Category: animal welfare

Sunday Cats: Hoarders In Buddyland, Alleged Dallas Zoo Thief Nabbed, P-22 Remembered

When police went to a Yorktown, NY, home for a welfare check this week, the last thing they expected was to find an army of cats.

The responding officers breached the home when no one answered, finding an elderly couple deceased inside, along with some 150 hungry, neglected cats. Police don’t believe there was foul play in the death of the couple, but the number of cats and the condition of the home have “hindered” their investigation.

The Westchester County SPCA is taking on the monumental task of collecting the cats, giving each of them veterinary care and finding homes for them. Staff there are calling it the largest single rescue in their history, and they’d already filled their own facilities and local shelters to capacity by the time they’d rescued 100 of the famished felines, leaving them scrambling for room to place the others. Some have upper respiratory, eye and skin infections, the SPCA said, while most of the cats were malnourished and dehydrated.

Despite living in conditions police described as “filth and squalor,” the cats are well-socialized and friendly, rescuers say. They believe the husband and wife may have been Abyssinian breeders at some point.

“It’s very unusual in a case like this, especially with that number of cats, for them to be as social and sweet as they are, usually they are scared when they come from a situation like this because they haven’t had a lot of human interaction,” the SPCA of Westchester’s Lisa Bonnano told the New York Post.

Yorktown is about 28 miles north of Casa Buddy, and we can vouch for the excellent work done by the Westchester County SPCA, whose veterinarians gave kitten Buddy his first shots and gave him the snip.

Veterinary costs alone are expected to exceed $40,000, so if you’d like to help, you can make a donation here.

Alleged Dallas Zoo thief nabbed

When 24-year-old Davion Irvin stopped an employee at the Dallas World Aquarium to ask about exotic animals there, the staffer recognized him as the same man pictured in a surveillance still from the Dallas Zoo.

Police released the image to the public after three separate enclosures at the zoo were breached, leading to the brief disappearance of a spotted leopard on Jan. 13 and the theft of two emperor tamarin monkeys about two weeks later. The langur monkey exhibit was also breached, but the animals were not removed.

After the aquarium’s staff tipped them off, cops caught up to Irvin a few miles away and have since linked him to all three break-ins. They charged him with two counts of burglary — for the monkeys and the leopard — and six counts of animal cruelty. They’re also looking into whether Irvin may have been involved with the “very suspicious” death of an endangered lappet-faced vulture on Jan. 21.

Cops, who initially suspected the thief was looking for exotic animals to breed or sell, have said Irvin hasn’t told them why he wanted the primates and the medium size cats. Their investigation is ongoing.

Thousands say goodbye to P-22

More than six thousand people crowded into The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday to say goodbye to P-22, the Hollywood Lion, a puma who made the hills above the city his home for more than a decade.

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One of several new murals of beloved mountain lion P-22, who was euthanized in December after he was hit by a car and suffering from an infection.

People spoke about seeing his curious face pop up on their doorball cameras, spotting him disappearing into the trees in Griffith Park, and how his presence piqued the curiosity of many people who took the time to learn more about mountain lions.

But the unofficial theme of the event was how P-22 showed people humans and wildlife can co-exist, and how our species can do a lot more to make sure the animals we share the Earth with will survive in the future. One woman told LAist that before she learned about P-22, she “used to think they were scary” and aggressive like the big cats they’re often confused with.

Others said he inspired them to get directly involved with conservation efforts.

“We are wildlife. We are creatures of nature, just as all the animals and plants are,” archaeologist Desireé Martinez, a member of the indigenous Gabrielino-Tongva tribe, told KTLA. “What can we do to make sure that the creatures that we are sharing this nature with have the ability to survive and live on — just like us?”

P-22’s unforgettable visage, already familiar to Los Angelinos, is now ubiquitous in his former range, with several murals adorning the sides of buildings and other displays bearing his image.

“He inspired so much happiness. I mean, look at all the people that are here,” Babetta Gonzalez told LAist. “We have to remember that we are in their neighborhood and we need to respect their environment. We have integrated, but we could do a lot better.”

UPDATED: Monkeys Go Missing From Dallas Zoo Weeks After Clouded Leopard Freed From Habitat

UPDATE, 2/1/2023: A tip led police to an empty home in Lancaster, Texas, about 15 miles from the zoo. The missing tamarins were found inside a closet and were unharmed, per CNN. They were returned to the zoo and examined by veterinarians.

Police still want to speak to an unidentified man (see story below) who was seen on zoo grounds, but they haven’t said what the man was doing or how he may be connected to the thefts. The abduction of the tamarins follows two other incidents of breached enclosures at the zoo, and the theft of 12 squirrel monkeys from Zoosiana in Broussard, Louisiana, this weekend.


Original story, 1/31/2023:

Dallas police released a photo of a “person of interest” they’d like to speak to after a pair of emperor tamarin monkeys went missing from their enclosure in the Dallas Zoo, the latest of three incidents in which animal habitats at the zoo were breached by human hands.

The first incident happened on Jan. 13 when zookeepers noticed a three-year-old clouded leopard named Nova was missing from her enclosure. They found a breach in the mesh netting that serves as one of enclosure barriers, and said it was a clean, intentional cut with a blade, not from the animals.

After a frantic search — and multiple appeals to the public informing people the leopard was not dangerous and should not be shot — zookeepers found Nova hiding in a tree on the zoo grounds, not far from her enclosure. Nova’s sister, Luna, lives in the same enclosure and remained there.

That same day, staff at the zoo also found another breach, this time at the langur exhibit. Langurs are old-world, leaf-eating monkeys native to Asia. None of the monkeys were missing, but the discovery strengthened the suspicion that someone had tried to steal Nova and at least one monkey, but were not successful.

Now it appears that same person or a copycat has been successful in another habitat. On Jan. 30, zookeepers found a breach in a habitat that hold’s the zoo’s emperor tamarin monkeys. Two of the monkeys were missing.

Tamarins are tiny arboreal new world monkeys that have become popular pets due to “influencers” popularizing them on sites like Youtube and celebrities purchasing them.

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A tamarin mother with her babies. Primate babies are virtually attached to their mothers for the first years of their lives

There are an estimated 15,000 monkeys living as pets in the US, and some species fetch up to $7,500 as infants, when they’re violently “pulled” from their mothers when they’re just days old and sold. Most are temporary pets, lasting up to two years before docile, adorable infants become destructive, resentful juveniles and the “owners” decide to cut their losses. Buying monkeys as pets and subsequently abandoning them has become so common that sanctuary spots are at a premium, with a handful of sanctuaries taking thousands of monkeys annually.

Some people buy new babies every year or two, shipping the “old” ones off to sanctuaries — or simply dumping them in the woods where they don’t know how to fend for themselves — and repeating the process of infantalizing newly-purchased monkeys. Macaques, capuchins, marmosets and tamarins are the most popular monkeys kept as pets.

Despite the appeal to some people, humans cannot meet the social or environmental needs of monkeys, who naturally live in troops with complex social hierarchies and relationships.

“Monkeys are not surrogate children, and they’re not little people,” the Humane Society’s Debbie Leahy told the New York Post in a 2013 story.

“Pulling” monkeys from their mothers traumatizes infants and the mothers, and there is a wealth of data from primate maternal deprivation studies — going all the way back to the cruel experiments of psychologist Harry Harlow — documenting the psychological damage done to the animals when they’re removed from their mothers and troops.

“If you try to keep them as pets you’re creating a mentally disturbed animal in 99.9 percent of the cases,” Kevin Wright, director of conservation, science and sanctuary at Phoenix Zoo told National Geographic. “The animal will never be able to fit in any other home. Never learn how to get along with other monkeys. And, more often than not, will end up with a lot of behavioral traits that are self-destructive.”

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A rhesus monkey baby, already separated from its mother at just a few days old.

Tamarins, which are often called “pocket monkeys” by people who keep them as pets, can fetch up to $5,000 apiece, generally less than larger primates like capuchins or macaques. Demand for macaques has skyrocketed since the pandemic, as laboratories test various drugs on the old world monkeys, and prices for infants have risen as well.

Despite officials at Dallas Zoo installing additional cameras and increasingly patrols on the grounds at night, an intruder or intruders were able to evade detection and successfully remove the animals some time between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Police have released an image of a man who was seen strolling through the zoo and have asked for the public’s help identifying him so detectives can speak with him. Police did not say why they believe the man, who is pictured wearing a hooded jacket and eating Doritos, would have information on the missing animals or what his role might be.

close up photo of a tamarin monkey
An emperor tamarin. Credit: Nathan J Hilton/Pexels

Manly, Heroic Ex-NFL Player Kills Puma For Fun, Cries About Backlash

Derek Wolfe is a badass.

The 295-lb former NFL lineman recently got a license to kill mountain lions, so when he heard about a puma that was “terrorizing” a Colorado community by existing near it, he packed his weapons of war, rounded up his hounds and set off, trailing testosterone like a beefed up Jim Corbett gone to deliver justice to the Champawat tiger.

First he spoke to a local homeowner, who had an ominous warning for him.

“And when we had talked to the landowner, they said, ‘Hey, we have house cats. And the cats are acting weird.’

No doubt the cats were agitated and wanted to get out there to cause havoc with their feline brother by existing and eating stuff. The cats would have to be dealt with later.

Arriving at the scene, Wolfe (what a badass name) found the remains of a recently-killed deer and knew the evil mountain lion hadn’t reformed its ways. By continuing to exist despite the discomfort of people in the area, and continuing to eat, the defiant cougar was practically asking to be hunted down and killed.

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Moving downwind of the fearsome predator so that it wouldn’t smell the pheromonal cloud of machismo that permanently surrounds him, Wolfe began climbing. The ascent was exhausting — not only is the 6’5″ Wolfe almost 300 pounds, but he was also carrying his sword, his health elixirs and his Bow of Righteous Smiting, a 1,000-DPS legendary weapon he obtained after slaying the Goblin King of Dreadmoore. Wolfe was carrying more than 400 pounds up the slope when he caught sight of the puma and did what men of testicular fortitude do: he released the hounds, who cornered the cat and chased it up a tree.

Then, with righteous fury, Wolfe drew his bow and killed — excuse me, “harvested” — the mountain lion, whose species is notoriously averse to conflict with humans and has killed fewer people in a century than dogs do in a week. But what are a few inconvenient facts between friends, amirite?

When Wolfe descended the treacherous slope with the corpse of the mighty cat like Geralt of Rivia toting the trophy from a monster hunt, the villagers applauded and sang songs of his bravery, then feasted in his honor.

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Derek Wolfe, conqueror. Credit: Derek Wolfe/Instagram

But all was not well, for when Wolfe posted the manly photos of himself posing manfully with the corpse of the big not-quite-big cat, a contingent of insignificant peons criticized him on Instagram for killing an animal that was allegedly “just surviving.”

So Wolfe did what men of his stature do, and went on Tucker Carlson’s show to cry about the rodential men and women nipping at his heels.

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Wolfe on Carlson’s TV show. Credit: Fox News

It is said that the combined testosterone of Wolfe and Carlson created a vortex of badassery that threatened to spark untameable hair and muscle growth in anyone who ventured too close. Female assistants had to be ushered out of the studio before the segment began, and the lesser men manning the cameras had to sign waivers absolving Wolfe and Carlson of blame if they were transformed into hulking man-beasts by the combined presence of the former lineman and the scion of a TV dinner empire.

“I’ve been through some tough training camps, brother, but this hunt was –  man – it beat me up bad. I was beat up bad. I’m all cut up and scraped up. I was in full-body cramps [and] barely made it up there,” Wolfe told Carlson.

Wolfe proceeded to regale Carlson with tales of how dangerous mountain lions are. Puma concolor, the scientific name for the species, is responsible for a whopping 27 deaths in the last century. That’s one person every four years, and most of those people triggered the confrontations by getting too close to puma cubs or cornering the animals. By comparison, dogs kill 25,000 people a year via attacks, and another 25,000 by spreading disease, the latter mostly in third-world countries. Cows killed 655 Americans over a nine-year period from 1999 to 2007. More than 40,000 Americans are killed in car crashes annually.

And while you’re 25 times more likely to be killed by a tornado than a shark, there were five times as many fatal shark attacks (144) in the US over the past century compared to fatal mountain lion attacks.

In other words, pumas rank extremely low on the list of potential dangers to people, despite their size and their superficial resemblance to much more dangerous African lions. Pumas/mountain lions, also known as catamounts and cougars, actively avoid humans and try to steer clear of conflict with people. When they kill a deer or even a pet, it’s not because they’re “terrorizing” communities — it’s because they’re obligate carnivores who need to eat meat to survive.

photo of a cougar near a log
A mountain lion. Credit: Nicky Pe/Pexels

Wolfe explained that it’s important to “tree” mountain lions in order to do recon on them and make sure they’re appropriately big and impressive-looking.

“Those full-grown males will kill kittens as well, they’ll kill kittens to get the females to go back into heat,” Wolfe said, confusing terms and the dominance behavior of African lions with American pumas, which are not the same species. “It’s important to manage that herd, right? You have to manage every population of animal out here, especially mountain lions. So we got the dogs on ’em.”

Who knew cats were herd animals? Who knew pumas had decided to give up their solitary lifestyles and live in prides? Who knew former NFL linebackers arbitrarily killing random pumas qualifies as ‘managing a population’? Someone call the wildlife biologists so they can rewrite their field guides!

Despite his ability to scale mountains and slay (mountain) lions, Wolfe was wounded by the backlash when he posted photos of himself with his “harvest.”

“I can’t believe what’s happening to me…They’ve had 200 calls to Colorado Parks and Wildlife trying to turn me in like I did something wrong,” Wolfe complained. “I’ve been harassed.”

Disclaimer: Since this is the internet, and this post is bound to bring in readers unfamiliar with PITB and the fact that we’re sarcastic jerks, allow us to state for the record that Wolfe did not kill the Goblin King of Dreadmoore, does not own the legendary Bow of Righteous Smiting, and we’re not exactly sure if the villagers in the unidentified rural Colorado community threw a feast in Wolfe’s honor after he returned with the corpse of the cat that had been “terrorizing” their community. I mean, they probably feasted him, but we haven’t confirmed it.

Help ID This Woman Who Dumped A Cat In A Garbage Can

Authorities in a Texas town near Houston need help identifying a woman who tossed a cat, carrier and all, into a garbage can.

The woman parked her car in a nature preserve in Rosenberg, Texas, at about 11 am on Jan. 12, opened the backseat to retrieve a cat carrier and unceremoniously dumped it in a garbage can.

A bystander happened to witness — and film — the entire sequence of events, and after checking the trash it turned out there was a scared two-year-old cat inside the carrier. The bystander brought the cat to Rosenberg’s animal control department.

“If no one would have seen this happening, that cat would have been in that container in that trash can with no access to food, (or) water,” said Omar Polio, the town’s director of animal control. “Not acceptable.”

The cat is a beautiful, affectionate white and brown male the shelter has dubbed King Triton. He’s in their care for the time being. King Triton is healthy, Polio said, and it’s not clear why the woman would have dumped him instead of surrendering him to a shelter.

While shelters are crowded, “we can always find resources that can better suit these animals,” Polio said, imploring people not to abandon or toss animals away like trash.

Polio said his agency would like the public’s help identifying the woman. It’s not clear what kind of charges she might face. Anyone with information can call Rosenberg Animal Control and Shelter at 832-595-3490.

Video of the incident provides a clear look at the woman, but the resolution isn’t high enough to make out the license plate on her car.

Here’s a news segment of the incident with footage of the woman getting out of her car, dumping the cat, casually returning to her vehicle and driving off. She has dark hair that was in a ponytail at the time and was wearing shorts and sunglasses:

Alabama Cat Ladies Raise $85k For Legal Appeal, Plan To File Civil Suit

Two women who managed a cat colony in their Alabama hometown — and were rewarded with an infamously tone-deaf arrest and criminal conviction for their efforts — have raised $85,000 for their appeal.

This time, their fate won’t be decided by a small-time judge appointed by the same mayor who ordered police to arrest the women in the first place.

Mary Alston and Beverly Roberts of Wetumpka, Ala., were arrested on June 25 after three police cars pulled up and four officers surrounded them on public land, demanding they stop their efforts to trap feral cats and leave the area immediately.

Alston and Roberts, who were in disbelief that four officers had been dispatched and were treating them like hardened criminals, didn’t move fast enough for the cops, who berated them and placed them both in handcuffs before charging them with a pair of misdemeanors each.

Their attorneys fought for months to obtain a copy of the police body camera videos of the arrest, and when they finally obtained that copy, it became apparent why the Wetumpka Police Department fought to keep it out of their hands.

The footage shows officers warning the women the confrontation was “going to get ugly,” insulting them and joking that they were “a bunch of cops beatin’ up on some old ladies.” It showed the police escalated the situation and had little regard for two women who were doing their hometown a service by managing a stray cat colony and conducting TNR — trap, neuter, return — to prevent the cats from breeding and multiplying.

They were convicted in a December trial that was followed by local and national media.

Now Roberts, 85, and Alston, 61, have raised $85,195 for their appeal via GoFundMe, with more than 3,000 donors across the US contributing to the fund.

After filing an appeal on Dec. 19, the women have been notified that their first hearing is set for Feb. 23 in front of 19th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Amanda Baxley, said Mary King, Roberts’ daughter. Baxley was sworn in earlier this month and begins her tenure on Jan. 17 after she was elected to the post in November.

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A Wetumpka police officer wags a finger at Roberts, who was 84 years old at the time, before handcuffing her hands behind her back and rifling through her personal possessions.

In a December trial, attorneys for Alston and Roberts revealed it was Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis who personally dispatched the officers by calling the assistant chief after spotting Alston’s car parked near a wooded area owned by the county. The lawyers also questioned Willis on his history of feuding with the pair on animal-related issues.

Although Willis testified that he did not tell police to arrest the women, Officer Jason Crumpton testified that he was indeed instructed to make the arrests before he arrived and determined what the women were doing.

Despite the fact that Wetumpka does not have laws against feeding or trapping cats, municipal Judge Jeff Courtney, who is directly employed by the town instead of being answerable to voters, found Alston and Roberts guilty of two misdemeanors each, sparking an outcry in local and national media. Courtney found Roberts guilty of trespassing and disorderly conduct, while he found Alston guilty of trespassing and interfering with governmental operations, an analogue for resisting arrest.

“I thought that they surely had more pressing issues to attend to,” Roberts told PITB in December. “I really thought the judge would dismiss it and tell the city to work it out.”

The arrest and conviction were widely panned by observers, including Alabama Political Reporter’s Josh Moon, who called the drama an “utterly absurd” spectacle that “reeks of small town politics.”

Roberts and Alston hope Baxley will give them a fair trial, which they believe they did not receive under Courtney in Wetumpka.

In the meantime, the colony cats in Wetumpka remain on their own. Willis, who has not responded to requests for comment by PITB, allegedly rejected offers by animal welfare groups in neighboring towns to care for the cats.

“We are very worried about them,” Roberts told PITB last month. “A few animal lovers have said they would help, but we are not sure this will happen. I’m not sure there is enough food available to hunt. The weather is getting colder, and they need protein.”