Northumbrian Shrink Lays Claim to the Title of Being the World's Most Irresponsible Cat Owner by Turning Loose Jasper to Roam the Perilous Tyne and Wear Metro for Weeks on End
|Jasper Aboard the Tyne and Wear Metro|
"He's avoided a lot of scrapes so far so there's no need to worry about him."
-- Steph Keenan
The abject callousness of some cat owners continues to boggle the mind. Every bit as appalling, such grossly negligent behavior is simply winked at by both those individuals and groups within society who are charged with enforcing the anti-cruelty statutes.
Although she is by no means an isolated case, forty-two-year-old psychotherapist Steph Keenan of Waterville Terrace in tiny North Shields, thirteen kilometers east of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in Northumberland, is more than worthy to wear the crown of being the world's most irresponsible cat owner. She has earned that moniker not only by her decision to turn loose her eighteen-month-old ginger-colored tom, Jasper, to ride the Tyne and Wear Metro all by his lonesome but also because of her devil-may-care callousness about his safety.
The case against her is every bit as hard to believe as it is shocking. Although she lives across the street from the train station, she has done absolutely nothing in order to deter Jasper from either venturing onto the perilous tracks or from boarding the Yellow Line to parts unknown. She is in fact such a rotten guardian that it is nothing short of astonishing that Jasper has managed to stay alive for this long.
That is especially true in that his forays onto the rails are both frequent and of long duration. For instance, on Guy Fawkes Day he disappeared and was not located until six weeks and one day later.
For his deliverance on that memorable occasion he has an unidentified woman from Jesmond, eleven kilometers away, to thank. She found him and took him to a veterinarian in Heaton, a residential suburb in the east end of Newcastle, where he eventually was reunited with Keenan compliments of an implanted microchip.
That allowed Jasper, no thanks to Keenan, to make it home just in time for Christmas. (See Cat Defender posts of February 1, 2013 and December 18, 2013 entitled, respectively, "Precious Little Hattie Returns Home for Her Sixth Consecutive, But Hopefully Not Last, Christmas" and "Unforgettable Hattie, Who Annually Returns Home for Christmas, Is Crowned as Cat of the Year for 2012.")
Before that he had traveled to the Meadow Well train station, three kilometers from home in North Shields, and was gone for a week. He also is known to have ridden to Four Land Ends in Longbenton, which is located ten kilometers from home.
To date, he has been blessed with the exceedingly good fortune to have avoided both disaster and falling into the wrong hands. That is due principally to the fact that he always has been rescued by conscientious individuals who have handed him over to shelters and veterinarians. For their part, these institutions and practitioners have done their due diligence by locating and deciphering his implanted microchip and that in turn has made possible his reunion with Keenan.
Sadly, all of the professionalism demonstrated by those individuals and institutions has been wasted on coldhearted and grasping Keenan. "People have actually gone to great lengths to pick him up and take him to a vet or shelter which can be a real inconvenience," she groused to The Chronicle of Newcastle on January 5th. (See "Jasper the Cat from North Shields Takes Trips on the Tyne and Wear Metro System.") "I was quite annoyed when I had to go pick him up the last time."
Since she quite obviously could care less whether Jasper lives or dies, it is not surprising that she would begrudge ransoming his life from the veterinarians and shelters who, by the way, must always receive their blood money. Although she did turn to Facebook in an effort to locate him the first time that he ventured to Meadow Well, it would appear that she has totally given up even bothering to look for him at all nowadays whenever he does not come home.
Her simply abominable attitude stands in stark juxtaposition to that of all halfway caring cat owners who would be thrilled to death to learn that their missing companions had been found and were alive and well. For such devoted individuals, no inconvenience, cost, or burden ever could be too high of a price to pay for the return of their beloved cats.
Equally reprehensible, she is guilty of treating his misadventures as if they were a laughing matter. "He's a real monkey," she joshed to The Chronicle in the article cited supra. "Obviously I can only presume some of it what he gets up to but the places he's ended up can only mean he's been on the Metro."
She also appears to be busy licking her lips in eager anticipation of cashing in on Jasper's growing notoriety. "He's a lovely cat," she told The Chronicle. "There are a few cats on the TV adverts at the moment that bear a striking resemblance to Jasper and we're wondering if he's taken up an acting career in London on one of his trips away."
Consequently, instead of taking prompt remedial steps in order to guarantee his safety, Keenan seems intent upon encouraging his perilous rambles. "I am considering buying him an annual ticket for the Metro so that he avoids fines, prosecution or being in trouble for trespassing," she told The Chronicle.
It is a sad commentary upon human nature but profiting from the abject neglect, misfortune, and even cold-blooded murder of cats is, after all, every bit as old and commonplace as homemade sin. (See Cat Defender posts of January 30, 2010 and May 10, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Casper Is Run Down and Killed by a Hit-and-Run Taxi Driver While Crossing the Street in Order to Get to the Bus Stop" and "Iowa Librarian Vicki Myron Inks Million-Dollar Deal for Memoir About Dewey Readmore Books.")
Considering her appalling attitude and dereliction of duty in respect to Jasper, it is difficult to understand what she wanted with a cat in the first place. That is an especially pertinent question in that her neglect of him began almost as soon as he arrived at her house.
For example, during his first six weeks of kittenhood, she irresponsibly allowed him to, inter alia, get stuck up the family's chimney, trapped inside a neighbor's house, and stranded inside an abandoned garage. It thus would appear that she only adopted Jasper so that she could purposefully neglect him.
Even though she is an educated person, she nonetheless seems to be totally unwilling to either profit from her past mistakes or, more importantly, to recognize the moral imperative that Jasper's personal safety and well-being is her responsibility. Au contraire, she is about as intellectually and morally brain dead as an individual can be without actually being in a coma and on life-support.
To put the matter succinctly, she knows that she is placing Jasper's life in mortal peril but she simply does not care. "He has wandered far and wide and has very few of his 'nine lives' remaining," she acknowledged to The Chronicle in one of her saner moments before illogically dismissing such concerns as being unfounded. "He's avoided a lot of scrapes so far so there's no need to worry about him."
Of all of her thoughtless gruntings, that is the most asinine and dishonest of the entire lot. First and foremost, cats and trains are, generally speaking, a bad mix. (See Cat Defender posts of June 7, 2007, March 7, 2008, and November 15, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Rascal Hops Freight Train in South Bend and Unwittingly Winds Up in Chattanooga," "Georgia Is Found Safe and Sound After Spending a Harrowing Twenty-Five Days Lost in the Bowels of the New York Subway System." and "Diesel Amazingly Survives a Harrowing Nine-Hundred-Mile Train Ride by Precariously Clinging to the Undercarriage of a Speeding Locomotive.")
|Jasper with Steph and Eight-Year-Old Freya Keenan|
Secondly, in addition to either permanently disappearing without so much as a trace or being crushed to death underneath the wheels of a train, he must cross the street in order to get to the boarding platform in North Shields and that act alone makes him an easy prey for motorists who get their perverted kicks out of running down and killing cats. Thirdly, given the simply horrendous past track record of most shelters and veterinarians, Keenan cannot continue to indefinitely rely upon them to respect Jasper's inalienable right to live.
Also, depending upon an implanted microchip as a substitute for being a responsible guardian can only be described as a prime example of stupidity working overtime. (See Cat Defender post of May 25, 2006 entitled "Plato's Misadventures Expose the Pitfalls of RFID Technology as Applied to Cats.")
Thirdly, evildoers, such as ornithologists, wildlife biologists, and PETA, hate cats with such a passion that they will stop at absolutely nothing in order to harm them. (See Cat Defender posts of May 18, 2013 and October 7, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Ted Williams and the National Audubon Society Issue a Call for Cats to Be Poisoned with Tylenol® and Then Try to Lie Out of It" and "PETA Traps and Kills a Cat and Then Shamelessly Goes Online in Order to Brag About Its Criminal and Foul Deed.")
Fourthly, yobs and other teens armed with air guns and firecrackers are another huge concern. That is especially the case in regard to the Meadow Well train station which, although spanking brand new, is nonetheless still situated in a ghetto plagued by an alarmingly high crime rate. The area additionally was home to the Meadow Well Riots of 1991.
Besides Tylenol®, the presence of antifreeze, chemicals used to melt snow and ice during the wintertime, and other poisons make it hazardous for cats to venture onto unfamiliar turf without the accompaniment of their guardians. Dogs and other non-human predators also attack and often kill them.
Amazingly, Jasper has yet to be stolen and, considering Keenan's irresponsible guardianship, that might very well be the best thing that could ever happen to him, provided that his abductor were a devoted cat-lover. (See Cat Defender posts of July 9, 2007 and June 26, 2012 entitled, respectively, "Hungry and Disheveled Cat Named Slim Is Picked Up Off the Streets of Ottawa by a Rescuer Who Refuses to Return Him to His Owners" and "A Family in Wiltshire Turns to Social Media and Leaflets in Order to Shame a Veterinary Chain and a Foster Parent into Returning Tazzy.")
The silence and inaction on the part of animal rescue groups in and around Newcastle is inexcusable. Thanks to the article in The Chronicle, they certainly are well aware of the dangers that Keenan is exposing Jasper to but yet they steadfastly have refused to intervene. At the very least they should instruct her to do a far better job of safeguarding his well-being.
The same criticism is applicable to the staff and management of the Tyne and Wear Metro. Most obviously, the railroad's willingness to allow Jasper onto its trains and platforms carries with it the corresponding responsibility for his safety. Accordingly, the railroad should see to it not only that he is unharmed while on board but that he is returned home safely each night.
The Chronicle along with just about all English newspapers are guilty of capitalizing on the exploits of cats like Jasper who venture onto trains and buses while simultaneously remaining inexcusably silent about the multitude of dangers that they face. That alone makes them complicit every time any of these intrepid moggies are either injured or killed.
Cats most assuredly are entitled to their freedom but that does not entail turning them loose in either busy streets or on the tracks. A cat's life should be worth considerably more than selling newspapers but that obviously is not the case all across England.
Egregiously overlooked in this discussion has been the motivation behind Jasper's rambles. Quite obviously, he is searching for something that he is not getting at home.
The report in The Chronicle does not indicate one way or the other whether he has been sterilized and it really does not make all that much of a difference anyway because even intact males eventually return home once they get hungry. They no doubt occasionally enjoy a good roll in the hay but their lust for food is even stronger.
It thus would appear that he is looking for the attention that he is denied at home. Even Keenan has inadvertently admitted that is the case. "Jasper starts sitting on their knees (commuters on the station platform) and making friends but he doesn't know these people," she told The Chronicle.
Presumably she at least has the decency to feed and water him. With someone as unreliable as her, however, nothing can be taken for granted.
With four children and a thirty-seven-year-old live-in lover named Liz to look after on top of her job, she obviously is an extremely busy individual. That does not constitute a valid excuse, however, for neglecting Jasper.
The life of this gregarious cat is precious and definitely worth saving. Since she is so unwilling to provide him with the love, respect, and security that he so desperately needs, she should endeavor to place him in another home. There simply is nothing worse in this big, wide world than sacrificing the life of a cat upon the altar of callous indifference.
Jasper accordingly deserves far better than being exiled to unfamiliar places populated by all sorts of strange and dangerous people. He also is entitled to a secure and warm bed each night instead of being frightened out of his wits most of the time and forced to rough it in all sorts of inclement weather.
Worst of all, unless drastic action is immediately taken his days on this earth are surely numbered and once he is gone his blood is going to be all over those who could have saved him but instead did absolutely nothing. Such callous indifference to the life and well-being of any animal should be a criminal offense.
Photos: The Chronicle (Jasper by himself and with Keenan) and R. Schwandl of Urban Rail Net (Map of the Tyne and Wear Metro system).