrap Metal Worker Discovers a Pretty 'Penny' Hidden in a Mound of Rubble" and "Picked Up by a Garbage Truck Driver and Dumped with the Remainder of the Trash, Alfie Narrowly Misses Being Recycled.")
As all of these cases demonstrate, disposing of unwanted cats, especially kittens, by throwing them out in the trash is not only pervasive but pretty much the perfect crime to boot. Nothing short of compelling everyone who handles trash from maintenance workers to haulers to personnel at recycling centers to either inspect or electronically scan everything that they handle before permanently disposing of it ever will be able to put an end to this horrifying loss of innocent lives.
While that is unlikely to become a reality, the eventual abolition of both Animal Control officers and conventional shelters is a real possibility. If a free and humane alternative that respected life were available, most inviduals would willingly surrender their unwanted cats to these facilities.
Free sterilization services, as opposed to jabs of sodium pentobarbital, would be another step in the right direction. (See Cat Defender post of February 12, 2011 entitled "Disabled Former Casino Worker Is Sent to Jail for Shoplifting Food in Order to Feed Her Twelve Cats.")
Photos: Orange Street Cats (Tabitha), SCRAPS (Duff), Southend Standard (Titch and Gough), Albany Times-Union (Jack and Stalker, Walsh), WXXA-TV (Jack's box), Dave Zajac of the Record Journal (Pacman), and Darryl Andrews-Mann via the Daily Mail (Bale and Lola).