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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, August 31, 2006

An Animal Control Officer Goes on a Drunken Binge and Leaves Four Cats and a Dog to Die of Thirst, Hunger, and Heat at a Massachusetts Shelter


Forty-one-year-old Michelle A. Mulverhill was served with an eviction notice on July 28th. She then shortly thereafter crawled into the bottle and as the result four cats and a dog were left to die of hunger, thirst, and heat at an animal shelter in Oxford, Massachusetts.

Mulverhill, the city's animal control officer, later told investigators that she had last fed and watered the animals at the Oxford Dog Kennel on Old Webster Road on July 31st. Tragically, it was not until 3:35 a.m. on August 15th that her neglect was accidentally discovered by policeman Paul J. McCarthy.

McCarthy told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette on August 16th that he regularly checks on the animals by flashing his patrol car's spotlight on the pound (See photo above) in order to solicit a reaction from them. Whether he does this out of concern for their well-being or merely to interrupt their repose is not known.

Nevertheless, when a black and white dog that he was familiar with did not rise to its feet to greet him as it usually did, McCarthy became suspicious. After returning to the station house in order to collect the key to the pound, he discovered the carnage caused by Mulverhill's alcohol-soaked neglect. (See "Dog Officer Is Charged in Deaths of Cats, Dog.")

One cat had been reduced to skin and bones. Another cat's eyes were missing. The dog was in such an advanced state of decomposition that it was impossible to accurately determine its sex. The cats had been held at the shelter since July 3rd and the dog since July 10th.

The kennel was littered with white fur, dead flies, and dark, dried blood. The smell of death hung in the air. The dead dog had only a small amount of moldy dog food and about an inch of dirty water remaining; the cats had not a semblance of either food or water.

All the windows were closed but exhaust and ceiling fans were running. It is highly unlikely, however, that the fans would have been sufficient to have provided adequate ventilation during the torrid heat wave that Massachusetts experienced during the first part of August.

Mulverhill, who has since resigned, has been charged with five counts of animal cruelty by a custodian and is scheduled to appear in Dudley District Court on September 26th for a pretrial conference. In the meantime she remains free on her own recognizance after pleading not guilty. She also has been ordered not to come within one-hundred yards of the shelter and not to have any contact with animals except for her daughter's cat. For whatever good it will do, the court also ordered her to stay off the booze and dope.

This disturbing case highlights the deplorable state of how shelter animals are treated in this country. Since she was hired on an on-call basis, Mulverhill was quite obviously working a part-time job that did not pay her enough to enable her to keep up with the rent. Consequently, when she was served with an eviction notice she took to her cups and stopped caring for the cats and dog under her protection.

As criminal as Mulverhill's conduct obviously is, it pales in comparison with that of Town Manager Dennis A. Power and the municipality's selectmen. "We had an exemplary program and Ms. Mulverhill was trained by Siggy Barnard (her predecessor)," Power told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette. "We had confidence that she would perform the tasks as assigned."

That is not good enough. Where was the oversight? Surely Power does not consider McCarthy's flashing his "disco lights" on the shelter once every two to three weeks during the middle of the night to be sufficient.

Selectman John G. Saad acted every bit as thickheaded as Power when he told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette on August 17th, "She had to submit reports to (the board). Dog hearings came before us, and she had to make presentations. She had to investigate. It appeared as though she was doing exactly what was expected of her..." (See "Kennel Deaths Spur Action by Oxford.")

The city's refusal to accept responsibility for the horrible deaths of these four cats and one dog is bad enough in itself, but even worse is its refusal to commit the resources needed to correct the situation. For instance, it has decided to take the cheap way out by hiring two part-time, temporary animal control officers to be assisted by the Department of Public Works.

Although the new appointees, Sheila Donahue and Patricia Dykas Gonet, are both seasoned animal control officers the city needs a fulltime, permanent animal control officer and someone to monitor his or her job performance. That is the only way that more tragic deaths can be prevented.

Sadly, this is not about to happen anytime soon. The politicians in Oxford, a city of approximately 14,000 residents seventeen kilometers outside of Worcester, do not care about the welfare of the cats and dogs under their supervision and even if they did they are far too cheap to commit the funds needed to ensure that they are treated humanely. Moreover, the city is still in denial.

"I had a hard time believing that it actually happened here in Oxford," Saad told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in the August 17th article cited supra. "Oxford has been one of the lead communities as far as animal control is concerned. Other communities have called upon us to help them."

Who is Saad kidding? He has either lost his mind or he has been in Mulverhill's liquor closet!

Mulverhill, who deserves a lengthy jail term at hard labor for her part in the deaths of these cats and the dog, will more than likely get off with a fine and probation. For its part, the city of Oxford will get off scot-free.

It is unfortunate that the law has not advanced far enough for the courts to allow animal lovers to bring in loco parentis wrongful death lawsuits against individuals, groups, and cities that harm animals. If cities like Oxford had to pony up millions of dollars for their neglect and abuse of animals it is a good bet that conditions would improve at shelters.

More to the point, the killing of cats, dogs, and other animals at shelters should be outlawed nationwide. All shelters and animal control officers should be replaced with adoption agencies, foster families, and sanctuaries. The time has come to stop the killing, abuse, and neglect of animals by closing all shelters and dismissing all animal control officers.

Photo: WCVB-TV Boston.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Marauding Pack of Vicious Raccoons Rip Ten House Cats to Shreds and Terrorize Residents but Wildlife Officials Refuse to Intervene


Ten domestic cats have been savagely ripped to shreds this summer in Olympia, Washington by a vicious pack of marauding raccoons. Four other cats, a small dog, and a woman have also been attacked but survived. It is highly likely that feral cats and kittens have also been targeted.

All of the reported attacks have occurred within a three-block radius of the Garfield Nature Trail at Harrison Avenue West and Foote Street Southwest in the western part of the capital of the Evergreen State. Although it is not unheard of for raccoons to occasionally attack cats, this is arguably the first time that they have been known to so completely decimate the feline population of a given area.

"I've never heard a report of ten cats being killed," Sean Carrell of Washington State's Department of Fish and Wildlife told The Olympian on August 21st. (See "Cat-Killing Raccoons on Prowl in West Olympia.") Normally, the omnivorous Procyon lotor confines its predatory urges to chickens, birds, gophers, squirrels, mice, rats, fish, frogs, snails, and crayfish.

Like badgers and some breeds of dogs, raccoons never let up once they attack. In addition to their sharp teeth, they are equipped with dexterous sharp nonretractable claws in the front and hind feet which can be rotated one-hundred-eighty degrees. This latter attribute allows them to descend trees headfirst which is a feat that even cats cannot perform. Clearly, any cat either cornered or surprised by a raccoon would have a difficult time either holding its own in a fight or fleeing.

Their only natural predators in the wild are coyotes, cougars, and bobcats; in the city they need only fear dogs. Nonetheless, because of diseases such as rabies and distemper, a lack of food, fatal encounters with motor vehicles, and the toll exacted on them by hunters and trappers, they generally only live two to three years in the wild as opposed to thirteen years in captivity.

Residents and wildlife officials alike are at a loss to explain why raccoons suddenly have begun preying upon cats since in the past they have gotten along without bloodshed. Some people have suggested that the raccoons could be suffering from either rabies or distemper but Dr. Gregg Bennett of Tumwater Veterinary Hospital believes that this is unlikely because, except for cases involving bats, the rabies virus has never been reported in Washington and distemper would make the coons too deathly sick to attack. (See Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 26, 2006, "People from Around the World Give Raccoon Advice to Olympia.")

The most farfetched explanation has come from Emily Ashworth of Bellingham who has nominated mushrooms as the culprit. Although she has recommended that mushrooms in the area be tested, so far nobody has looked into the matter.

The most plausible explanation put forward so far is that the coons have developed a taste for cat meat. Since they are territorial by nature, they no doubt also view cats as interlopers on their turf and thereby as competitors for their sustenance.

In addition to being able to open doors, latches, and cans with their front paws, raccoons are highly intelligent animals. Specifically, it is believed that, like beavers, they are able to impart newly-acquired knowledge not only to their young but also to their fellow raccoons. This appears to be the case not only in respect to their newfound taste for feline flesh but also in their uncanny ability to stay out of traps. For instance, during a recent six-week period a trapper hired by the community was only able to snare one of the killers even though he was using sardines and cat food as bait.

Like all intelligent beings, they are also highly adaptable. Zum Beispiel, although normally nocturnal they have accommodated themselves so well to urban life that they now come out during the daytime to hunt for food and, consequently, attack cats. Hunting in packs is also a new wrinkle in the behavior of these normally solitary creatures.

Also troubling is the fact that since some residents have been feeding them they have lost their fear of humans and are not the least bit reluctant to attack them, especially when residents intervene in defense of their cats. They have become so emboldened in fact that firecrackers thrown at their feet do not even faze them.

In addition to now fearing for their own safety, the killing of their beloved cats has exacted a high emotional toll on the residents of this neighborhood. Lisann Rolle not only lost her cat Lucy to a trio of raccoons but she, too, was bitten when she intervened. "It was vicious. They were focused on ripping her apart," she told The Olympian.

After chasing away the coons, Rolle rushed Lucy to the vet but she was too late. "After two days we decided she wasn't going to make it and we had her put down," she told KOMO-TV out of Seattle on August 23rd. (See video and story entitled "Olympia Raccoons Dining on Neighborhood Cats.")

Rolle, who was forced to get a jab for rabies as a precaution, now carries an iron pipe with her whenever she goes out at night in order to ward off any future attacks. As for Lucy who had lived with her for seven years, she told KOMO-TV simply, "I miss her."

Rolle's neighbor Pam Corwin fared considerably better when she spotted a coon chasing her cat, Ramona, across her backyard. Acting quickly, she was able to scare off the coon and save Ramona's life. (See photo of them at the top of the page.)

That brush with death, however, has meant the temporary grounding of both Ramona and Corwin's other cat, Sadie. Their outdoor excursions are now restricted to a large cat coop which Corwin has constructed on the side of her house out of chicken wire and wood.

The coons are not going away anytime soon, however, and they still show up on Corwin's and other residents' decks (See photo above) every evening in order to beg for food. A Raccoon Watch has been established and residents have blanketed the neighborhood with raccoon warning posters which now vie with numerous missing cat announcements for space on utility poles.

Kari Hall, her spouse, and an unidentified third party were forced to use a shovel and a baseball bat in order to scare off a raccoon that had attacked Kathy Wood's cat, Sweetie. The cat suffered damage to her internal organs and her prognosis is uncertain.

Conditions have gotten so dire that Tony and Kim Benjamins have acquired a German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix for protection against the coons. This action was precipitated by the raccoons' vicious assault on their cat, Novalee. Poor Novalee was shredded into so many pieces that it was difficult for the Benjaminses to even identify her remains.

Although the raccoons need to be immediately trapped and relocated elsewhere, KOMO-TV has reported that another trapping effort will not be attempted until either early winter or late spring. Since their food supply is expected to be scarcer then, this will supposedly make them more amenable to trapping.

Since existing trapping methods are not working, wildlife officials need to develop new tactics. Surely someone in the state of Washington has enough savoir-faire to trap a few raccoons. It could not be all that difficult since the city of Nacogdoches, Texas does not seem to have much difficulty trapping its unwanted raccoons. (See The Daily Sentinel, August 26, 2006, "City Officials: Don't Feed the Varmints.") More than likely, wildlife personnel in Washington are either too lazy to be bothered or else they, like a lot of their ilk, hate cats.

On its website, Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife argues strongly against relocating raccoons because, inter alia, new ones will only move in to fill the void created by the old ones departure, being territorial, the coons will attempt to return, and even if successfully relocated, they will displace and spread urban diseases to raccoons in their new habitat. Although these arguments have some superficial merit, they are by and large put forward merely as excuses for doing nothing.

First of all, surely some isolated location can be found for the raccoons (See photo above on the right) where they will not harm other raccoons and animals. Besides, it is far better to relocate a few problem raccoons now than to do nothing and allow them to continue to multiply. Secondly, even if newcomers should take their place in Olympia they may not be coons who have acquired a taste for cat meat. Moreover, if residents do not feed them they may not decide to stick around.

In the meantime the residents of Olympia have been left to fend for themselves and their cats as best as they can. The threat to humans arises not only from the rabies virus that some of them carry, but raccoon feces contains a parasite that can be fatal if ingested.

In addition to acquiring dogs and carrying iron pipes, residents are also arming themselves with canisters of pepper spay and guns. An editorial in the August 25th edition of The Olympian reminded them, however, that discharging a firearm within the city is a misdemeanor that is punishable by ninety days in the can and a $1,000 fine. (See "Guns Won't Solve Area's Raccoon Issue.")

It is thought that if residents refrain from feeding them, do not leave pet food outside, and secure trash cans that the raccoons will eventually disappear; after all, it was precisely these misguided acts of kindness which are blamed for creating the problem in the first place. Although this is certainly possible, it could also make them even more aggressive up to the point where they might attempt to gain entry into residences.

It goes without saying that cats cannot be allowed out-of-doors unless they are either tethered to a leash or confined within a cat coop. Cat flaps should also be secured. If for some reason it is necessary to keep them open, electronic devices can be installed in the collars of cats which will allow only them to go in and out.

In conclusion, the abandonment of the residents and cats of Olympia to their own devices by both wildlife officials and the politicians is inexcusable. Ten cats have already been savagely killed. How many more have to die before officials start to act responsibly? Not caring a hoot about cats, they are most likely waiting until either a man, woman, or child dies from a raccoon bite before taking decisive action. Sadly to say, they may not have long to wait.

Photos: Steven M. Herppich of The Olympian (Pam Corwin and Ramona), KOMO-TV (raccoons on deck), and Ginger Holser of Washington State's Department of Fish and Wildlife (raccoon).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Trigger-Happy Gendarmes in Pas-de-Calais Issue Death Warrant for Mysterious Black Gros Chat


"God requires that we assist the animals when they need our help."
-- St. Francis of Assisi

Even though they do not even know whether it is a panther or simply an overgrown tabby, the bloodthirsty gendarmes in Pas-de-Calais have nonetheless ordered that a mysterious black gros chat be hunted down and killed. (See photos above and below.)

The cat, which has small rounded ears and a rather long body and tail, was first spotted on a dune in Wissant by an elderly Calaisien on August 9th. Two days later it was sighted again by tourists in a field in Audinghen. The area, located between Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez in northeast Pas-de-Calais, is also home to numerous cows, deer, rabbits, and domestic cats.

Regardless of its pedigree, it has not attacked any humans and there have not been any reported fatalities of either livestock or pets in the area. On the occasions when it has been sighted it has quickly disappeared into the woods.

None of this has, however, deterred the politicians and gendarmes from signing its death warrant. At least eighty men (See photo below) and a helicopter were originally deployed in the region in order to track down and kill the cat. Traps baited with chickens also have been used in an attempt to lure the cat out of hiding. The prefecture of Audinghen has even taken the unusual step of declaring the area where the gros chat was spotted to be off-limits to the public.

The authorities initially thought that the mysterious cat had escaped from a circus but that claim has been denied by officials of a local big top. The prevailing opinion amongst experts who have viewed photos of the cat is that it is an overgrown Felis cattus and not a panther.

That new appraisal of the situation coupled with their lack of success in tracking down the cat has prompted the gendarmes to significantly scale back the hunt. According to the August 15th edition of Der Spiegel, only about fifteen of them are still actively searching for the cat but they have vowed to nonetheless remain vigilant. (See "Mysterious Big Cat Sighted in France.")

Big cat sightings are not unheard of in Pas-de-Calais. During the summer of 1986 a cat resembling a panther was spotted in the area but some officials dismissed that claim as a hoax.

Animals thought to be panthers have also been sighted Down Under. For instance, mysterious cats have been sighted off and on for the past five years in Ashburton, New Zealand. A large pawprint and piles of feces discovered last week in an area an hour's drive south of Christchurch have been proven, however, to belong to a dog. (See The Ashburton Guardian, August 22, 2006, "Pawprints (sic) 'Belong to a Dog'.")

In June of last year, a hunter near Sale in the Gippsland section of the Australian state of Victoria shot and killed what he thought was a panther. DNA tests conducted at Monash University in Melbourne later confirmed that it was only a harmless overgrown feral cat. Of course, a cat's pedigree is irrelevant as far as the ailurophobic Cobbers and Kiwis are concerned since they slaughter feral cats by the millions for sport. (See Cat Defender post of January 6, 2006 entitled "DNA Tests Confirm That 'Big Cat' Killed in Australia Was a Feral Tabby and Not a Puma.")

More alarmingly, the cat sighted in Pas-de-Calais may not be either a Felis cattus or a panther. Since domestic cats are currently being bred to wild cats, it is possible that it could be part of a designer breed. (See Cat Defender post of May 19, 2005 entitled "Savannahs: More Feline Cruelty Courtesy of the Capitalists and the Bourgeoisie.")

A clone or some other genetic anomaly are also possibilities. (See Cat Defender post of September 6, 2005 entitled "Clones of Endangered African Wildcats Give Birth to Eight Naturally-Bred Healthy Kittens in New Orleans.") There is so much diabolical animal research being conducted nowadays in university and government laboratories that new and larger species of animals are becoming commonplace.

Like viruses, sometimes these unfortunate animals either escape or are intentionally released into the wild by the mad scientists who have created them. They are then mercilessly hunted down and killed by sportsmen, ranchers, and people who get a kick out of killing animals. Some people believe that the Elmendorf Creature (sometimes referred to as a chupacabra) came from a laboratory but this is mere conjecture.

What is so disturbing about the report out of Pas-de-Calais is that the French's first reaction to the sighting of the cat was to organize a death squad. This is precisely what the Germans did back in June when Bruno became the first grizzly to set foot inside Deutschland since the nineteenth century. (See Cat Defender post of June 30, 2006 entitled "Cheap, Bloodthirsty Bavarians Mercilessly Gun Down First Brown Bear to Visit das Vaterland in 171 Years.")

It really does not make any difference whether the cat sighted in Pas-de-Calais is a panther or a feral cat; it has an inalienable right to go on living regardless of its pedigree. Should it be determined to be a panther, it could easily be either trapped or tranquilized and then relocated to a sanctuary where it could live out its life. This would, however, cost time and money and deprive the gendarmes of their blood sport.

Bridgitte Bardot and other animal rights advocates in France should rush to this cat's defense and let the authorities know in no uncertain terms that killing it will not be tolerated. Sadly, the French media so far have mentioned only an unnamed woman from Namur, Belgium who has appealed to the mayor of Audinghen to spare the cat's precious life. (See La Voix du Nord, August 18, 2006, "La fin des recherches, mais pas du mystere 'panthere'.")

Photos: Philippe Huguen of Agence France Presse (cat) and La Voix du Nord (cat hunter).

Monday, August 21, 2006

Trustees in New Hampshire Are Attempting to Break Benefactor's Will in Order to Kick Out Cats from Their Home


"A house without a cat, and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat, may be a perfect house, perhaps, but how can it prove its title?"
-- Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson

When Beatrice Rollins departed this veil of tears in 1996 she left money in her will for the care and maintenance of twelve cats that she had "collected" over the years. Now, trustees of her estate are plotting for financial reasons to do in the cats.

The dispute centers around two of Rollins' former properties that she made provisions for in her will. One of them is an ancient structure located at 44 Hampton Road in Exeter, New Hampshire which she wanted to be turned into a museum. The second home, which served as her primary residence, is located seventeen kilometers to the south in Salisbury, Massachusetts and is where the last of her five surviving cats now reside. According to the trustees, there are not sufficient funds remaining to keep both residences going.

The trustees accordingly want to get rid of the cats, sell the Salisbury house, and use the proceeds from the sale to convert the Exeter house into a museum. This underhanded maneuver would, however, require the approval of the Massachusetts Probate Court and this is unlikely because it is contrary to the explicit terms of Rollins' will.

According to the August 10th edition of Foster's Daily Democrat of Dover, New Hampshire, the will stipulates: "It is my wish that the domestic animals owned by me at the time of my death, with their offspring, shall be allowed to live out their natural lives and the proper provisions shall be made for their maintenance and well-being and that these animals be permitted to live and be cared for on my property." (See "Exeter Museum Waiting on Cats' Nine Lives to Run Out.")

The trustees are attempting to circumvent Rollins' wishes by proposing that the cats be removed from her residence and given to a "home for feral cats, where they would be domesticated and given new homes." There are, of course, sanctuaries for feral cats but domesticating ferals is problematic, especially since all the cats in question are at least ten years old.

At the Salisbury house, each of the large gray and white cats lives in a cage inside its own room. A renter who lives in the other half of the two-family house feeds, waters, and changes their litter boxes while a veterinarian visits once a year.

No information is available as to how much time the cats are allowed outside of their cages or even if they are allowed to socialize with each other or with humans. More importantly, it is not even clear from Greta Cuyler's rather convoluted writing in the Daily Democrat whether the cats are strays or ferals.

Most likely they are somewhere in between domesticated and semi-wild cats. Nonetheless, from the looks of things they are being held as virtual prisoners in their own home. A cage is no place for an animal.

There is about $75,000 left in the fund Rollins established for the cats and that should be more than sufficient to see them through the remainder of their lives. The Daily Democrat is silent on this issue but since there are only five cats remaining it is likely that they have either been sterilized or are kept segregated in cages in order to prevent them from multiplying.

This is in and of itself a violation of Rollins' wishes in that her will specifically makes mention of the cats' offspring. Of course, such measures would be entirely justified in order to prevent inbreeding and the corresponding genetic defects this causes.

The house in Exeter, which was built way back in the 1720s, is divided into two parts. The back portion has been renovated and converted into a rental unit that brings in an unspecified amount of revenue each year. In fact, it was these alterations that ate up most of the money that Rollins had bequeathed for the maintenance of the house. The front part, on the other hand, has not been occupied since 1956 and to venture inside is akin to entering a time machine. (See photos above and below of the exterior of the house.)

For instance, a kitchen calendar is dated 1955. A framed marriage certificate bears the date September 4, 1883. There is a hand-cranked washing machine and even a pot de chambre. The vacant portion of the house does not have either indoor plumbing, electricity, or insulation. The property taxes run $4,000 a year and there is only $16,000 remaining in the trust fund set up for the house.

The estate is not without historical significance, however. In addition to the old-fashioned furnishings found inside the main residence, a wheelwright's shop and a barn on the property are considered worthy of preservation.

Not only do the trustees want to get rid of the cats as soon as possible but they also have reservations about the financial viability of the proposed museum. "It would cost so much to bring it around and what's the hook?" Edward Rowan of the Fogge-Rollins Trust told the Daily Democrat. "You've got to have a lot of bells and whistles to get people into museums nowadays."

According to Rowan, the house in Exeter will most likely be sold with the proceeds going toward the upkeep and maintenance of the items deemed to be of historical value which would presumably then be either sold or donated to a museum. As for the house itself, the trustees could stipulate that its historical look be maintained but more than likely the most lucrative offers would come from developers who would want to raze it in favor of either condominiums or retail space.

"It'd be nice if something happens before the stuff (artifacts) deteriorates," Rowan added. "It ties our hands and it's not great for the cats."

From the sketchy details provided by the Daily Democrat it is impossible to accurately comment upon the financial status of the various accounts set up by Rollins before her death. Nonetheless, there does appear to exist a prima facie case for holding the trustees derelict in both their care of the cats as well as their stewardship of the house in Exeter.

In this light it is also important to remember that trustees do not work gratis; they get paid for their services and some of them raid the till as well. Rowan and his colleagues obviously do not care for the cats and see them only as a drain upon the trust's dwindling resources.

If the choice is between saving a few historical relics and the lives of five cats preference should be given to the cats. Not only is this what Rollins would have wanted but saving a life, animal or human, should always take precedence over material considerations.

Of more immediate concern is the present welfare of the cats. Either some animal rights group or the Probate Court should order an immediate inquiry into their well-being. If warranted, the court should take the unusual step of appointing a guardian to ensure that they receive the kind of care that their benefactor intended.

Photos: Aaron Rohde of Foster's Daily Democrat.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Brave Little Fred the Undercover Cat Has His Short, Tragic Life Snuffed Out by a Hit-and-Run Driver in Queens

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

Fred is dead. The fifteen-month-old gray and yellow American Shorthair who captured the hearts and imagination of New Yorkers back in February when he went undercover in order to help nab a quack vet in a Brooklyn sting operation was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver at around 8 a.m. on August 10th.

His owner, Assistant Brooklyn District Attorney Carol Moran (See photo on the right of her and Fred) carelessly allowed him and his brother George to scamper through an open door at her Howard Beach, Queens home and out into the street as she and her husband were taking out their fourteen-year-old and sixteen-year-old dogs. When George returned alone a few minutes later Moran went to look for Fred only to be informed by a neighbor that there was a cat lying in the street.

Apparently this was not the first time that Moran had allowed Fred to go outside unsupervised. "Usually we catch them right in the yard, or somebody will go out under the deck and come out with cobwebs on his whiskers," she told The New York Times on August 12th. (See "A Detective. A Celebrity. And That Was Just Life No. 1.") "I don't know what he saw, or what struck him, or what possessed him."

To her credit, Moran collected Fred, wrapped him in a blanket, and buried him in her yard. She also planted flowers on his grave.

Fred first attracted worldwide attention when Moran volunteered him to play the role of a cat in need of neutering in an effort to catch twenty-eight-year-old Kingsborough Community College student Steven Vassall who had been operating for at least seven years as an unlicensed veterinarian. (See Cat Defender post of February 14, 2006 entitled "Special Agent Fred the Cat Goes Undercover to Help Nab Quack Vet in Brooklyn Sting Operation.")

"I suggested him in the role because he would be really comfortable in remarkable situations," Moran told the New York Daily News on August 13th. (See "Claws Celebre Kitty Cop Killed in Queens Hit-Run.")

In addition to desexing animals, Vassall had also been performing abdominal surgeries, dental work, and vaccinations. A Boston Terrier named Burt was returned to his owner only partially stitched up and covered in blood after Vassall had operated on him in order to remove a foreign object from his abdomen. A cat named Tiger died while it was in Vassall's care although there is not any evidence that he was responsible for its demise.

Because he operated as an itinerate veterinarian who plied his craft at an undisclosed location, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office was forced to mount a sting operation in order to catch him red-handed. With an undercover agent posing as his owner and with little Fred ensconced in a pet carrier, Vassall was lured to an apartment where he agreed to desex Fred for $135. The entire transaction was captured on video and Vassall was arrested as he exited the premises with Fred.

Vassall was originally charged with, inter alia, impersonating a vet and torturing and injuring animals. On July 6th he was arraigned on a new forty-two-count indictment charging him with fraud, unlicensed practice, criminal mischief, aggravated cruelty, and petit larceny stemming from eight additional cases. (See New York Post, July 7, 2006, "Smack at Pet 'Quack'.") He remains free on a $2,500 bond that he posted back in February.

Once his part in the arrest was made public, Fred became the most famous feline in Gotham. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes introduced him to the media at a news conference (See photo below on the left) where he was presented with a Law Enforcement Achievement Award and a detective's badge (See photo at the bottom of the page). Henceforth he would for ever be known as "Fred the Undercover Cat."

Although Hynes stated back in February that he might have additional undercover work for Fred, the famous feline appears to have spent most of the ensuing months doing charity work. For instance, it was only last month that he appeared in Shubert Alley with Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters at a pet adoption benefit where he was given a special "Broadway Barks 8" citation. At the time of his death plans were being discussed to have him demonstrate pet care in the public schools. He sans doute would have been good at that, too.

During his short and tragic life Fred achieved much but he also suffered mightily. He was born homeless on the mean streets of Brooklyn where he had to fend for himself. When he was picked up by Animal Care and Control last September he had a collapsed lung and was suffering from pneumonia.

At first he did not respond to treatment and was slated for extermination until Moran adopted him. Subjected to a regimen of antibiotics, steam showers, and chest poundings, Fred was slowly nursed back to health. He originally divided his time between the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office and Moran's residence before finally settling in for good at the latter. He and his brother George were named for the Weasley twins from Joanne Rowling's Harry Potter series.

"He was my baby. He was very, very sweet. He was very attentive to us," Moran told The New York Times. She also described him as a "live wire" who liked to chase her other cats and dogs.

Despite her contrition, Moran knows that it was her carelessness that cost young Fred his life. "I feel like we've let everybody down," she told the Daily News.

"He belonged to the world. I wish I could apologize," she told Newsday on August 11th while simultaneously asking that paper not to disclose her address. (See "Beloved 'Undercover Kitty' Fred Dies.")

Recriminations will not bring back Fred, but Moran's irresponsible behavior is nonetheless reminiscent of that of Bill Clinton who has allowed at least two of his dogs to be run down by motorists. It is incumbent upon all cat and dog owners to remember that most motorists not only do not look out for animals, but that some of them in fact go out of their way to run them down.

Instead of stuffing most of the public's money into their pockets, the crooked politicians who run this capitalist dystopia should pour a few shekels into animal protection legislation. Speed limits need to be lowered everywhere but especially in residential and mixed-residential areas.

"Watch for Animals and Pedestrians" signs should be conspicuously posted everywhere and public service announcements should be aired on radio and television in order to underscore this point. Running down animals, domestic and wild, should also be criminalized.

Cat owners should either fence in their yards or use high-tech devices in order to keep their pets out of the street. Even with fenced-in yards, cats should not be allowed outside without supervision in areas where there is heavy vehicular traffic. Cats need and deserve their freedom but at the same time owners must take measures to ensure their safety.

The blithe spirit that was Fred has now been stilled forever. In time, his life and exploits will recede into memory and his story will become lost amongst the millions of other tragic stories that New York City gives birth to every day. Nonetheless, there are not words which can adequately convey the enormity of this tragedy. He was a cat who had accomplished much during his sojourn on this earth and he would have undoubtedly done much more if he had been permitted to go on living.

Moran described Fred to the Daily News as a "shooting star" who "burned fast and bright and passed quickly," but that eulogy fails to acknowledge the part that she played in his death. On the other hand it was her kindness that saved him from the knackers at Animal Care and Control in the first place.

As is the case with all affaires de coeur, the tuition in animal care is always steep. Unlike Clinton, hopefully Moran will learn from her mistakes and be more attentive to the safety of the other cats and dogs under her protection.

Photos: Alan Raia of Newsday.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Austrian Officials Close Busy Alpine Tunnel in Order to Rescue Kitten Cruelly Abandoned by Motorist


"How we behave toward cats below determines our status in heaven."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

A ten-week-old kitten who was cruelly abandoned to fend for herself in a busy tunnel in the Alps was saved from an almost sure and certain death underneath the wheels of some speeding motorist when Austrian officials shut down the tunnel not once, but twice, in order to rescue her.

The black female with red spots (See photo above) was first sighted by motorists August 6th in the five-kilometer-long Roppen Tunnel (See photo below) in the Tirol region of western Austria. The Autobahnpolizei were notified but they were unable to locate the kitten.

The young cat was spotted again the next day during the morning rush hour at around 7:15 a.m. and the busy tunnel was closed in both directions so that officials could make a thorough search for her. The search was ultimately unsuccessful and the tunnel was later reopened.

Later the same day at around 2 p.m. a Streifenfahrer der Autobahnmeisterei spotted the kitten on a median and the tunnel was shut down once again. This time around officials were able to capture the feline and bring her out to safety.

In addition to being frightened out of her wits, the poor kitten was covered in soot and starved half to death. She was promptly turned over to the custody of Ms. Manuela Prantl of the Oberland Cattery in the village of Wenns im Pitztal who has christened her Lucky.

"She may have been deliberately abandoned because she was right in the middle of it," Prantl told Der Spiegel on August 9th. (See 'Lucky' the Kitten Causes Tunnel Closure.") "She would have had to walk two and a half kilometers in each direction to get out."

The Katzenstation will hold on to Lucky for a week to see if her previous owner wants her back. Not only is this highly unlikely but he or she would have a lot of explaining to do if they showed up and tried to reclaim her.

"She is very friendly and I don't think we'll have trouble finding a home for her," Prantl predicted. In fact, the cattery has already received a call from a lady in Innsbruck who wants to adopt Lucky.

Lucky is certainly an apt name for the kitten because it is truly a miracle that she survived the better part of two days in the busy tunnel. Operators of the tunnel are to be commended for not only caring about cats but more importantly for their willingness to inconvenience motorists by shutting down the tunnel in order to mount a rescue operation.

Lucky can also be thankful that she is an Austrian as opposed to an American cat. It is highly unlikely that officials in America would close down any stretch of roadway in order to save an animal. Moreover, motorists in this country get an adrenalin rush out of running down small animals.

If there is any truth in Robert A. Heinlein's admonition that "How we behave toward cats determines out status in heaven," then the operators of Roppen Tunnel should be in pretty good stead in the hereafter. An entirely different fate awaits the person or persons who dumped Lucky in the tunnel.

According to Faith Resnick, "People that hate cats, will come back as mice in their next life."

Photos: Tierschutzverein fur Tirol (Lucky) and www.italproof.com (Roppen Tunnel).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Death Toll Mounts for Cats and Other Animals Slaughtered and Left Homeless in Lebanon by Israeli War Criminals


"... His (man's) chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species..."
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Although the western media have tried mightily to cover up the Israelis' war crimes in Lebanon, they have largely been unsuccessful thanks in no small measure to the stellar reporting of Robert Fisk, Jonathan Cook and others. That is not to say that the Israelis will not get away with their crimes; au contraire, they will get off scot-free just as they have always done for the past one-hundred years or so. The only difference is that this time around they have exposed themselves and the eyes of the world have been opened and everyone now fully comprehends the full extent of both their ambition and total moral depravity.

In spite of all the politicians and media outlets that they own, it is impossible for them to hide from view the corpses of the thousands of Lebanese that they have slaughtered, more than ninety per cent of which have been non-combatants, and the more than a million refugees that their bombing campaigns have left stateless.

Nor can their massacre at Qana, their unprovoked attack upon UNIFIL at Khiam, and their bombing of refugee camps, fleeing civilians, and ambulances be swept under the rug and forgotten. The same can be said for the Israelis' destruction of countless apartment blocks, hospitals, power plants, milk factories, roads, bridges, and airports. They have already been branded war criminals by Human Rights Watch in its report entitled "Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon."

As the racist war criminals continue to bomb Lebanon's infrastructure back into the Stone Age, forgotten amidst the mounting human casualties is the plight of millions of Lebanese cats and other animals. It is an often overlooked petit fait but cats are just as easily maimed and killed by bombs and bullets as people. (See photo above of a wounded cat walking next to the wreckage of a fishing boat in the Beirut suburb of Ouzai.)

Plus, the Israelis are using cluster bombs, white phosphorous and possibly even depleted uranium against civilian targets. Cats also die when buildings and bridges collapse on top of them. (See photo at the top of the page of a cat picking its way through the rubble of a collapsed bridge in the Beirut suburb of Naameh.)

They also die agonizingly slow deaths brought on by disease and from ingesting poisons. In their weakened condition they additionally become easy targets for marauding packs of hungry dogs. Worst still, there are very few people left to feed, water, and attend to their injuries even should provisions be available.

No one knows how many cats have been killed so far but the number surely must be in the thousands. Since the Israeli aggressors have no intention of letting up until they have exterminated every Lebanese man, woman, and child and reduced all of Lebanon to ruins, many more thousands will surely die in the weeks and months ahead as the war continues. Agence France Presse reported on August 3rd that hundreds of hungry cats are already roaming the deserted streets of Tyre in search of sustenance. (See "Street Cats Take Over Tyre.")

News concerning animal rescue efforts in the war zone is scarce but the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is reporting on its website that Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) is rescuing cats, kittens (See photos above and below), and dogs from the streets as well as taking in some pets from fleeing residents.

Before the outbreak of hostilities, BETA operated three shelters which housed around one-hundred-thirty dogs and about one-hundred cats, but the Associated Press reported on July 26th that the organization has been forced to relocate its cats to a safer neighborhood in Beirut and to remove its dogs to Moneverde (See photo further down on the page), nine miles east of Beirut.

BETA has also taken over rescue efforts at a zoo in Ghbayri which was home to, inter alia, five monkeys, a camel, a crocodile, a donkey, an owl, three eagles, and an unspecified number of goats, rabbits, chickens, birds, and snakes.

The animals' already dire situation has been compounded by the decision of the United States and other countries not to allow their nationals to take their pets with them when they were evacuated. Obviously the Americans did not learn anything from their mistakes in New Orleans last September because if they had they would have made plans beforehand to have evacuated the pets of their nationals.

Sadly, the conduct of the fleeing evacuees has been just as heartless and brutal. For instance, Agence France Presse reported on August 6th that the roads of Lebanon are littered with the carcasses of cats, dogs, goats, sheep, and other animals mercilessly mowed by motorists hellbent upon savings their own skins at any cost. (See "U.S. Rights Group: 'War is Absolute Hell for Animals Too.'")

PETA is also involved in the rescue effort and wherever this phony-baloney, diabolical animal rights group goes it takes along its warped morality with it. For instance, it has been handing out fliers urging people to release tied up animals, water them and, if possible, to give them a home. If that is not feasible, it is recommending that individuals shoot them at point-blank range. (See Agence France Presse's August 6th article cited supra.)

Although it would be a bit much to expect a people as bloodthirsty and larcenous as the Israelis to care about animals, their heinous treatment of them in both the Occupied Territories as well as in Israel is nonetheless nothing short of shocking. For example, when they pulled out of twenty-one colonies in Gaza and four in the West Bank a year ago they abandoned thousands of cats, at least seventy dogs, and numerous parrots and pigeons to their own devices.

That was an encore performance of what they did when they pulled out of the Sinai Peninsula in the early 1980s. On that occasion they even left dogs chained in their yards! (See Cat Defender post of November 7, 2005 entitled "Israeli Colonialists in Gaza and the West Bank Leave Behind Thousands of Cats to Die of Thirst, Hunger, and Predation.")

In May of 2004, the Israelis slaughtered ostriches, turtles, raccoons, ducks, guinea fowl, goats, and deer when they attacked the Rafah Zoo in Gaza. About the only animals that they did not either maim or kill were several valuable African Grey parrots which they stole. During March and April of last year colonialists in the West Bank used rat poison to decimate the Palestinians' cows, sheep, and goats in southern Hebron; these indiscriminate poisonings also claimed the lives of numerous birds and other wildlife.

The Israelis' barbaric treatment of animals is not limited to those belonging to its neighbors but rather it extends to those living within its own borders. For instance, between 1999-2005 hundreds of cats suspected of carrying the rabies virus were systematically poisoned in the streets. Veterinarians also routinely confiscated and exterminated cats brought to their offices for medical treatment or vaccinations.

On March 23rd of this year, Ha'aretz reported that a cat was decapitated and its head mounted on a tree in Holon. In Tel Aviv, someone broke the legs of two cats and then tied the two felines together. (See "Tel Aviv and Holon: Two Cases of Cat Torture.")

The Israelis likewise have little or no regard for Mother Nature. Three weeks ago they purposefully bombed a coastal power plant in Jiyyeh (See photo below), twelve miles south of Beirut, releasing 110,000 barrels of crude oil into the Mediterranean.

The oil spill, which cannot be treated until the Israelis lift their naval blockade and the fighting stops, has destroyed one-third (approximately seventy-five miles) of the Lebanese coastline and threatens the coasts of Syria, Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece. (See Associated Press, August 2, 2006, "Bombardment Unleashes Oil, Killing Fish and Turtles in Lebanon.")

The oil spill also has pretty much destroyed the entire marine system along the Lebanese coast. Countless endangered turtles and thousands of fish have already died, fishermen have been put out of work, and consumers are now afraid to eat fish from the Mediterranean. People coming into contact with the spill are also in danger of contracting cancer as well as doing severe damage to their endocrine systems. The cleanup, once it is able to get under way, is expected to cost around $50 million and it will take at least ten years for marine life to recover.

The Israelis' destruction of the Lebanese environment is a continuation of what they have been doing to Palestinian land for decades. In the West Bank, the colonialists routinely use Palestinian territory as a dumping ground for sewage, trash, construction debris, boulders, junked autos, pesticides, old batteries, and fiberglass. Besides creating eyesores and unsanitary conditions, these toxins also contaminate Palestinian waterways and farms.

The inescapable picture of the Israelis that emerges from their treatment of both the Lebanese and the Palestinians is that of a people so racist and morally bankrupt that they are totally incapable of having an iota of regard for any non-Jew, animal, or the environment. Insomuch that it arms, bankrolls, and supports them politically in every atrocity that they commit, the United States is every bit as much of an enemy of humanity and nature as the Israelis.

Those individuals in both the media and the universities who know what is going on but yet remain silent should bear in mind what Dante said about people who remain neutral in times of great moral crises.

Photos: Agence France Presse (cat amidst the rubble), Associated Press (injured cat, dogs in Moneverde, and Jiyyeh power plant), and BETA (rescued cats and kittens).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The USDA Fines the Hemingway Memorial in Key West $200 a Day for Exhibiting Papa's Polydactyl Cats Without a License


"They're comparing the Hemingway house to a circus or a zoo because there are cats on the premises. This is not a circus. These cats have been here forever."
-- Cara Higgins

Are cats that merely reside on the grounds of a public memorial the same as circus and zoo animals and thus subject to the licensing requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)?

That is the legal question that a United States District Court in Miami has been called upon to decide in a case involving Ernest Hemingway's famous polydactyl cats in Key West, Florida.

The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has declared that the cats who roam the grounds of the Hemingway Home and Museum are indeed being exhibited and has begun fining the museum $200 a day for its lack of an exhibition license. The trustees of the home have accordingly filed a lawsuit against the USDA.

"They're comparing the Hemingway house to a circus or a zoo because there are cats on the premises," Cara Higgins, an attorney representing the trustees, told Edinburgh's The Scotsman on July 31st. (See "Cat Fight at House of Hemingway.") "This is not a circus. These cats have been here forever."

While museum officials insist that the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit each year come to see the house where Hemingway wrote such classics as For Whom the Bell Tolls and To Have and Have Not during his decennial stay in America's most southern city in the 1930s and not the cats, the USDA disagrees. "We're asking the judge to let us know whether this act applies to the cats, and if so why that is if the animals are not in commerce," Higgins added.

Currently there are forty-six cats living on the premises; about half of them are polydactyls and nearly all of them are named after celebrities. They are fed and watered daily and receive regular veterinary care. Unfortunately, only the polydactyls are allowed to reproduce.

"They're unique. Each one has its own character, and they're fiercely independent," museum guide Steve Troger told The Scotsman in the article cited supra.

At the top of the page little Patches is shown pussyfooting between Papa's machine a ecrire and a copy of The Old Man and the Sea. The beautiful Ava Gardner is shown directly above resting on a walkway while Archibald MacLeisch is shown below on the left refreshing himself at a drinking fountain made especially for cats. The top part consists of an old Spanish olive jar that came from Cuba while the bottom portion once served as a urinal at nearby Sloppy Joe's Bar.

The story of Papa Hemingway and his cats began in 1935 when sea captain Stanley Dexter gave a female polydactyl named Snowball to Hemingway's sons, Pat and Greg, in return for some errands that they had performed for him. Because of their extra toes, the cats were considered to be lucky and on top of that they were also proficient mousers. The polydactyls who today call the memorial home are direct descendants of her.

Although it is not known how much an exhibition license would cost the home, at the rate of $200 per day for not having one it is going to cost the attraction $73,000 a year if the USDA wins in court. Also troubling is Higgins' callous statement to The Scotsman about wanting to comply with the law. "If it has something to do with the number of cats, how many do we have to get rid of to be in compliance?"

Contrary to Higgins' warped thinking, cats are not something to be gotten rid of, especially Papa Hemingway's cats. Since they have been living at the museum for so long they are entitled to go on living there. Any efforts intended to either harm or remove them should be strenuously opposed by all cat activists.

Charged with overseeing the safety of the nation's food supply, monitoring the spread of Mad Cow Disease, the regulation of genetically modified crops, the safety of laboratory animals, and numerous other vital functions, it is curious that the USDA would have either the time or money to go after Hemingway's cats. Besides, the USDA's precipitate action opens up a Pandora's Box of legal difficulties. For instance, would libraries and amateur sports teams be required to obtain exhibition licenses in order to keep cats?

More than likely the USDA is either after a quick buck or simply going out of its way in order to be obnoxious. After all, when has it ever displayed any genuine concern for farm animals, lab animals, or animals shanghaied into slaving for circuses and zoos? As far as lab animals are concerned, the AWA governs only such peripheral issues as food, water, and cage size; it is totally silent on animal cruelty, mutilation, and murder. Much the same thing can be said for the USDA's feckless oversight of farm animals and those used in entertainment and sports.

Moreover, the agency's stewardship of surplus commodities is so lax that it borders on criminal neglect. For example, in 2003-2004 the USDA turned a blind eye as ranchers resold tens of millions of pounds of powdered milk to feed dealers and brokers who in turn made a packet by exporting the milk abroad. Because of a severe drought out west, the milk had been given to the ranchers gratis by the USDA to feed their allegedly starving herds.

All totaled, the ranchers, feed dealers, and brokers made untold millions off of an emergency milk program that cost taxpayers $400 million. (See Washington Post, July 19, 2006, "Aid to Ranchers Was Diverted For Big Profits.") The message from the USDA is clear: ranchers, farmers, and their middlemen have a license to steal from the government but Hemingway's cats must ante up if they want to go on breathing. This case is so typical of the corruption and repression that is present at every level of government in America today.

Although he has been dead for forty-five years, Hemingway (See photo above on the left) is still widely read today and other establishments in Key West associated with him are also popular with tourists. For instance, Hemingway Days, held this past July 18-23, featured a Hemingway lookalike contest at Sloppy Joe's Bar which was won by fifty-five-year-old Texas Chris Storm. Other events included a marlin tournament, author readings, a short story competition, and an offbeat running of the bulls. His Havana home, Finca Vigia, has been preserved by Comrade Fidel and also attracts many visitors each year.

The polydactyls in Key West are one of the few remaining links between the man and his work. When a visitor gazes into their eyes he or she is seeing an updated version of what Hemingway saw when he stroked their fur all those years ago as he was creating his literary masterpieces.

Hemingway was not only a great writer but a devout cat-lover. Writers and cats go together like ice cream and fresh strawberries. As Desmond Morris once said, "Artists like cats, soldiers like dogs."

It accordingly would be a tragedy of monumental proportions if anything were ever to happen to Papa Hemingway's cats. If worse should come to worse, the Hemingway Home should either purchase an exhibition license or just pay the USDA its $73,000 each year. The cats are worth that much and a lot more. Under no circumstances should any of them be gotten rid of as Higgins has suggested.

Glimpses of the famous felines gamboling on the grounds of the museum (See photo above) can sometimes be seen via webcams at www.hemingwayhome.com.

Photos: Roberto Rodriguez of the Associated Press (Patches), Hemingway Home and Museum (Ava Gardner and Archibald MacLeisch), Wikipedia (Hemingway), and www.myfloridatrips.com (Hemingway's residence).