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Cat Defender

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Freckles Is Alive and Well More Than Two Years after Having Been Inexcusably Left for Dead in the Rubble of the Burned-Out Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter

Freckles Was Found Alive Six Days Later

"She has made a complete recovery and is such a happy and loving girl. She's such a wonderful companion."
-- Emily Tolliver of the Lexington Humane Society 

It is not known how it all began for Freckles. She either could have been born without a home and thereafter unjustly and inhumanely incarcerated by an Animal Control officer or she may have had at one time a family who later dumped her at the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter (KWAS).

Her friendly and sociable demeanor tends to lend credence to the latter explanation but either way her past history made little difference when at 9:45 p.m. on November 29, 2013 a deadly fire broke out at the facility located in the heart of coal country in Rockholds, Kentucky. That is because on that hellish night she was just one of thirty-seven helpless felines who were inexcusably left locked in their cages to be either burned, suffocated, or crushed to death by the flames, smoke, and disintegrating walls and roof.

There was considerable discrepancy in press reports at that time but somewhere between twenty-nine and thirty-four of Freckles' fellow felines perished. Somehow the one-year-old tortoiseshell survived the fire but even then she was cruelly condemned to spend the following six days trapped in her cage and licking her injuries. In addition to those miseries, she had neither food, water, nor even clean air to breathe.

Sooner or later she, too, would have succumbed to either her extensive burns or a lack of sustenance if it had not been for an unidentified insurance investigator who just happened to accidentally stumble upon her on December 5th while sifting through the rubble of the burned-out shelter in search of clues as to the origin of the conflagration.

She immediately was rushed to the Lexington Humane Society (LHS), one-hundred-sixty-two kilometers to the north in the metropolis of the same name, where she was diagnosed to be suffering from an upper respiratory infection, burned paws and pads, and singed fur and whiskers.

Since she had gone without replenishment of any sort for a week, she also was understandably dehydrated and malnourished. The important thing, however, was that she amazingly was still alive.

"She's in serious, but stable condition," Teresa Martin, a volunteer at KWAS, told WBIR-TV of Knoxville on December 6th. (See "Cat Found Alive in Rubble One Week after Animal Shelter Fire.") "Her will to survive is just amazing."

At LHS, Freckles' burns were attended to and she was treated with hydrotherapy but, sadly, all of her claws, both front and rear, had to be surgically removed. In time her fur and whiskers grew back and the pads on her feet healed.

"She is a very sweet cat after everything she has been through (and) we are amazed she is alive," the shelter's Ashley Holder told WKYT-TV of Lexington on December 5th. (See "Cat Pulled from the Rubble of Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter.") "Having her here is just wonderful, all of our hearts are filled with joy. We are so glad that she made it through this devastating time."

Freckles and Her Singed Whiskers and Fur

Holder was by no means the only employee of LHS that Freckles charmed with her sweet disposition and unconquerable will to live in the face of such herculean odds against her. Most notably, her colleague Emily Tolliver was so smitten with her that she simply could not let go of her.

As a consequence, Freckles has been residing with her and her two-year-old son, a pair of cats, and two dogs since early in 2014. Best of all, she has made a good recovery and is able to get around well despite not having any claws.

The only obvious drawback is that she likely is confined exclusively indoors these days because without any claws she would be unable to either defend herself or to scale heights in order to elude both animals and humans intent upon doing her harm. It additionally would be almost impossible for her to hunt under such circumstances but since she now has a loving provider that is no longer a necessity.

"She has made a complete recovery and is such a happy and loving girl," Tolliver proclaimed in an August 4, 2015 e-mail letter. "She's such a wonderful companion."

Freckles' traumatic journey from death row to the grave only to be ultimately resurrected like a phoenix from the ashes and to find happiness as one of Tolliver's beloved resident felines can only be described as miraculous. Whether she lives for either twenty more years or a scant twenty minutes, she unquestionably richly deserves every solitary second of her new lease on life.

All of that aside, numerous questions concerning the fire remain unaddressed to this very day. First of all, the discrepancy in the number of feline fatalities never has been explained. Since all institutions of this sort are supposedly required by law to maintain records of all the animals that they take in, it is inexplicable that KWAS did not know exactly how many cats had perished in the blaze.

Secondly, almost nothing has been revealed concerning the origin of the blaze. All that can be deduced from the available information is that since the insurance company ended up paying the shelter $225,000, the fire likely was not set by an employee.

Thirdly, it is not known if either of the shelter's two paid employees or any of its volunteers and foster parents were on duty at the time that the fire erupted. Since it got so quickly out of hand the logical explanation would seem to be that the animals had been left unattended.

An unidentified individual eventually did notify local firefighters, most likely members of the Rockholds Volunteer Fire Department, who arrived on the scene and doused the flames. Press reports later claimed that the firemen and an unspecified number of volunteers from the shelter attempted to rescue some of the cats. That contingent most definitely did not include Martin, however, who only learned of the carnage when she arrived for work the following morning.

The nature and extent of the rescue attempt is of paramount importance because although twenty-nine or more cats perished, only one of the twenty-five dogs housed at the facility died in the blaze. Ironically, the victim was the shelter's mascot, Sassy.

The Burned-Out Shell of the Animal Shelter

"(She) greeted everyone who would come in. She would go to nursing homes. She would go to all the events," Martin told WBIR-TV of Knoxville on December 2, 2013. (See "Animal Shelter Looking for Temporary Home after Devastating Fire.") "She was the ambassador for the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter."

For whatever it is worth, Martin attributes the disproportionate number of feline fatalities to the fact that they were incarcerated in an interior room at the shelter and that the roof collapsed on rescuers before they were able to release them from their cages. Although the firefighters can be excused for not being familiar with the layout of the facility, the volunteers should have had enough bon sens to have gotten the cats out first.

More to the point, it is not only conceivable but highly probable as well that long-standing, institutionalized prejudices against the species also played a significant role in the volunteers' decision to let them burn to death. For instance, it is well-documented that shelters exterminate a far disproportionate number of cats than they do dogs.

They also find it both easier and more profitable to sell back dogs to the public than to do likewise with cats. In fact, some of these hellhole institutions detest cats so much that they categorically even refuse to allow both private individuals and rescue groups to ransom their lives off of death row. (See Cat Defender post of June 15, 2010 entitled "Bay City Shelter Murders a Six-Week-Old Kitten with a Common Cold Despite Several Individuals Having Offered to Give It a Permanent Home.")

It accordingly is easy to understand how that such ingrained biases against the species could have resulted in a laissez-faire attitude toward saving their lives on the night of the fire. It additionally is conceivable that the volunteers viewed the blaze as a godsend in that it relieved them of the job of whacking them.

That analysis is buttressed by the disgracefully criminal conduct of shelter employees in the aftermath of the disaster. Specifically, although it surely must have crossed their twisted minds that some of the cats had lived through the inferno, none of them ever bothered to reenter the facility in order to check their cages for survivors.

Press reports claim that they were not permitted to do so but they at the same time fail to mention either who or what authority issued that ridiculous edict. In the end the point is moot because the saving of lives, those of cats included, always trumps all legal proclamations to the contrary.

Besides, the remnants of the shelter that were left standing do not appear to have been in imminent danger of collapse. Furthermore, if the insurance investigator, who was unfamiliar with the premises, was brave enough to have ventured inside in order to collect evidence, staffers who most certainly knew their way around did not have anything even remotely approaching a valid excuse for refusing to reenter the facility in order to search for feline survivors.

If any of them had been willing to have done so, they not only would have found Freckles and thus spared her from being forced to spend a week with the Grim Reaper's icy fingers tightly clutched around her parched throat. Every bit as importantly, they also conceivably could have saved the lives of many other cats as well.

Sassy, Sadly, Did Not Make It Out Alive

Instead, these callous rotters left the cats to die slow and agonizing deaths while still locked in their cages. The pain and torments that they were subjected to during and after the conflagration are almost too horrible to even contemplate.

"I hate that animals had to suffer that way," Kenneth Cumpston of Corbin, sixteen kilometers north of Rockholds, told WBIR-TV in the December 2nd article cited supra. "It's just a horrible way to go, stuck in the fire."

Although absolutely no one even remotely connected with KWAS would agree with her, Virginia Thompson of Rockholds put the entire deplorable situation into the proper moral perspective. "I think an animal's life is (as) precious as a person's and I think that was a horrible, horrible death," she averred to WBIR-TV.

The needless deaths of these cats also constituted the very epitome of animal cruelty and gross negligence. Consequently, if there were so much as an ounce of justice to be found in this world staffers would have been promptly indicted on multiple charges and forced to stand in the dock. If convicted and sentenced, they additionally should have received lifetime bans on working in the animal protection field.

The horrific feline death toll at KWAS was by no means an isolated event in that hundreds, if not indeed thousands, of cats perish each year in fires at both public and private shelters around the world. (See Cat Defender post of April 3, 2007 entitled "Fires at Private Shelters Claim the Lives of More Than Two Dozen Cats in Connecticut.")

In addition to being dressed-up death camps and firetraps, shelters also are incubators of disease as well as stressful and harrowing milieus for cats. (See The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 2011, "Shelter Shock. Cats Can Get Sick from Stress. One Proposed Remedy? Keep Them Out.")

The only humane and morally acceptable alternative therefore is not to allow any of these wretched institutions ever to get their hands on cats. Instead, all resources should be diverted to sterilization efforts, TNR colonies, temporary sanctuaries and, above all, finding homes for all of those that are homeless.

In its defense, LHS claims on its web site that it adopts out almost five-thousand animals a year and has a save rate of ninety-five per cent. Even though it did a simply outstanding job of rescuing, treating, and placing Freckles, its claims cannot be taken at face value simply because most shelters utilize far too many dodges in order to conceal the carnage that they inflict upon cats.

Most prominently among these ruses are staffers and affiliated Animal Control officers who summarily execute cats in the field and these fatalities are neither included in their intake data nor their kill rates. That is a tactic that the mass murderers at PETA have down to a science. (See Cat Defender posts of January 29, 2007, February 9, 2007, and October 7, 2011 entitled, respectively, "PETA's Long History of Killing Cats and Dogs Is Finally Exposed in a North Carolina Courtroom," "Verdict in PETA Trial: Littering Is a Crime but Not the Mass Slaughter of Innocent Cats and Dogs," and "PETA Traps and Kills a Cat and Then Shamelessly Goes Online in Order to Brag about Its Criminal and Foul Deed.")

Secondly, shelters also kill cats through negligent trapping procedures and these innocent victims likewise are not counted in either their intake numbers or kill rates. (See Cat Defender post of August 3, 2010 entitled "Valley Oak SPCA Kills a Cat by Allowing It to Languish in the Heat in an Unattended Trap for Five Days at the Tulare County Courthouse.")

Freckles at Home Today with One of Her Playmates

Thirdly, shelters outsource their dirty work so as to make themselves look cleaner and more humane. (See Cat Defender post of July 29, 2010 entitled "Benicia Vallejo Humane Society Is Outsourcing the Mass Killing of Kittens and Cats All the While Masquerading as a No-Kill Shelter" and the Alamagordo Daily News, November 7, 2009, "Kitty City Near La Luz Provides Haven for Felines Facing Euthanasia.")

Most staffers at these facilities and their affiliated Animal Control officers engage in such wholesale dishonesty and double-talk that in order to even begin to accurately evaluate any of them firsthand, eyewitness data as to the number of cats impounded, what, if any treatment they might require and receive and, most importantly, their ultimate disposition must be known and that knowledge is well beyond the reach of the average citizen. Moreover, these institutions seldom, if ever, are subjected to surprise inspections by either governmental or private concerns.

Even those individuals who unconscionably dump their cats at these facilities wholeheartedly go along with the assurances that they receive that homes will be found for them even though they know in their hearts that they are blatant lies. (See Cat Defender post of July 31, 2015 entitled "The Cold-Blooded Murder of Spitz Once Again Exposes the Horrifying, Ugly, and Utter Appalling Truth about Not Only Shelters but Callous Owners and Phony-Baloney Animal Rights Groups As Well" and The Fort Bend Star, July 14, 2010, "Baby Kittens Put to Sleep in Error.")

The LHS accordingly could be telling the truth about its kill rate but the nature of the animal sheltering business mitigates against that being the case. Besides, even a kill rate of five per cent is still five per cent too high.

As for KWAS, it decamped to a temporary warehouse in Corbin on December 17, 2013 and its new facility, financed with the blood money that it received from the insurance company, opened its doors to the public in the same city on April 4, 2015. (See an April 2, 2015 article posted on its web site entitled "Animals Moved into New Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter," plus The Times-Tribune of Corbin, April 2, 2014, "A New Home.")

Outrageously, the same old hacks who irresponsibly sentenced all of those cats to die back in 2013 are still running the show instead of being behind bars, which is only what they so richly deserve. Even more deplorably, since the new facility can only accommodate a grand total of one-hundred cats and dogs, they could not possibly be operating anything other than a feline extermination camp in disguise.

Residents of Appalachia have had a long and enduring love affair with king coal despite the disturbing reality that a lopsided proportion of the benefits derived from its extraction from the ground always have accrued to those who have owned the mining companies. Generation after generation of miners, their families, and other residents of the area have been felled by emphysema, black lung, and rock lung while of late the tops of more than four-hundred mountains have been blown off in the search for this valuable, albeit carcinogenic, mineral.

Moreover, the region has some of the poorest performing public schools and health care facilities in the nation. No one either inside or outside the region gives so much as a hoot, but the same is equally true of its animal shelters, especially KWAS. None of that is about to change, however, because Kentuckians, like most Americans, love only money.

Given that Freckles owes her salvation to a real-life, latter-day Johnny Dollar, the LHS, and Tolliver, it can only be concluded that she is alive today not because of anything that KWAS ever did for her but rather in spite of its best efforts to the contrary. It is almost needless to point out that the tens of thousands of cats who are destined to pass through the portals of its latest incarnation over the course of the next several years will not be anywhere nearly as fortunate.

Photos: Emily Tolliver of the Lexington Humane Society (Freckles), WBIR-TV (burned-out shelter), and the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter (Sassy).