Tag: animal welfare

Police Chief Doubles Down On Cat Lady Arrests, Trial Postponed

You might think if you were the police chief of Wetumpka, Alabama, you’d be embarrassed to learn your officers arrested and cuffed two women — one of them 85 years old — for the alleged crime of managing a cat colony.

Heck, you might be outright mortified that the public saw a video of that outrageous arrest, with your officers laughing about “a bunch of cops beatin’ up on some old ladies” after treating the aforementioned ladies like hardened criminals instead of good local people you’re sworn to protect and serve.

Lastly, you might be furious at your officers for demonstrating abysmal judgment by escalating a situation instead of keeping the peace.

Especially if video of the incident proceeded to go viral, drawing widespread mockery and condemnation of your entire police department

But if you’re Wetumpka Police Chief Greg Benton, apparently none of those things would occur to you.

Instead of apologizing to his community for traumatizing two women doing trap, neuter return (TNR) work in a public park, Benton is doubling down.

Benton told the Montgomery Advertiser that Mary Alston, 60, and Beverly Roberts, 85, were exacerbating a “nuisance” by spending their own money to spay/neuter strays, working with local shelters to find homes for them, and managing a stray cat colony that others were content to ignore.

Benton says the women were warned that they were “trespassing” in a public park — built and maintained with their tax dollars — and were warned not to feed the cats.

bravecop
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.

The women were arrested on June 25, but the media and public are just now learning the details because police pushed back on local media freedom of information requests for copies of the body camera footage.

Apparently Benton does not understand the distinction between tossing treats at strays and managing a colony at personal expense to reduce the stray population and get the cats adopted. Or maybe he’s one of those guys who thinks the solution is to kill the cats.

Either way, he’s chosen to ignore policing best practices, disregarding time-honored — and evidence-supported — protocols of community policing by endorsing the sort of behavior his officers engaged in.

Instead of charging into a public park, practically screaming “I am the law!” and gleefully cuffing two women while telling them “You’re too old to be acting this way,” a minimally-trained, minimally decent rookie cop almost anywhere else in America would immediately understand Alston and Roberts are not criminals.

That cop would understand the women are part of the community, they have to live with these people, and the productive thing would be to get the police chief, animal control officer, colony managers and local shelter supervisors together, so they can figure out how to support each other and combine their resources to humanely manage local cat colonies.

Instead, we have police moving forward with misdemeanor charges against the women. They’re both charged with criminal trespassing, while Alston faces an additional count of interfering with government operations, and Roberts faces a disorderly conduct charge.

Their attorney, Terry Luck, told the Advertiser that he believes the charges are baseless. Alston and Roberts were originally scheduled for an Oct. 20 trial, but it’s been postponed due to scheduling conflicts. A new date hasn’t been set yet.

Finally, Wild Cat ‘Ownership’ Could Be Banned Under The Big Cat Public Safety Act

There are more tigers living in cramped backyards in Texas than there are in the wild.

At roadside zoos, shady people like Joseph Maldonado-Passage, Joe “Exotic” of Tiger King fame, breed big cats like rabbits so they have an endless supply of cubs to steal from their mothers before they’re weaned, pumped full of sedatives, and handed off to tourists who take selfies with them but never stop to consider the welfare of those baby cats or the harm they’re enabling.

And in states like Florida, where “Muh freedoms!” reign supreme over all other values, people can own any wild animals they want, with no real oversight and no mechanisms to ensure they’re doing right by the animals. There’s nothing forcing “exotic” animal “owners” to keep the big cats, monkeys and other mammals in proper enclosures where they have stimulation and — just as importantly — won’t escape and hurt neighbors.

India the tiger Transported to BBR
India the tiger was still just a cub when he was spotted wandering through residential neighborhoods in Texas, where he’d been dumped by his former “owner.” Credit: Humane Society

Thankfully, things could change soon as lawmakers are expected to vote on the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a rare bipartisan effort that would finally make it illegal to keep tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, pumas and other wildcats privately, whether in homes, businesses or non-accredited “zoos.”

Currently keeping big cats is illegal or severely restricted in most states, but like many things in the US, there’s a confusing patchwork of laws and things that would be unthinkable in other states are perfectly acceptable in places like Texas and Florida.

Because, you know, “muh freedoms.”

Now is a good time to point out that this blog has always been, and will remain, politically agnostic. I have my own political beliefs as any other person does, but PITB is a cat humor, news and advocacy blog, and the only politics we discuss here are those that relate to animal welfare. Equally important, Buddy and I want people of all political persuasions to feel comfortable as readers and commenters on PITB. (Although that could change if one or both political parties suddenly makes a move against the nation’s Strategic Turkey Supply. Then Buddy’s gonna have to get biblical.)

The Big Cat Safety Act is co-sponsored in congress by representatives Mike Quickly, D-IL, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, and in the senate by senators Susan Collins, R-ME, Tom Carpenter, D-DE, Richard Burr, R-NC, and Richard Blumenthal, D-CT.

It’s endorsed by a wide range of groups, from the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums to the Humane Society and various bar associations. The proposed legislation also has the support of the White House, which released a statement this week urging its passage.

If your congressional representative or your senators aren’t publicly on board with the Big Cat Safety Act, you can make your voice heard via the Humane Society’s site, which allows you to draft and send letters to the offices of your lawmakers.

shallow focus photography of cheetah
Cheetahs, already critically endangered, have been almost entirely wiped out by poachers who sell their cubs on the illegal wildlife market. Credit: Magda Ehlers/Pexels

Letting Your Cat Outside Could Cost You $50k In This German Town

Elected leaders in Walldorf, Germany, are worried about the crested lark — so much so that they’ve decreed cats must be kept inside, with prohibitively painful fines for anyone whose cat harms one of the birds.

According to the decree, anyone who allows their cat(s) to roam outside from now until August will be fined €500, which is about $527. But if a cat kills or injures one of the European songbirds, Walldorf’s local government will fine the cat’s caretaker up to €50,000, almost $53,000 in USD.

That’s an eye-watering amount of money, especially in light of the fact that the crested lark is listed as a species of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Experts say humans, not cats, are the biggest threat to the bird.

Officials in Walldorf — a town of about 15,000 people more than 600 kilometers southwest of Berlin — cited the same thoroughly-debunked studies that claim cats kill some 25 billion birds and small mammals annually in the US alone. They say they’re worried because the crested lark nests on the ground, making the birds, their eggs and their chicks particularly vulnerable to predators like domestic cats.

If you’re skeptical that local government officials — a mayor and town councilmen, essentially — are qualified to legislate on matters of conservation, you’re not alone. The decree has been met with pushback from animal rights advocates and feline fans.

“Suddenly preventing cats that are used to going outside from doing so, means immense restrictions and stress for the animals,” German animal welfare group Deutscher Tierschutzbund wrote in a statement. “The negative influence of cats on the population of songbirds is in any case controversial and, to our knowledge, has not yet been proven for the crested lark in Walldorf.”

And that cuts to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? Like politicians in Australia and parts of the US, Walldorf’s elected leaders aren’t making decisions based on studies or reliable information. They’re taking action based on emotion and deeply flawed meta-analyses that aren’t even applicable to Europe.

We’ve always taken the position here at PITB that cats are much better off indoors. They’re domesticated animals, meaning if they have a “natural habitat” it’s human living rooms. They live much longer, healthier lives indoors and can be happy and fulfilled with a little effort on the part of their humans.

But we also believe decisions impacting living creatures should be based on real information gathered by people who don’t have an agenda. The landmark Washington, D.C. Cat Count is a great example, with birders, conservationists and cat lovers working together to complete an accurate census of domestic felines within city limits.

Now that they’ve established how many cats live in D.C. (about 200,000) and how many are truly feral without anyone caring for them (about 3,000), they can enact sensible solutions that are much more likely to successfully protect wildlife and cats without hysteria, agendas or inhuman proposals like enacting “cat hunting season” (as one US politician proposed), killing millions of cats with poisoned sausages (as Australia has done), or outright gunning cats down, as a rogue conservationist in California’s Bay Area did last year.

Cats are thinking, feeling animals. They deserve better than becoming the victims of human policies based on ignorance.

NYC Cat Gets A Home After He Was Tied In A Trash Bag And Thrown In A Dumpster

Panda the cat would have suffered a brutal death in the jaws of a trash compactor if not for an eagle-eyed can collector who spotted the handsome tuxedo among the trash.

The little guy was literally double-bagged in a blue plastic bag and a larger trash bag, then thrown in a dumpster in the Bronx. There were holes in the inner bag where Panda had tried to claw his way out — and bits of plastic bag caught on his claws — but he had been unable to free himself.

Thankfully, someone looking for cans to recycle opened the outer bag, saw Panda and called 911. NYPD cops brought Panda to the ASPCA Animal Recovery Center in Manhattan, where staff began treating him for malnutrition, skin disease and a “minor gastrointestinal infection,” the Daily News reported.

Panda the cat
Panda a few moments after he was spotted in a dumpster in the Bronx by someone looking for recyclables. Credit: ASPCA

Despite all he’d been through — the neglect, abandonment and trauma of being tossed out like a piece of garbage — Panda was “sweet and social” with his rescuers.

They placed him in a foster home under the care of 22-year-old Abigail Jasak, who decided to keep him after he quickly made himself at home and won over Jasak and her roommates.

“Initially I had no intention of adopting him,” Jasak told the Daily News. ”Then I realized how comfortable he was around us. He already believed he was home.”

Jasak told the paper she was disturbed by the casual cruelty of tossing a cat in the garbage.

“There are other options,” said the Pace University student. ” You can bring it to a shelter. I truly cannot comprehend how someone threw away such a sweet cat.”

Big Buddy’s note: I’ve been to the ASPCA’s Upper East Side facility and visited in 0 B.B. (Before Bud, aka 2014) while I was looking to adopt. It’s a beautiful, incredibly clean, bright facility where each animal has significantly more space than they would in a normal shelter, and the staff are friendly and helpful. As awful as Panda’s situation was, I’m glad they were able to help him and pair him with a human who really cares for the little guy.

Sunday Cats: Buddy The Philly Cat Makes A Friend, His Attackers Get A Trial Date

Two Philadelphia minors will head to trial in May after they sicced their dogs on a cat sitting on a porch a month ago.

The juveniles, who are 17 and 12 years old, were walking their dogs in Philadelphia on March 22 when they set them loose on Buddy, a black cat who was cared for by a local family but spent most of his time outside. They shouted encouragement as their dogs mauled Buddy on his family’s porch and Buddy would have been killed if the commotion hadn’t drawn attention from inside.

When one of Buddy’s caretakers stepped outside and tried to stop the dogs, the teens pulled their canines back and fled. They turned themselves in to authorities a few days later after the story went viral and they realized the attack was captured by a doorbell camera system.

They each face felony and misdemeanor charges for animal cruelty, inflicting harm on an animal and other alleged offenses. Since they’re charged as minors the court system is not releasing their names, which is common practice in juvenile cases in most states.

Buddy was so badly injured that veterinarians weren’t sure if he’d make it at first. With a lot of care and love, the little guy pulled through the first few critical days and continued to recover until he was well enough to go to a foster home in early April.

His new caretaker is Katie Venanzi, a veterinarian who specializes in emergency care and operated on him that first day when he was brought in to Blue Pearl Vet Hospital by the Pennsylvania SPCA.

“He was kept secluded in one room initially, but now he has a run of the house and he is doing so well with his foster sibling cat Teddy. His foster parents affectionately say they are the two most awkward cats in Philadelphia, but their relationship is blossoming and we hope it continues that way so that Buddy can officially stay in that home forever,” the SPCA’s Gillian Kocher said. “Hopefully in the coming weeks, we will have some additional details and will let everybody know when we can make an official announcement about Buddy’s adoption, but for now he’s doing wonderfully.”

The reason Buddy was outside in the first place is that, as a stray, he resisted an indoor life when his original family tried to keep him inside.

Venanzi told a local radio station that her and her husband are trying to help Buddy adjust to an indoor life and hope they can adopt him.

“We want to do whatever he needs,” she said. “We understand that he used to live outside. If he is not comfortable living in our house, we are willing to work with other people who are going to give him an opportunity to be in a safe environment but still exposed to the outdoors. We are going to take it day by day and see how he does, but we are really hoping to keep him.”

When Buddy’s story went viral, people around the world responded by making donations to the Pennsylvania SPCA and buying t-shirts with Buddy’s likeness on them, allowing the group to raise thousands. Meanwhile, in a post to social media, the Pennsylvania SPCA noted it had taken in 158 abused animals since Buddy was attacked: “That’s more than five Buddys a day.”

Some of those dogs and cats were shot or stabbed, while others were neglected or starved, Kocher said. Leftover money from Buddy’s surgeries and treatment will be used to help the other abused animals in the SPCA’s care.