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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Rogue TNR Practitioner and Three Unscrupulous Veterinarians Kill at Least Sixty-Two Cats with the Complicity of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals

"He (Anthony) was sweet, mellow and very laid back. Nothing bothered him. I called him the Rastafarian cat. One of my other cats, Parker, keeps looking for him and crying. Our hearts are broken."
-- Marie Nasta

Serial cat killers come in as many guises as the protagonist in Herman Melville's The Confidence Man and employ an equal number of ruses. For Paul Zhang, the public facade that he hid behind in order to mask his outrageous atrocities was that of a dedicated practitioner of TNR. (See photo of him above on the right.)

His modus operandi, although hardly novel, was every bit as mundane as it was diabolical. He borrowed traps from the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals and other unidentified groups, trapped at least sixty-two cats from colonies that he claims to have managed in Ridgewood, Queens, and Bushwick, Brooklyn, and then took them to at least three money-hungry, totally unscrupulous veterinarians in Queens who were only too happy to do his killing for him in return for, quite naturally, a hefty fee.

Since his recent unmasking, the forty-one-year-old Zhang has made more pirouettes around the truth than a dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet does during a season of performances. If each verbal revolution has proven anything, it is that he is not only a ruthless killer but an inveterate liar to boot.

For whatever it is worth, he claims to have been feeding and sterilizing cats at nine colonies in Ridgewood and Bushwick for the "past few years" but out of the blue one day decided to become their executioner because he could no longer go on feeding them. Other than indicating that he has relocated from Queens to Manhattan, Zhang has not provided any clue as to why he no longer was able to continue caring for the cats.

Since his claim to have been a humane practitioner of TNR never has been independently verified, it is conceivable that he has been trapping and killing cats all along. If that is true, the number of cats that he has had killed could be astronomical because he boldly claims to have assisted the Mayor's Alliance in trapping thousands of them. Besides, there are other nefarious ways in which to kill cats other than taking them to a veterinarian.

In categorically rejecting all humane alternatives, Zhang has sought sanctuary in the often repeated lie that he did not want to see the cats suffer. "I can't bear the thought of my animals getting out or being abandoned," he told The Gothamist on December 13th. (See "Sixty-Two Cats and Counting: Confessions of a Serial Cat Killer.") "So I did the best thing I can consider for them to never experience suffering. So I put them all down."

Although morally abhorrent and patently dishonest, such sophistry has many adherents. In particular, countless cat and dog owners scarcely think twice about killing off their companions once they become either elderly or incontinent.

In doing so they wallow in the same lies as Zhang when in reality they simply are too cheap to provide them with proper veterinary care and too lazy to clean up after them. (See Cat Defender posts of October 27, 2008 and March 12, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Loved and Admired All over the World, Feline Heroine Scarlett Is Killed Off by Her Owner after She Becomes Ill" and "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned.")

That also is the gospel that disreputable PETA trumpets from the rooftops. Although the organization uncharacteristically has not publicly commented on Zhang's crimes, it surely must be thrilled to its rotten back teeth to have found such an ardent acolyte. (See Cat Defender posts of October 7, 2011, January 29, 2007, and February 9, 2007 entitled, respectively, "PETA Traps and Kills a Cat and Then Shamelessly Goes Online in Order to Brag about Its Criminal and Foul Deed," "PETA's Long History of Killing Cats and Dogs Is Finally Exposed in North Carolina Courtroom," and "Verdict in PETA Trial: Littering Is a Crime but Not the Mass Slaughter of Innocent Cats and Dogs.")

There are numerous rebuttals to such a morally repugnant and dishonest philosophy but none perhaps more pertinent than to point out that a cat is not a human. Whereas individuals can freely choose to have their lives extinguished by Dignitas and the likes of Jack Kevorkian, no cats ever have made such requests and inveterate cat-haters like Zhang and PETA do not have any right making them for them.

Even if cats were capable of talking, like Saki's fictional Tobermory, it is highly unlikely that any of them would freely choose to take the Roman way out of this vale of tears. In perhaps no species is the will to live any stronger than in cats. After all, it is not without reason that they are said to have nine lives.

As far as the argument about suffering is concerned, it is first of all patently untrue that homeless cats suffer far more than domesticated ones. Their lives sometimes are marred by pain and deprivations but they are free and lead fuller, more vibrant existences than do their house-bound cousins who often only grow fat and lazy.

Moreover, indoor cats are subject to a variety of ailments and toxins that do not affect those that live exclusively outdoors. (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.")

Much more poignantly, all life involves a far amount of suffering and that is true for cats as well as humans. It is impossible to have one without the other. The fact that cretins like Zhang and PETA exult in committing mass exterminations exposes their crocodile tears about suffering to be nothing but a self-serving fabrication.

It additionally is the very epitome of anthropomorphism run amuck for them to maintain that the lives of homeless cats do not have any value. "Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it," Henry David Thoreau once said. That is especially the case where the animals and Mother Earth are concerned but when it comes to cats some individuals and groups have gotten it into their desiccated gourds that they have a God-given right to kill them with impunity.

Before arriving at his abominable decision to have the cats liquidated, Zhang claims first to have sought out the assistance of multiple animal welfare organizations to take over their care but none would give him so much as the time of day. Ordinarily that is par for the course in that rescue groups, like social workers and theologians, blow long and hard about how much they love cats but whenever they actually are presented with live, breathing animals in need they suddenly become as deaf as adders and run for cover.

In Zhang's case, however, his claim is contradicted not only by two veterinarians but, much more importantly, his own words and deeds. In particular, he admits categorically refusing to hand over the cats to the city's Animal Care and Control (ACC), not out of a legitimate fear that they would be killed, but rather just the opposite.

"Because I also think Animal Care and Control does shit adoptions," he told The Gothamist in the article cited supra. "I'm sorry, I'm a little prejudiced but I've seen the people that come in to adopt there and I would never let my cats go with them."

On that point Zhang's fears were groundless because ACC either cannot or will not put up homeless cats for adoption. "There's no point in a feral cat going into Animal Care and Control because they can't adopt them out," Jane Hoffman of the Mayor's Alliance told The Gothamist on December 15th. (See "Don't Let Crazies Kill Kittens, Get Trap-Neuter-Release Certified.")

Since he undoubtedly was as well aware of that as everyone else, his choice to pay veterinarians in order to kill off the cats must have been undertaken solely in order to avoid detection.

The case against Zhang comes into sharper focus once the testimony of veterinarians who cooperated with him in his diabolical scheme is examined. In particular, an unidentified practitioner claims to have wanted to adopt out one of his cats but he would not permit it.

"I wanted to help him put it up for adoption since it was healthy and didn't show any aggression," the veterinarian told The Gothamist in the December 13th article cited supra. "It was against our ethics to put that to sleep, I wouldn't do it."

It is nice to know that the veterinarian belatedly located either his or her moral compass even if it was only after, according to Zhang, killing twenty-six other cats for him. The veterinarian's reference to the cat as "that" additionally demonstrates either an inability or an unwillingness to recognize a difference between animate and inanimate objects.

The only veterinary clinic so far to be publicly identified as willingly participating in Zhang's mass slaughter is Antelyes Animal Hospital at 6209 Fresh Pond Road in Middle Village, Queens. It was opened in 1985 by Patricia Squillace who was joined in practice in 1994 by Satomi Ueda.

"At Antelyes Animal Hospital, we know how much your pet means to you. After all, they are part of the family. And, because they're part of the family, your pets deserve the best medical care available," Squillace and Ueda proclaim on their web site. "Whether it's an emergency or regular preventative treatment, Antelyes Animal Hospital is Middle Village's best choice for quality veterinary services." (See photo above that appears on the surgery's web site.)

In addition to all of that it surely must be Middle Village's number one cat killing factory because it acknowledges killing at least ten cats for Zhang. "We did euthanize several cats for him, believing that we were doing the right thing. We scanned them for microchips but none had them," the surgery told The Gothamist on December 12th. (See "Meet the Proud Cat Killer of Brooklyn and Queens.")

After a while even the unscrupulous moneygrubbing slugs at Antelyes got cold feet and began to offer Zhang other alternatives. "We offered to take in some to use as barn cats. He refused. We offered to spay-neuter and release at low cost. He refused. We offered to find good homes for these cats. He refused," Antelyes told The Gothamist.

It was, however, when the surgery steadfastly refused to kill any more cats for him that Zhang finally showed his true colors. "He threatened to drown the cats at home," Antelyes told The Gothamist. "This was when his true sick nature was finally displayed to us. We deeply regret that we even helped him for a short time."

Even in admitting that much Antelyes is being considerably less than candid because instead of immediately reporting Zhang to the police it merely instructed him to find another veterinarian to do his dirty work for him. It therefore is not only guilty of murdering ten totally innocent cats but complicit in Zhang's other monstrous crimes.

His profuse anti-feline rhetoric also exposes him as an inveterate cat-hater. "Not wanting to put cats to sleep is an emotional response, not a logical one if you really know what's going on out there," he pontificated to The Gothamist in the December 13th article cited supra. "I wish there was a service where we can trap these outside cats and put them to sleep, but it's not available since it's considered politically incorrect."

First of all, life for cats and humans alike is all emotion; reason merely aids the passions in achieving their objectives. For example, some individuals, such as Zhang, hate cats whereas other love them.

Secondly, with Animal Control, conventional shelters, rescue groups, veterinarians, fraudulent no-kill operations, the various departments of the United States Government, ornithologists, wildlife biologists, and others killing tens of millions of cats each year Zhang's vigilanteism is neither needed nor warranted.

No one is willing to disclose either how long or how many cats Zhang has killed. Even more disturbing, his killing spree easily could have gone on seemingly forever if he had not mistakenly trapped Marie Nasta's cat, Anthony, on November 20th and taken him to Antelyes to be killed. (See photos of him below.)

Eternally devoted to the orange stray that she took into her Bushwick apartment in 2008, Nasta made inquiries around her neighborhood after he disappeared that eventually led her to Zhang. "He denied it at first. He was very lucid and polite. But the timing and the fact of the cat's personality didn't sound right," she confided to The Gothamist in the December 12th article cited supra. "So when I called him back I asked him again. And finally he admitted he'd taken him to a vet."

"I feel very sad for what happened because Anthony did have a loving home. Please don't feel insulted by my saying this: Too many pets get lost and many of them have a worse fate out there than to be humanely euthanized," Zhang halfheartedly apologized to Nasta according to the December 12th edition of The Gothamist. "I don't know why this happened but it did. If I could bring Anthony back, I would. I could feel how much you loved him. Perhaps because so many people abandon their animals in the Bushwick area, I just made a wrong decision thinking, like all other cats, no one would look for them (sic)."

After all of his other explanations had been exposed as lies, Zhang next turned to religion in order to justify his complete lack of morality. "Many people have made physical threats against me. You (Nasta) may have read my posting (on Craigslist) that I do not fear death at all and look forward to it because I have a firm belief in the beauty of the afterlife," he told The Gothamist. "If it's any consolation, you will see Anthony again just as I will reunite with all of my animals again."

If Zhang's appeal to religion sounds familiar it is because Ken White of the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo recently indulged in the same self-serving baloney in order to justify killing Marvin of Half Moon Bay. (See Cat Defender post of September 28, 2011 entitled "Marvin Is Betrayed, Abducted, and Murdered by a Journalist and a Shelter Who Preposterously Maintain That They Were Doing Him a Favor.")

The more that religion is delved into the clearer it becomes that it is not only a particularly unsavory business but anti-life as well. Not only do adherents use it as a convenient excuse in order to absolve themselves of all moral responsibility toward their fellow man, the animals, and Mother Earth, but they additionally invoke it as a justification to commit all sorts of heinous crimes. (See Cat Defender posts of May 1, 2010 and December 23, 2010 entitled, respectively, "When It Comes to Cats, Acts of Faith Count for Absolutely Nothing with the Good Christians of Northside Baptist" and "Tavia's Desperate Pleas for Help Fall Upon the Deaf Ears of the Evangelical Who Abandoned Her and the Heartless Officials and Citizens of Kissimmee.")

If Zhang and those who think like him truly hate this life and world as much as they pretend the proper thing for them to do is to free themselves from it by jumping off of a bridge. They do not, however, have any right to take out their hatred of it on cats by denying them the right to exist.

"People keep calling me crazy now and won't talk about my solution but I told the three vets I used exactly what it is," Zhang told The Gothamist in the December 13th article cited supra. "I am trying to prevent or reduce colony cat suffering. Why would I go through this trouble, to do this? What sick reason could I have?"

No, Zhang definitely is not crazy. Rather, he is an evil cat-hating fiend and should be treated as such.

In addition to Anthony, Zhang also has killed several other cats that Nasta regularly fed. She since has sent out missives to area veterinarians warning them about Zhang's tactics but it is highly unlikely that any of them will be willing to pass up an opportunity to line their pockets at the expense of innocent cats.

Since the part-time instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan is not planning on instigating civil action against Zhang, she has been left to her grief and the bitter realization that Anthony's cold-blooded killer is destined to go unpunished. "He was sweet, mellow and very laid back. Nothing bothered him. I called him the Rastafarian cat," she told The Gothamist on December 12th. "One of my other cats, Parker, keeps looking for him and crying. Our hearts are broken."

Anyone who ever has loved and lost a cat knows only too well the heartbreak and pain that she now is experiencing. For some individuals there is no greater tragedy in life than losing a beloved cat.

The deafening silence of animal protection groups in New York City in the wake of Zhang's unmasking has been almost as revealing as his twisted thinking. "It's a shame that this has happened and I hate to have one bad apple spoil the whole barrel, because there are a lot of good people out there doing good TNR and we're really beginning to gain traction," Hoffman of the Mayor's Alliance declared to The Gothamist in the December 15th article cited supra. "We in no way, shape, or form condone what he was doing and emphasize it is not trap-neuter-return."

That is a debatable point in that no one other than the volunteers knows for certain what goes on in managed colonies. For example, Alley Cat Allies admits to returning to the Boardwalk only forty per cent of the cats that it traps in Atlantic City.

It accordingly could be killing off the other sixty per cent. (See Cat Defender post of December 10, 2011 entitled "Snowball Succumbs to the Inevitable after Toughing It Out for Two Decades at Atlantic City's Dangerous Underwood Hotel.")

It therefore is impossible to truly gauge the humaneness of TNR without knowing the kill rate of each managed colony. In furtherance of that goal, veterinarians and so-called no-kill operations also should be compelled to disclose their kill rates.

Any TNR program that does not respect the right of all cats to live is therefore completely illegitimate. Furthermore, implicit in that right is the right to competent veterinary care and, in particular, cats that suffer from such common maladies as FeLV and FIV must be treated as opposed to being killed.

Even more telling, Hoffman's organization not only categorically has refused to investigate Zhang and his accomplices within the veterinary medical profession but it aided and abetted his crimes by, at the very minimum, lending him traps. Besides running for cover, all the Alliance has done is to demand that he return the traps lent to him.

"That's fine. They can take their traps and shove it," Zhang retorted to The Gothamist on December 12th. "They have no idea what they are going to lose. They want five or six back? That's fine, I (have) bought more of my own."

As far as it is known, Zhang is still in control of all of his colonies except those in Bushwich which he claims to be too afraid to go near any longer. He therefore could very well still be either taking cats to various veterinarians to be killed or, as he has threatened, drowning them.

For some time now the Mayor's Alliance, working hand in glove with Neighborhood Cats and the Humane Society of the United States, has been attempting to bring all colonies and their caretakers under its thumb. Its complicity with Zhang, however, exposes that plot not only to be folly but also casts considerable doubt on the wisdom of allowing the Alliance to be involved with cats in any fashion. (See Cat Defender post of June 15, 2009 entitled "American Bird Conservancy, The New York Times, and the Humane Society Unite to Form as Achse des Bösen Against Cats.")

Not only has the Alliance refused to take action against Zhang and his accomplices, but New York City is not much closer to achieving no-kill status than it was a decade ago when Mayor Mike "Dirty Bloomers" Bloomberg established that lofty goal. More generally speaking, although Gotham is by far the wealthiest city in the country its spending on animal welfare routinely ranks near the bottom year after year.

New York harbors many filthy secrets in its malignant bosom but none is dirtier than its abysmal treatment of cats, geese, carriage horses, and other animals. The pockets of New Yorkers may be deep but their arms are awfully short.

Moreover, the Alliance stood idly by in 2007 when the Port Authority of New York and New York liquidated the cats at JFK. (See Cat Defender post of November 5, 2007 entitled "Port Authority Gives JFK's Long-Term Resident Felines the Boot and Rescue Groups Are Too Impotent To Save Them.")

Earlier this year it failed to act when Gracie's life came under threat at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island. (See Cat Defender post of August 11, 2011 entitled "Gracie's Life Is Placed in Grave Danger after the Snug Harbor Cultural Center Attempts to Drown Her and Steals Her Food Bowls.")

Only recently the city's Department of Health went after Matilda III of the Algonquin and, once again, rescue groups did absolutely nothing when hotel management responded by trussing her up and subjecting her to electrical shock. (See Cat Defender post of December 5, 2011 entitled "The Algonquin Cruelly Responds to Threats Made by New York City by Trussing Up Matilda III and Bombarding Her with Shock Therapy.")

Stealing cats and employing veterinarians to kill them is only a slight variation from the age-old practice of abducting them and giving them to shelters to slaughter. Back in 2006, amateur ornithologist Richard DeSantis of West Islip on Long Island used that modus operandi in order to get rid of his neighbors' cats. (See Cat Defender posts of June 15, 2006 and March 9, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Serial Cat Killer on Long Island Traps Neighbors' Cats and Then Gives Them to Shelter to Exterminate" and "Long Island Serial Cat Killer Guilty of Only Disorderly Conduct, Corrupt Court Rules.")

Real estate tycoon and gardener Mark J. Oberschmidt of Saginaw, Michigan, did the exact thing to his neighbors' cats last year. (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.")

Bird advocates Robert and Debbie McCallum of Edmonds, Washington, attempted to do likewise to Laura Martin's two-year-old cat, Turbo, in 2006 but were foiled in their attempt. (See Cat Defender post of October 30, 2006 entitled "Collar Saves a Cat Named Turbo from Extermination After He Is Illegally Trapped by Bird-Loving Psychopaths.")

Cat-hating vigilantes are not the only ones who steal and kill cats. The RSPCA, for example, has a nasty habit of doing the same thing. (See Cat Defender posts of June 5, 2007 and October 23, 2010 entitled, respectively, "RSPCA's Unlawful Seizure and Senseless Killing of Mork Leaves His Sister, Mindy, Brokenhearted and His Caretakers Devastated" and "RSPCA Steals and Executes Nighshift Who Was His Elderly Caretaker's Last Surviving Link to Her Dead Husband.")

Private exterminators and policemen also are allowed to kill cats with impunity. (See Cat Defender posts of August 30, 2007 and September 22, 2010 entitled "Texas Couple Files Lawsuit Against Pest Control Company for Trapping and Gassing Their Cat, Butty" and "Neanderthaloid Politicians in Lebanon, Ohio, Wholeheartedly Sanction the Illegal and Cold-Blooded Murder of Haze by a Trigger-Happy Cop.")

Not much attention is paid to them but it is conceivable that veterinarians kill nearly as many cats as shelters. Since all of them charge fees that they know most individuals either cannot or will not pay, they aggressively push murder as a cheaper alternative.

Pro bono work is practically unheard of and most of them categorically refuse to extend any form of credit to pet owners. Most of them are in practice only for the money and could care less about what they have to do in order to get it.

As a consequence, saving lives means absolutely nothing to them. As professionals, they are the scum-of-the-earth! (See Cat Defender post of July 16, 2010 entitled "Tossed Out the Window of a Car Like an Empty Beer Can, Injured Chattanooga Kitten Is Left to Die after at Least Two Veterinarians Refused to Treat It.")

Even on those rare occasions when they can be prevailed upon, for a fee of course, to stir themselves they quickly distinguish themselves by their gross incompetence. For example, Wrekin View Vets of Wallington in Shropshire is so negligent that earlier this year it killed the wrong cat. (See Cat Defender post of July 28, 2011 entitled "Tammy and Maddy Are Forced to Pay the Ultimate Price after Their Owner and an Incompetent Veterinarian Elect to Play Russian Roulette with Their Lives.")

Other are are so incompetent that they are unable to either properly set broken legs or to recognize the difference between an eye infection and a ball bearing. (See Cat Defender posts of June 17, 2010 and July 19, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Veterinarian Gets Away with Almost Killing Felix but Is Nailed by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for Not Paying Her Dues" and "Molly Loses an Eye to an Assailant with a Ball Bearing Gun Only Later to Be Victimized by an Incompetent Veterinarian.")

They even quite often botch routine sterilizations. (See Cat Defender posts of July 2, 2010 and February 26, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Lexi Was By No Means the First Cat to Be Lost by Woosehill Vets Any More Than Angel Was Their Last Victim of a Botched Sterilization" and "The Dark Side of Spay and Neuter: Veterinarian Botched Surgeries and Back Alley Castrations Claim the Lives of Numerous Cats.")

The implantation of cancer-causing microchips and the administration of unnecessary and often harmful vaccinations are two more of the profession's favorite scams. (See Cat Defender post of November 6, 2010 entitled "Bulkin Contracts Cancer from an Implanted Microchip and Now It Is Time for Digital Angel and Merck to Answer for Their Crimes in a Court of Law.")

There are many loopholes in the law that allow all sorts of groups and agencies to kill cats with impunity but perhaps none is more egregious than the one that allows veterinarians to decide which animals are to live. No physician ever could get away with deliberately killing patients and veterinarians should be held to the same standard. Moreover, if they were banned from killing, they eventually might be forced into lowering the exorbitant fees that they charge and, for once, actually treating sick and injured animals.

Even those cat owners who do not care one whit about the homeless should be astute enough to realize that even domesticated cats that live indoors sometimes either get lost or stolen. They in turn often wind up in the clutches of monsters like Zhang who hand them over to veterinarians and shelters to be liquidated.

In the final analysis, the only sure-fire way to stop the mischief is to impose an across the board ban on the killing of cats under all circumstances with mandatory lengthy jail terms for all violators. Otherwise unscrupulous veterinarians, monsters like Zhang, shelters, and phony-baloney animal rights groups like the Mayor's Alliance and PETA are destined to continue committing their dastardly crimes.

Photos: The Gothamist (Zhang), Antelyes Animal Hospital (veterinarians with a dog), and Marie Nasta (Anthony).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Snowball Succumbs to the Inevitable after Toughing It Out for Two Decades at Atlantic City's Dangerous Underwood Hotel

"When it came her time to pass, she went back to her original colony and curled up in one of the houses there."
-- Amanda Casazza
Snowball, the gray and white doyenne of Atlantic City's world famous Boardwalk cats, has died. She lived beneath the pines for close to twenty years and is believed to have given up the ghost sometime in August.

"When it came her time to pass, she went back to her original colony and curled up in one of the houses there," Amanda Casazza of Alley Cat Allies (ACA) announced in the organization's September newsletter. (See "Remembering Grandmom: The Long Life of a Boardwalk Cat.")

By that she means that Snowball, also known as Grandmom, returned to her original colony at New Jersey Avenue to die after having resided for years with a colony of cats who live in front of the Taj Mahal.

Since ACA has not disclosed exactly when she died, it is unclear what role, if any, Hurricane Irene may have played in her death when she blew through the evacuated city in late August. High tides used to routinely inundate the so-called Underwood Hotel at New Jersey Avenue until Revel, which has built a new megaresort there with the aid of millions of taxpayer dollars, restored both the beach and eleven-hundred feet of Boardwalk complete with reinforced pilings and decking.

The beach, which used to be less than one-hundred feet wide at low tide, now has grown to an estimated three-hundred-feet of sand and appears to have weathered Irene's wrath rather well. None of that, unfortunately, completely rules out the remote possibility that Snowball may have drowned. (See Philadelphia Inquirer, October 5, 2011, "Casino Embraces Its Environment.")

Even to have died of natural causes at the Underwood is tragic enough in its own right. The beach is windblown and the surf violent even on the best of days and the forbidding Underwood can only be characterized as grimy, gloomy, claustrophobic, and dangerous.

Regardless of what killed her, it nonetheless was a sad and lonely end for an extremely courageous cat who defied all the odds by holding on for as long as she did. Perhaps the best that can be said about her demise is that it was far preferable to being either annihilated at one of Atlantic County's hellhole shelters or unconscionably killed off by a moneygrubbing veterinarian. (See Cat Defender post of September 28, 2011 entitled "Marvin Is Betrayed, Abducted, and Murdered by a Journalist and a Shelter Who Preposterously Maintain That They Were Doing Him a Favor.")

It can only be assumed from ACA's silence that it did not even have the common decency to provide her with either a funeral or a proper burial. As a consequence, her corpse likely was thrown out with the trash.

Not much is known about her other than that she distinguished herself early on as being adept at evading ACA's traps. "She was one of the hardest cats to trap," Casazza added in the article cited supra.

Otherwise, Snowball usually could be found sleeping on the beach during the warm summer months and inside the winterized shelters underneath the Boardwalk during Atlantic City's rugged winters. She additionally could be seen occasionally inching her way down the boards alongside the handrail.

Sterilization relieved her of the tiresome and debilitating chore of giving birth to litter after litter of kittens and once ACA took over management of the cats in 2000 food no longer was a problem in that the volunteers always made sure that she had plenty of meat, kibble, and water.

"Grandmom's nearly twenty-year life at the Boardwalk proves that feral cats can live long, healthy lives outdoors and that there is nothing humane or necessary about killing them in shelters," ACA declared in the article cited supra. "While she will be deeply missed, Grandmom's long life continues to inspire us to advocate for policies and programs like the Boardwalk Cats Project nationwide, humane programs that allow feral cats to live out their lives in the outdoor homes they love."

All of that certainly is true and the volunteers have done a yeomanly job in caring for them. None of that in any way alters the salient fact, however, that the Underwood Hotel is a perilous haunt for cats.

As the hotel of last resort for Atlantic City's large homeless contingent, the Underwood averages about one homicide and several fires per year. The resort's fascist police, working hand in glove with The Press of Atlantic City, the Philadelphia media, and predatory Christian and Jewish groups, get their perverted kicks by staging periodic nocturnal raids in order to rouse the impecunious.

The loud, nauseating music and endless array of promotional announcements cranked out by the casinos twenty-four hours a day also surely must take its toll on the cats' delicate ears. Some of the volunteers add insult to injury by bringing along their portable radios with them when they feed the cats.

If all of that were not egregious enough, the cats are forced to contend with the din and chaos churned up by dredging on the beach and the replacement of rotting planks on the Boardwalk. All of these activities sans doute disrupt their repose and, at times, leave them traumatized.

Given all the dangers involved, it is not surprising that ACA has a difficult time recruiting a sufficient number of volunteers and this is attested to by the advertisements that it is forced to constantly run in local rags. Of late, it even has run into problems recruiting individuals to construct and install winterized shelters.

All of that is in addition to the financial drain associated with feeding, medicating, sterilizing, and sheltering up to two-hundred cats. Periodically the cats come under attack from either some individual or group that wants them trapped and killed and defending them costs the volunteers a pretty penny.

That is what originally led to ACA's involvement when the city attempted to have the cats killed back in 2000. It occurred again in 2003 and 2004 when Margate resident Doug Donato lobbied the City Council to have them killed by ludicrously alleging that they were capable of transmitting SARS to individuals. Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, an epidemiologist with the State of New Jersey, quickly put the kibosh to that sottise by categorically stating that there was not a scintilla of evidence that the cats are capable of so infecting humans. (See Cat Defender post of July 5, 2007 entitled "Bird and Wildlife Proponents, Ably Assisted by The Press of Atlantic City, Launch Malicious Libel Campaign Against Feral Cats.")

The growing popularity of gambling dens in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and New York has siphoned off a good deal of Atlantic City's business but it is unclear how the resort's downward spiral is going to affect the Boardwalk cats. Since they have grown into such a huge tourist attraction, fewer gamblers conceivably could lead to their being either neglected or forgotten about altogether. On the other hand, a reversal in the city's gaming fortunes could not only provide them with a measure of much needed tranquility but also lead to a marked decline in the number of cats cruelly abandoned along the pines each year.

It is estimated that there now are three-hundred fewer of them residing in the eighteen colonies that stretch from Albany Avenue in the south to the Inlet in the north than there were when ACA took over eleven years ago. Most important of all, the cats are large, friendly, and their coats glossy. They cannot accurately be described as anything other than the very epitome of feline health and well-being.

That is far from being the whole story, however, in that there is no way of knowing how many other cats have met with either foul play or other calamities over the years. Of far greater concern is ACA's own admission that it returns to the Boardwalk only forty per cent of the cats that it traps. It never has disclosed what it does with the remaining sixty per cent but it is a fair assumption that it kills off the lion's share of them under one fabrication or another.

Other practitioners of TNR are known to warehouse up to two-hundred cats in cages in their basements. Since there is absolutely no oversight of these private shelters, it is impossible to assess either what conditions these cats are kept or ultimately what becomes of them. It is difficult to imagine, however, that such an arrangement could be beneficial for them.

No TNR program can be accurately evaluated unless it first is known how many cats enter and leave a particular colony and how they are treated. As practiced by ACA and others, TNR is not altogether different from the trap and kill policies of conventional shelters and the leger de main fobbed off on a gullible public by so-called no-kill operations.

"They (the volunteers) have done a wonderful job of fixing the problem and saving the animals," Ron Cash on the city's Health and Human Services Department was obliged to admit to the Philadelphia Inquirer on July 24, 2010. (See "Groups Make Progress with Feral Cats in Atlantic City.")

"The cats in this city are cared for better than most people's pets," volunteer Deborah Calvert proclaimed in the same article. "They're famous."

Caring for that many cats in a perilous environment, quite obviously, requires more manpower than even ACA is able to muster. "Homeless people, casino workers, shop owners -- they are our eyes and ears," Calvert added. "They tell us if someone's sick. They tell us who they haven't seen around for a while. They know the cats."

That is refreshing to hear in that the homeless have not always been known for their humane treatment of the species. (See Cat Defender posts of May 6, 2009 and August 17, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Resident at Church-Run Homeless Shelter in Seattle Uses a Box Cutter in Order to Gut Scatt from Collarbone to Tail" and "America's Insane Love Affair with Criminals Continues as Drunkard Who Sliced Open Scatt with a Box Cutter Gets Off with Time on the Water Wagon.")

That is in spite of the fact that the staff at Grace House Emergency Shelter for Women in Fredericton, New Brunswick, long ago recognized the therapeutic value of having felines on the premises. (See Cat Defender post of May 5, 2009 entitled "Gracie Brings a Ray of Hope and Good Cheer to the Down-and-Out at Women's Shelter in Fredericton.")

Members of the public also have helped out by adopting some of the colonies in much the same fashion as citizens adopt highways. For instance, a plaque in front of the Wild Wild West Casino and the old Dennis Hotel states that the nearby "Slot Machines" colony has been adopted by Glen, Cindy, Doug, and Greg Myers.

In addition to sterilization and attrition, ACA has relied to some extent upon adoptions in order to halve the population. That in itself amounts to a startling contradiction in that the organization's head honcho, Becky Robinson, continues to publicly maintain that homeless cats are unadoptable.

Since ACA never has released any statistics, it is impossible to gauge how successful its adoption efforts have been. It does, however, charge $75 per cat and its adoption application is a staggering four pages in length!

For example, those interested in adopting its cats are required to disclose, inter alia, their landlords' and veterinarians' names, addresses, and telephone numbers, three personal references, the names of all persons living in the household, plus a slew of data relating to any companion animals that they have owned both now and in the past. Since charging an arm and a leg apparently is insufficient, it would not be surprising if the organization one day started expecting a semen sample and a testicle as a demonstration of good faith.

Furthermore, these stringent requirements would tend to mitigate against many of the cats finding new homes in that there are so many other cats and kittens that readily can be had gratis and with no question asked. In fact, individuals sometimes can be spotted giving away kittens outside of supermarkets.

ACA's real Achilles heel, however, lies in the fact that its arrangement with the city is limited to the Boardwalk. Animal Control therefore is still allowed to trap and kill cats with impunity elsewhere in the city. Worst still, uncorroborated reports maintain that some of these cats are shot in the head and never even make it to a shelter.

This odious and lawless practice needs to be exposed and immediately stopped with a legitimate TNR program that respects the lives of all cats substituted in its stead. ACA's grotesque failure to stand up for these equally deserving felines not only dims the luster of its successes with those living at the Underwood but exposes it to charges of being hypocritical and heartless as well.

Its unexplained collusion with the Humane Society of Atlantic County (HSAC) also is disquieting. Not only does it operate a killing factory adjacent to the Borgata but it charges almost sixty dollars to spay a female and fifty dollars to neuter a tom.

If it were willing to offer free sterilizations, HSAC could single-handedly solve the homeless cat dilemma in Atlantic County. It much prefers, however, to apply the money that it rakes in from paid sterilizations to the purchase of sodium pentobarbital and to line the pockets of its bloodthirsty staffers.

The area's other shelter, located in Pleasantville, is far worse, For instance, its staffers are so obstinate that they even refuse to disclose what cats and dogs they are holding. As a consequence, reclaiming a lost or stolen companion is an impossibility.

This utterly deplorable situation is compounded by the fact that Animal Control officers throughout the county can only be reached, if at all, by telephone. Accordingly, no significant improvement in the welfare of cats in Atlantic County can be expected until both shelters are permanently closed and all local Animal Control officers are summarily fired.

If ACA is truly serious about expanding TNR nationwide it could find no better place to start than in Atlantic City. Likewise, it desperately needs to redouble its efforts in order to get as many cats as possible out from the Underwood and into good homes as quickly as possible.

Following the 1964 Democratic National Convention which nominated Lyndon Baines Johnson, historian Theodore White labeled Atlantic City as the "original Bay of Pigs" and the quality of life in the resort has not improved much since then. Abject poverty is every bit as endemic as corruption, alcohol and drug abuse are the norm, and violent crime is rampant.

Beyond the neon glitter of the casinos, the resort remains a city filled with despair and hopelessness. Hustlers, gangsters, crooked politicians, and assorted other shady characters are the only ones flourishing in this overgrown clip joint. Even more distressing, no improvement is even remotely possible given the greedy and superficial nature of New Jerseyans who at this very moment are in the midst of massacring another six-hundred black bears.

That is the major reason why it is so uplifting to see the cats pussyfooting down the planking. Nevertheless, Snowball certainly deserved better than a lifetime that was spent rubbing elbows with hustlers and riffraff.

It is too late to magically transform her dreams into a better life but that most definitely is not the case as far as Farrah Fawcett, Jane Fonda, One-Eyed Willie, and the rest of the Boardwalk gang are concerned. It may be axiomatic but it nonetheless bears repeating that any environment that is unsuitable for humans could hardly be ideal for cats.

Photo: Alley Cat Allies.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Algonquin Cruelly Responds to Threats Made by New York City by Trussing Up Matilda III and Bombarding Her with Shock Therapy

"People miss seeing Matilda moving around the lobby. They miss that part of the connection they've previously enjoyed. But this is the right thing to do. As we know, everything changes."
-- Gary Budge of the Algonquin

Ever since a waif known as Rusty wandered in the front door on West Forty-Fourth Street way back in 1932, cats had always been welcome in the Algonquin Hotel's ornate front lobby. The good times came to an abrupt end recently when New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH) banished the current resident feline, a four-year-old, blue-eyed Ragdoll named Matilda III, from the area because food is served there at the famous Round Table restaurant and lounge.

Matilda, who arrived on the scene in early 2011 courtesy of the North Shore Animal League (NSAL) in Port Washington on Long Island, is now restricted to the arrival area, front desk, and coat room. Tant pis, she has been tethered to a leash. (See photo above.)

The Algonquin further claims to have installed an invisible electronic fence in order to curtail her rambles. Although no particulars have been disclosed, it is impossible to regard such an odious device as being anything other than the very epitome of cruel and inhumane.

Compounding the deplorable situation, the hotel initially lied to the public about being leaned on by the DOH and instead tried to pack off the blame on poor Matilida. "People seem more aggressive toward her, and she's responding in a way that's not helpful," general manager Gary Budge told the New York Post on November 23rd. (See "'Meow' Trage at Algonquin.")

If true, that would have been a first since, as far as it is known, none of Matilda's nine predecessors over the past eighty years ever was assaulted by guests. Likewise, none of the Algonquin's illustrious felines ever have been accused of harming any of the tony hotel's guests.

Next up, Matilida's publicist, Alice de Almeida, scandalously accused her of behaving like a voyeur. "She was going everywhere, including the men's restroom, so now she is on a strict training schedule," she told the Daily Mail on November 23rd. (See "Cat-astrophe! Algonquin Hotel's Famous Pet Put on a Tight Leash after Health and Safety Warning.")

Her interest in the men's toilet can be easily explained by cats' inherent distrust of standing water and corresponding preference for running water. Moreover, Matilda is a female and, unlike former United States Senator Larry Craig, never has been accused of doing any toe tapping.

When pressed, Budge finally made a clean chin of matters. "The (Health) Department in the past months suggested to us that pets in food service facilities are no longer commingled," he confessed to the New York Post in the article cited supra. "The lobby is an area where we serve food and beverage. We always want to be respectful of the Department of Health."

For whatever it is worth, the hotel insists that Matilda has adjusted well to what Charles Dickens euphemistically would have called her reduced circumstances. "Much to my surprise she doesn't mind (the leash)," de Almeida confided to People Magazine on November 23rd. (See "Matilda the Algonquin Cat Loses Special Privileges.") "Matilda is getting used to her new areas and was very happy posing this morning for the press. She is a quick learner and soon we will be able to take the leash off. (See photo below of her at the computer.)

Like her boss, de Almeida most likely is shading the truth. As former governor of Illinois Adlai E. Stevenson once observed, "It is in the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming."

To their eternal credit, cats additionally do not have any use whatsoever for silly property laws that have been established by individuals and corporate entities who, at one time or another, have stolen at the barrel of a gun everything that they now claim an exclusive right to own and occupy. Just as importantly, it is difficult to restrict the behavior of cats once they have grown accustomed to coming and going as they please and having the run of the premises.

What de Almeida probably meant but was too timed to say is that the Algonquin is planning on relying upon a combination of shock therapy and police tactics in order to bend Matilda to its will. "She is closer to a watchable eye from the team that works here, and they happen to like that," Budge admitted to MSNBC on November 23rd. (See "Me-Out! Famed Hotel Cat Evicted from Lobby.")

Although her eviction from the lobby marks an end to one of the Algonquin's and Gotham's most cherished traditions, Budge not only is categorically refusing to put up a fight but he is not shedding any tears either. "People miss seeing Matilda moving around the lobby," he told MSNBC. "They miss that part of the connection they've previously enjoyed. But this is the right thing to do. As we know, everything changes."

Whereas change may be inevitable, it is not always for the best, especially where the animals and Mother Earth are concerned. The goal therefore should be to embrace only those changes that are beneficial as opposed to running willy-nilly after every new fad that happens to be temporarily en vogue.

As a consolation, de Almeida points out that Matilda still is able to receive her many admirers both at the hotel and online. "She has a little bed with her food and water where people come in to see her, not just those who are staying at the hotel but those who pass by on the street," she told the Daily Mail in the article cited supra. "Matilda gets plenty of e-mails too."

Inmates at Rikers Island in the East River also are free to receive guests but no one in either his or her right mind ever would want to exchange places with any of them. What de Almeida is so unwilling to acknowledge is that there is a huge difference between having guests visit and true freedom.

The latter additionally would allow Matilda to get out from underneath the thumbs of both staffers and guests alike whenever she chooses but under the regimen now in place she is held hostage to the whims of others. Her life no longer belongs to her and cats desperately crave their freedom and space.

"Acquérir l'amitié d'un chat est chose difficile. Il est une bête philosophique qui ne place pas ses affections à l'étourdie," Théophile Gautier once observed. "Si vous êtes digne de son affection, un chat deviendra votre ami mais jamais votre esclave."

As far as her multitudinous e-mail correspondence is concerned, it is important to bear in mind that is only a cute public relations gimmick. Matilda does not have the capacity to surf the web and therefore is unable to derive any intellectual stimulation from that technology. The peephole to the world therefore remains every bit as closed off to her as the Algonquin's front lobby.

From what little has been revealed about Matilda's predilections, she apparently also likes cadging rides in the service elevator to the thirteenth floor in addition to hanging out in the lobby and men's room. "I don't know why it's always that floor," de Almeida confessed her ignorance on that matter to the New York Post on April 4th. (See "Hotel Mascot Has Ten Lives.") "I've gotten several calls to come get her and bring her back downstairs."

Hopefully such activity will not reignite all that ancient tomfoolery about cats and the occult. (See photo below of Matilda in the hall.)

Although Matilda had not been doing anything different than her predecessors, she unwittingly became a pawn in Mayor Mike "Dirty Bloomers" Bloomberg and DOH Commissioner Thomas Farley's halfhearted attempt to clean up New York's notoriously filthy restaurants.

Although the city's health code always has banned animals from most eating establishments, it nonetheless allows the presence of live edible fish, shellfish, and crustaceans as well as service dogs. While no one ever would wish to deprive the visually impaired of their surrogate eyes, it is difficult to understand how the presence of canines ever could be considered to be hygienic while cats routinely continue to be labeled as unhygienic.

Much more to the point, DOH inspectors have a long history of being corrupt to the bone. In a celebrated case dating back to the 1980's, one of them longed to ask a Chinese restaurateur for a small token of his appreciation but, unfortunately, did not speak a work of Guangdong hua whereas the proprietor only spoke a few words of English.

From the file labeled "Where There Is a Will There Is a Way," the quick-witted inspector grabbed a napkin and hurriedly sketched a picture of a mouse. Demonstrating that he, too, was equally quick on the uptake, the restaurateur immediately understood and reached for his wallet.

To make a long story short, the restaurant inspection business in New York City is so thoroughly corrupt that, as Ecclesiastes 1:15 teaches, it can never be made straight. New Yorkers simply accept the fact that every meal consumed contains a certain amount of dirt and grime, spittle, snot, rat turds, ground-up cockroaches, and God only knows what other unsavory ingredients.

The latest crackdown is the byproduct of a letter grading system inaugurated in July of 2010 by the DOH. Individuals who have spent their entire lives in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere where sanitary conditions are either lax or nonexistent do not realize that in states where public health is taken seriously restaurants always have been graded by letters. For example, in North Carolina anything except a grade A posting on the window is tantamount to a coup de grâce for any restaurant.

When DOH inspectors visited the Algonquin on November 10th they assessed its twenty points, which is more than sufficient for a grade B rating unless the violations are promptly ameliorated before the next once-over. Interestingly enough, none of the violations had anything to do with Matilda.

It is assumed, however, that if the Algonquin had not complied with its directive and removed her from the lobby that the DOH would have assessed the hotel additional points. Without having either read the inspectors' report or been inside the hotel's kitchen it is impossible to gauge sanitary conditions at the Algonquin but, given the large number of violations cited, it would be fair to conclude that diners have considerably more to be concerned about than cat hairs.

It is even more astounding that soup runs, of which New York City has more than four-hundred, mobile food vendors, temporary food service establishments, primary and secondary schools, hospital cafeterias, jails, charities, and food services operated by not-for-profit membership organizations are exempted from the letter grading system. That is absurd in that those institutions and establishments are precisely the ones that cater to what is largely a captive clientele.

If the chow served up at the Algonquin and other similarly situated restaurants is not to the liking of their well-heeled patrons they are free to express their dissatisfaction by taking their business elsewhere, but that option is foreclosed to the majority of those who regularly dine at the exempted food providers. Also, should they become sickened by the cuisine they, unlike captive diners, doubtless have plenty of moola in order to procure qualified medical treatment.

Soup kitchens, in particular, are notorious for poisoning and, perhaps, even killing people. Old food that is improperly refrigerated and inexpertly prepared by untrained, filthy-as-a-dog personnel who do not know the difference between a spatula and a suppository is the norm. Likewise, the memory alone of schoolhouse chow consumed half a century ago is sufficient to make many a bloke nauseous whereas the slop served up to jailbirds has been known to spark deadly riots.

When viewed against that backdrop, the DOH's going after Matilda seems to be not only petty but frivolous as well. "Dirty Bloomers" sans doute hopes to derive some political mileage out of the effort as is the case with his siccing of the DOH's on Sardi's in the Theater District for handing out cheese at its bar.

"Thus do two more New York traditions fall victim to Health Commissioner Tom Farley's food fascists," the New York Post blasted both the DOH and "Dirty Bloomers" in a November 25th editorial. (See "Mike  Hates Cats.") "It's all about the power, don't you know? Free cheese! Free Matilda!"

The Post's defense of Matilda is made all the more amazing in light of the fact that its resident cat-hater, Andrea Peyser, rarely passes up an opportunity to express her antipathy for the species. (See New York Post, October 31, 2011, "Beating a Dead Horse.")

If the tone of several letters received by the Post is any indication of public sentiment on this matter, the Algonquin's steadfast refusal to come to Matilda's aid in her time of greatest need may boomerang and wind up costing it some business. (See New York Post, November 30, 2011, "Algonquin's Furry Fury: Bloomy's in the Doghouse.")

Another famed Manhattan establishment to run afoul of the DOH was McSorley's Old Ale House in the East Village which in August of 2009 was fined a whopping $1,000 for allowing Minnie II to pussyfoot across the bar. Since then she has been confined to the back rooms during business hours. (See Cat Defender post of August 24, 2011 entitled "Self-Defense Is Against the Law in Australia after a Woman Who Attacked a Cat Gets Away with Her Crime Whereas Her Victim Is Trapped and Executed.")

Since restaurants, bodegas, and other establishments that sell food are fined if mouse droppings and urine are found on the premises, some of them have elected to cut their losses by keeping cats and paying twice yearly fines that can range from between $300 and $2,000. That is, for example, what Peter Myers of Myers of Keswick at 634 Hudson Street in the West Village has elected to do. (See Cat Defender post of April 20, 2006 entitled "Molly Is Finally Rescued After Spending Two Weeks Trapped Inside the Walls of an English Deli in Greenwich Village.")

"It's hard for bodega owners because they're not supposed to have a cat, but they're also not supposed to have rats," is how Jose Fernandez of the Bodega Association of the United States summed up the dilemma faced by members of his trade group to The New York Times on November 21, 2007. (See "To the Dismay of Inspectors, Prowling Cats Cats Keep Rodents on the Run at City Delis.")

He then went on to drive the final nail into the coffin of the DOH's faulty reasoning. "If cats live in homes and apartment where people have food, a cat shouldn't be a threat in a store if it's well-maintained," he sagely told The Times.

New York City certainly is not alone in banning cats from establishments that serve food. In recent years, Comma Coffee in Carson City and the Blunsdon Arms in Swindon have gotten into hot water with health inspectors for keeping cats. (See Cat Defender posts of February 17, 2009 and October 23, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Health Department Banishes Smallcat from Popular Carson City Restaurant but Her Feisty Owner Is Putting Up Quite a Fight" and "Pecksniffian Management at Swindon Pub Plies Ember with Food and Then Gives Her the Bum's Rush.")

The Clipper Ship Inn in Salem, Massachusetts, even lost its food license because it had cats on the premises. (See Cat Defender post of May 21, 2007 entitled "Salem, Massachusetts, Is Going After Cats Again Much Like It Did During 1692 Witch Trials.")

Despite all the draconian legislation in situ, many enterprising cats still are able to procure gainful employment as mousers and mascots at various eating and drinking emporiums around the world. It is unclear, however, whether this is due to either tolerance, lax code enforcement, or baksheesh. (See Cat Defender posts of December 13, 2007, December 15, 2006, and December 12, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Tanker Ray Survives Being Abandoned as a Kitten in Order to Become the World Famous Mascot of a Tampa Bar," "Minnesota Cat Named Baby Celebrates His Thirty-Sixth Birthday; English Pub Cat Named Daisy Turns Twenty-Two," and "Bored with Conditions at Home, Carlsberg Stows Away on a Beer Lorry for the Adventure of a Lifetime.")

Despite the tribulations suffered by the cats at the Clipper Ship Inn, others have found homes, albeit not necessarily humane ones, at the Anderson Inn in Wabasha, Minnesota, and Hôtel Le Bristol in Paris. (See Cat Defender posts of May 15, 2008 and December 14, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Predatory Capitalism Rears Its Ugly Head as Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Sacks 'Overnight' Cats, Morris and Fred" and "Hôtel Le Bristol Saddles Fa-raon with the Odious Task of Playing Nursemaid to the Spoiled Brats of the Rich.")

Returning to the matter at hand, Matilda's deteriorating situation at the Algonquin is not only untenable but should not be allowed to continue. That is first and foremost due to the hotel's utterly barbaric use of electrical shock in order to control her.

If so much as one legitimate animal rights group existed in Gotham it would have immediately instructed the Algonquin to either stop this inhumane abuse or face the prospect of losing custody of Matilda. The fact that this sordid business is allowed to continue is an indictment of not only all animal welfare personnel in the city but of NSAL as well.

Secondly, although accustoming a cat to walk on a leash outdoors is regarded by some as acceptable behavior, keeping Matilda so tethered indoors is surely almost as cruel as administering jolts of electricity to her. Since the Algonquin is willing to go to such lengths in order to avoid paying a fine, it is highly likely that it also is segregating her in rooms by herself and confining her to a cage as well.

The simplest solution would be for the hotel to follow Myers' example by paying the DOH's fine and thus restoring Matilda's freedom to her. Failing that, it is incumbent upon management to find some other method of keeping her out of the lobby that does not include electrical shock, leashes, cages, and segregation.

At the very minimum, she deserves her own living quarters and access to an area, ideally either a garden or a yard, where there is intellectual stimulation, fresh air, and sufficient space for her to stretch her legs. Whereas these requirements possibly could be satisfied by the hotel's allowing her free access to most public areas, they most assuredly cannot be met by keeping her tied up like a hostage behind the front desk.

If management is so unwilling to respect Matilda's prerogatives as a cat, she should be removed from the hotel and placed in a good home. In England, for example, Cats Protection will only allow individuals with either yards or gardens to adopt its cats. It is, after all, Matilda's well-being that should come first and not the hotel's bottom line. (See close-up photo of her above.)

All of this could be a moot point by the time that New Year's Day rolls around and the Algonquin closes for four months in order to accommodate $15 million worth of renovations. Since the hotel has not said one way or another, it is unclear whether Matilda will remain on the premises or be relocated elsewhere. After all, it is not possible to simply store her in a display case like the Savoy in London did with its resident feline, Kaspar, a few years back when it closed for renovations.

It she stays, she faces many dangers. For example, Hamlet IV, who graced the hotel's corridors from 1968 until 1982, disappeared during renovations and is believed to have been accidentally sealed up alive inside one of its walls much like Fortunato in Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Cask of Amontillado." If there is any credence to that story, it is a staggering indictment of the hotel's uncaring attitude toward him.

Easily frightened by both loud noises and the hustle and bustle churned up by loutish construction workers, cats often seek refuge in small places that easily are transformed into death traps. (See Cat Defender post of September 8, 2008 entitled "Bonny Is Rescued at the Last Minute after Spending Seven Weeks Entombed Underneath a Bathtub.")

Should management elect to relocate her elsewhere, that very well could be the last that the public ever hears of her. Under such a scenario, she could wind up either back at NASL, in another home, or on death row at any one of Gotham's notorious hellhole shelters.

The numerous problems relating to the DOH, procuring a suitable temporary home for her, and retraining her even if she is brought back to the hotel are conspiring to make her tenure a brief one indeed. Like McSorley's and no doubt countless other establishments in the city, the Algonquin is far too cheap to pony up for any fines that Matilda might incur as well as being totally unwilling to be hassled by the city on the other hand.

Finally, and on a somber note, Matilda owes her position to the untimely demise of her illustrious predecessor, Matilda II. (See photo of her immediately above.)

For reasons that never have been made public, the fifteen-year-old Ragdoll was unceremoniously dismissed by the hotel last year during the holidays. Her abrupt departure came despite the fact that as late as September the hotel had been lauding her as its most valuable asset.

"She stays, of course!" the Algonquin's Marissa Mastellone pledged at that time. "She is what makes us unique and signature enough to make the (Marriott's) Autograph Collection. Matilda is imperative!" (See Cat Defender post of October 16, 2010 entitled "The Algonquin Undergoes Changes at the Top but Management Wisely Decides to Retain Its Most Loyal and Beloved Employee, Matilda.")

In particular, she had been immortalized in Val Schaffner's 2001 tome, The Algonquin Cat, as well as being the recipient of the Westchester Cat Show's prestigious "Cat of the Year" award in 2006. Plus, the Diva, as she was known, had been charming guests and visitors alike since 1998.

Unless Mastellone was just blowing it out both ends for the sake of having something to do with herself, something surely must have gone terribly wrong between September and Christmas. Her age could have been a factor but so too could have been her penchant of transforming the lobby into a race course each evening. Even her tendency to venture out into the street in order to chase pigeons during the summer months could have gotten on management's nerves.

It is even conceivable that the DOH already may have been breathing down the hotel's neck and it deduced that a newer, younger cat would be more pliable to its whims. Since the hotel is not saying, the public likely never will know why she was removed.

The official word from the hotel is that she was adopted by a staffer and spent the last year of her life watching the birds, squirrels, and leaves fall through the window of an apartment in Brooklyn. Tragically, she died of cancer in September.

What role, if any, her work environment contributed to the onset of that deadly killer is unknown. (See Cat Defender post of October 19, 2007 entitled "Smokers Are Killing Their Cats, Dogs, Birds, and Infants by Continuing to Light Up in Their Presence.")

The Algonquin is not, and never will be, the same without her. During her tenure she became its heart and soul and without her, and her successor trussed up and out of sight, it is just another hotel out for the almighty dollar.

If he were still alive today, Oliver Herford might have eulogized her as follows:

"Gather kittens while you may
Time brings only sorrow;
And the kittens of day
Will be old cats tomorrow."

Photos: Chad Rachman of the New York Post (Matilda on a leash), Jonathan D. Woods of MSNBC (Matilda at the computer), Gothamist (Matilda in the hall), J.C. Rice of the New York Post (Matilda up close), and the Algonquin (Matilda II).