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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

Saturday, October 06, 2018

No Respect for the Dead! A Tierfriedhof Operator Who Desecrated Minki's Grave to the Point That Her Remains Now Lie Partially in an Adjoining Plot Is Given the Stamp of Approval by a German Court

Minki's Hotly Contested Grab

"Manche nennen das einen irren Prozess. Aber so irre ist gar nicht. Er (der Kläger) ist kein Spinner."
-- Torsten F. Barthel

Mike S. loved Minki something awful and when she passed away in May of last year he wanted to provide her with a final resting place that would do justice to just how much that she had meant to him. Totally unwilling to completely let go of the twelve-year-old shorthair, he also coveted a spot that he could regularly visit and spend some time with her as well as to get lost, at least for a little while, in his memories of her.

His quest ultimately led him to Tierfriedhof Mönchengladbach at am Schomm 13 in the city of the same name, thirty-four kilometers west of Düsseldorf in Nordrhein Westfalen, where proprietress Monika Ludwig obligingly leased him a fifty by forty centimeter plot for three years at a cost of €210. The digging of the grave cost Mike S. (last name not given in press reports) another €50.

He additionally provided Minki with a tombstone and a portrait of her rests up against it. Etched on the stone is the following epithet: "Du warst! Du bist! Du bleibst!" ("You were! You are! You remain!")

On top of that he decorated her Grab with flowers, lanterns, and candles. That hallowed ground also contains a wooden bench where he would come and sit with her almost every day but it is unclear if it was supplied by him or the Tierfriedhof.

All apparently went swimmingly until sometime earlier in the year when Ludwig took it upon herself to dramatically reduce the size of Minki's grave by moving in the boundary stones that surround it. As far as it is known, she undertook that utterly appalling act of grave desecration without even so much as bothering to notify Mike S. beforehand; rather, she simply presented him with a fait accompli.

The consequences that precipitate act had upon Minki's remains were nothing short of disastrous. "Dadurch liegt die Katze jetzt nur noch zur Hälfte in ihrem Grab und zur anderen Hälfte mit ihren Extremitäten außerhalb," Torsten F. Barthel, Mike S.'s attorney, told the Rheinische Post of Düsseldorf on September 14th. (See "Minki findet wohl noch keine letzte Ruhe.") "Das hält mein Mandant für unwürdig."

Specifically, it is now believed that the boundary stones lie directly above Minki's heart with her legs actually on the other side of them. None of that is known with any degree of certainty, however, and it is conceivable that her remains now could lie entirely on the other side of the stones.

While Ludwig was in the process of divesting Minki of her grave, she also is alleged to have ripped out of the ground a flowering plant, and possibly some other mementos that went with it, that Mike S. had added as Erinnerungsstücke. Although it is not easy to place a monetary value on such an item, he has provisionally assessed it to be worth around €20.

Mike S. and Ludwig attempted to settle their differences out of court but to no avail. She even offered to transfer Minki's remains to a larger plot, presumably for both a fee as well as an increase in rent, but he rejected that compromise.

Following several postponements, both parties finally found themselves before Richterin Miriam Pels in Amtsgericht Mönchengladbach-Rheydt at Brucknerallee 115 on September 14th. Having gotten wind of what was afoot, the litigants and Pels were confronted upon arrival by two television camera crews, six photographers, and just under a dozen journalists. C'est-á-dire, the German press had come well prepared for a field day and they did not go away disappointed.

By instigating this civil action, Mike S. was seeking to have Minki's grave enlarged by forty centimeters as well as to be monetarily compensated for the loss of his Erinnerungsstücke. Like the boundary stones that now purportedly lie above Minki, Ludwig was not about to be moved even though she professes to own three dogs as well as "eine Menge" of cats.

She therefore began her defense by informing the court that since she had acquired the cemetery in 2012 she had buried more than one-hundred cats, dogs, rabbits, and chinchillas without incurring any difficulties whatsoever up until now. "Ich möchte fast sagen, alle meine Kunden sind zufrieden," the Rheinische Post reported her as avowing. "Alles, wo das Herz dran hängt."

On her web site she states her case even more emphatically. "Mir ist es wichtig, dass hier eine gut Bestattungskultur gepflegt wird," she boasts. "Die Trauernden sollen in Ruhe von ihren Lieblingen Abschied nehmen können."

From there she went on to categorically deny that she had stolen Mike S.'s Erinnerungsstücke. Most importantly of all, she not only claimed that Mike S. had received all the space that he had paid for but that he actually had unlawfully encroached upon a neighboring plot by taking it upon himself to enlarge Minki's grave.

Although both parties earnestly believe themselves to be in the right, it is possible that this entire dispute has its genesis in a misunderstanding that was either unintentional or intentional on Ludwig's part. That is because in order to place Minki's body in her grave it was necessary for Ludwig to excavate a considerably larger area than that of the actual grave itself.

In particular, since she insisted upon burying the cat herself the grave had to be large enough in order for her to get in and out of it. "Wie soll ich sonst da reinsteigen," she pointed out to the Süddeutsche Zeitung of München on September 14th. (See "Mit dem Pfötchen unter dem Randstein.")

Whereas the depth of Minki's grave has not been specified in print, in the United States it is recommended that animal graves be three feet deep and considering that Ludwig had to have ingress and egress to Minki's grave it in all likelihood was dug at least that deep if not indeed even deeper. Attorney Brigitte Vosen backed up her client's assertions on that point.

"Möglicherweise ist der Kläger anhand des Aushubs von einem größeren Grab ausgegangen," she averred to the Rheinische Post in a second article also dated September 14th. (See "Fünfzig mal Vierzig Zentimter sollen für Minki reichen.") "Dies ist jedoch notwendig, um ein Tier ebenerdig in das Grab zu legen."

From that she deduced a superfluous and totally meaningless conclusion. "Ich bleibe dabei: Minki liegt (im Grab, in) diesem Feld," she summed up to the Rheinische Post.

That is beside the point. It is not important that her remains merely lie in the same field in which she was interred but rather that her grave not be disturbed by her client's placing of boundary stones on top of it and stealing mementos.

Richterin Miriam Pels Was the Media's Darling for a Day

Once it finally came time for Pels to hand down her verdict she followed the time-honored tradition of jurists and cat-haters everywhere by first professing her abiding devotion for the species before in the very next breath doing an abrupt about-face and lowering the boom on Minki and her remains. "Ich kenne auch eine Katze von zu Hause," she declared in open court according to the first of the two articles in the Rheinische Post.

Following that she launched into an all-out assault on all honesty, morality, decency and, above all, justice by declaring that a fifty by forty centimeter plot of earth was good enough for the likes of Minki. Press reports fail to disclose how it was that she arrived at that conclusion but more than likely it was based solely upon the ingrained favoritism that members of her disreputable profession constantly accord to the business community and the rich at the expense of cats, other animals, Mother Earth, and the impecunious.

In other words, her ruling amounts to little more than a classic example of an ingrained prejudice masquerading as justice. "Das behauptet der Kläger, aber es gibt dafur keinen Beweis," she howled from the bench like a banshee but such a determination is hardly either convincing or fair.

For example, Ludwig never was called upon to explain why exactly it was that she had allowed Mike S. to assume custody over a much larger plot of ground for the better part of a year without any objections from her. In hindsight it thus would appear that he had more than ample reason for believing that he had legal title to Minki's grave in its original size.

Furthermore, since Pels was so unwilling to even seriously examine Mike S.'s claims concerning the rightful size of Minki's grave, it did not come as any surprise that she also denied him compensation for the loss of his Errinnerungsstücke. Since he quite obviously did not steal it, the logical culprit would be Ludwig given that she already has admitted to desecrating Minki's grave.

That, however, would have been too much of a logical connection for someone of Pels' ilk to consider. Nevertheless, under such circumstances the burden of proof that she did not steal it should have rested squarely upon her shoulders.

This case also demonstrates how radically different the legal establishment treats the graves of cats as opposed to those that contain human remains. For instance, individuals who are caught desecrating the graves of the latter and stealing mementos, flowers, and other objects are most assuredly arrested and prosecuted. When it comes to the graves of cats, however, anything goes and Pels, a fully-fledged stooge for money and the establishment if ever one existed, calls that justice!

She did entertain, if ever so briefly, the notion of having Minki's remains exhumed in order to determine exactly where they now lie in relation to the boundary stones but she not only ultimately rejected that idea but in doing so turned Mike S.'s own words against him. "Er hat ja vermittlet, dass es ihm insbesondere darauf ankommt, dass die Katze pietätvoll begraben wird," the Rheinische Post reported her as opining in its first September 14th article. Sie wisse nicht "ob das so sinnvoll ist, die Totenruhe an der Stelle zu stören."

On that point even Barthel seemed to concur in that since Minki, for some unknown reason, had been interred without the benefit of either embalming fluid or even a coffin there would not be very much left of her remains for the court to examine

So at the end of it all Pels, the self-professed cat-lover, not only tossed out Mike S.'s lawsuit but ordered him to pay the bill for bringing this action. Press reports have not spelled out the particulars but that most assuredly includes court costs and likely Ludwig's legal bill to boot.

It has been stated before but it nevertheless bears repeating: the poor and those of moderate means should endeavor to stay as far away as it is humanly possible from cops, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and politicians in that the legal and political establishment exists solely for the purpose of serving its own members, the rich, and certain powerful interest groups. Even worse, those predators and professional leeches understand only too well which individuals and animals that they can sock it to with impunity.

Mike S. did not personally attend the hearing and, thanks to quirk in deutschen Recht, he was given until September 28th in order to appeal Pels' judgment. "Das ist so, als wäre er nicht da gewesen," Barthel explained to the Rheinische Post in the first of the two September 14th articles cited supra. "Das heißt, die ganze Geschichte würde dann eben noch mal von vorne anfangen."

Since no additional article have appeared in the German press relating to this matter it is, leider, not known if Mike S. elected to avail himself of that loophole. Unless he and Barthel have additional evidence at their disposal which would help to substantiate that what Ludwig did to Minki's grave was illegal or that she stole the Erinnerungsstücke there would not appear to be much point in mounting an appeal, at least not in Pels' court.

Lawyers are highly creative professionals, however, and if Barthel tried a new tact in a different venue the outcome possibly could be altogether different. Even so, the deck is clearly stacked against him and his client.

Besides, Mike S. has far more pressing concerns that call for his immediate attention. First of all, he has to decide if he wants to leave Minki's remains at Tierfriedhof Mönchengladbach or to have them exhumed and reburied elsewhere.

Should he ultimately elect to leave them where they are, he must somehow come to terms with the possibility that Ludwig will engineer additional desecrations. In that light, it might be worthwhile for him to speak to Barthel about the feasibility of obtaining an injunction that would prevent her from making further encroachments on Minki's grave.

Then there is the matter of the €210 that he is obliged to fork over to her every three years and it is far from clear whether that sum is a lease fee, a grave maintenance fee, or both. At the end of the day the particulars do not really matter.

That is because unless Ludwig receives her thirty pieces of silver triennially that is going to be the end of both Minki's remains and her grave. Looking even farther down the road, Mike S. has to be concerned about what is going to happen to Minki's grave once he is no longer above ground himself and there is no one left to pony up for him.

Those same sort of arrangements exist in America but at least some pet cemeteries also offer more permanent solutions as well. For example, the world renowned Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, thirty-seven kilometers north of Manhattan, charges owners a yearly grave maintenance fee of US$76 but they also are given the option of purchasing an endowment for US$2,500 which will ensure the perpetual care of their cat's grave. By contrast, the same level of care is advertised for an investment of only US$100 at Keystone Pet Cemetery in Mertztown, one-hundred-six kilometers northwest of Philadelphia.

In both England and the United States, most caring owners elect to bury their cats in their gardens and in this instance it is far from clear why Mike S. shunned that alternative unless he perhaps lives in an apartment. Even if he had been inclined to have taken that route he eventually could have wound up in the same pickle that he is now in given that home burials are only a permanent solution to this troubling dilemma so long as ownership of the property remains in the family.

A pet cemetery is therefore perhaps a better option for owners who want to ensure that their cats' graves remain undisturbed and that memories of them endure. Hartsdale, for example, has been in business ever since 1826 and is still going strong today.

Mike S. Sits on This Bench Almost Every Day in Order to Be with Minki

Most such facilities are, unfortunately, rather expensive. For example, burial plots at Hartsdale cost between US$1,100 and US$3,200. Wooden coffins go for between US$350 and US$800 and there is an internment fee of US$525.

Their plots are large enough, however, to accommodate up to three cats. In most cases, US$2,000 is usually sufficient in order to cover the cost of a plot, a coffin, and the digging of the grave.

A tombstone can add between US$850 and US$1,695 to an owner's bill and color portraits retail for between US$450 and US$650. The cemetery also sells black and white ones for a more reasonable US$245 to US$350.

At Keystone, the entire shebang can he had for as little at US$699 and that includes the US$100 fee for the perpetual care of the grave. Burial plots sell for US$300 and there is an internment fee of US$100. Also included in the package are a headstone, epithet, and artwork.

Leider, pet cemeteries are prone to the same vicissitudes of time as private burials. For instance, their proprietors can either pull up stakes and go out of business for one reason or another or fail to live up to their agreements.

Owners therefore might want to retain the services of a lawyer in order to look after their cats' graves after they have died. That is all the more imperative given that the American landscape is littered with pet cemeteries that have been abandoned.

Weeds and discarded beer and wine bottles have reclaimed them and vandals have knocked over and broken most of the tombstones. As such, they are sad and depressing spectacles, especially when one pauses to contemplate all the lovely cats that repose there and the tremendous amounts of love that their owners had for them. Now, nothing at all remains of them, not even their names and faces; all has been lost to both abject neglect and the ravages of time.

Cremation is the preferred method of getting rid of dead cats nowadays. While there can be little disagreement that it is a considerably cheaper and less bothersome option than a conventional burial, the fact remains that cats are living creatures, not spirits, with a physical presence in the here and now and to reduce them to ashes is an abomination.

Even if their remains do eventually turn to dust, they still require some type of physical presence in this world even if it is only symbolic. Cremation on the other hand is the equivalent to condemning them to be out of sight and mind for all of eternity.

Cats accordingly should be embalmed and placed in expensive coffins with their toys, blankets, and other personal objects. They then need to be laid to rest in well-tended graves that will endure until the end of time. Tombstones that bear their names and photographs are accordingly essential.

Regardless of the cost and effort involved, cats are deserving of nothing but the very best! In reality, however, all but a few of them are treated like yesterday's newspapers.

Shelters, Animal Control officers, veterinarians, and most owners simply deposit their corpses in the trash. Garbagemen collect those that have been murdered by motorists and dispose of them in the same manner that they do with the leftover slop that they collect from restaurants.

"Wenn Tiere sterben, wird es in Deutschland schnell emotional," the Aachener Zeitung proclaimed on September 14th. (See "Bizarrer Prozess um das Grab von Katze Minki.") "Das Grab einer Kurzhaarkatze in Mönchengladbach erhitzt die Gemüter allerdings auf beispiellose Art."

While that declaration is certainly applicable in the case of Mike S., the same most definitely cannot be said of either Ludwig or Pels. It is not even true of the German people in general who each year stand idly by as hunters legally gun down thousands of cats in cold blood.

Like their counterparts within the thoroughly detestable American media, many publications and news outlets across Deutschland rarely pass up an opportunity to defame and to spread malicious lies about the species. (See Deutsche Welle of Köln, articles dated August 8, 2017 and October 5, 2018 and entitled, respectively, "Your Cat Is Killing the Earth -- but You Can Prevent It" and "Insect Pet Food to Offset Carbon Pawprint.")

The Germans' mistreatment of bears and wolves is equally deplorable. (See Cat Defender post of June 30, 2006 entitled "Cheap, Bloodthirsty Bavarians Mercilessly Gun Down the First Brown Beat to Visit das Vaterland in One-Hundred-Seventy-One Years," the Aachener Zeitung, September 23, 2016, "Wolf vermehrt sich weiter in Deutschland," and Deutsche Welle, April 18, 2018, "Bundestag Committee Debates Wolves' Protected Status in Germany.")

By her desecration of Minki's grave, Ludwig has demonstrated ohne jeden Zweifel that she does not have so much as an iota of respect for either dead cats or the feelings of their grieving owners. Now, thanks to Pels' shameful sucking up to money, the same can be said for Rheydter Magistrates' Court.

Not only has Mike S. been put through an exceedingly distressful period, but he would appear to be just about out of all options and that in turn has placed Minki's remains in a totally untenable position. Although he is described by his attorney as being a normal person with a job, a wife, and a child, that has not deterred the media and others from casting aspersions upon his character.

"Manche nennen das einen 'irren' Prozess. Aber so irre ist gar nicht," Barthel averred to the Rheinische Post in the first September 14th article. "Er ist kein Spinner (crackpot)."

None of that is in any way meant to imply that Germans hold a monopoly when it comes to slandering cat-lovers as crazies. For example, in July of 2008 kindhearted Brooklynite Chris Muth was not only arrested for attempting to save the life of a cat in extremis but he additionally was confined to a mental hospital for six days. (See Cat Defender post of August 8, 2008 entitled "A Brooklyn Man Gets Locked Up in a Nuthouse and Then Loses Digs, Job, and Honey All for Attempting to Save His Friend's Cat, Rumi.")

Although some may be inclined to laugh right along with the crowd, whenever an individual who only wanted to provide a suitable resting place for his beloved cat is divested of his property and subjected to a torrent of public ridicule that is a rather poignant reminder of just how little taste, morality, and decency that remain in this world. Although the doors to the courthouses may have creaked slightly ajar in recent times, that is only a facade in that obtaining even the tiniest measure of justice for either cats or their aggrieved owners remains a chimera.

Photos: Christophe Gateau of the Rheinische Post (Minki's grave and bench) and Ilgner Detlef of the Rheinische Post (Pels).