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:
Should scientists resurrect long-extinct species? Is it ethical to clone thousands of animals who will not live, but have their organs harvested for human patients?
Those are some of the questions people are asking as the cloning industry — once relegated to producing one-off copies and genetically identical versions of deceased pets for wealthy clients — is expanding with new capabilities.
This story by the BBC’s David Cox provides an informative, brief history of cloning before pivoting to the current state of the industry and how it could continue to evolve.
Two of the most fascinating prospects have to do with conservation. One company, Colossal, is working on bringing back the extinct woolly mammoth, while other scientists are turning to cloning as a way to prevent the extinctions of species like the white rhino, which is functionally extinct without any breeding pairs left living.
As with anything in science, innovations in cloning unlock new applicative branches, and scientists have partnered with the medical field to address human health concerns. Some, like the practice of editing genes to prevent diseases in newborns, tend to fly under the radar. But others, like the push to adapt organs from animals like pigs so they can be replacements for human organs, are much more controversial and have met opposition from animal welfare groups.
Then there’s the elephant in the room, no pun intended. What about cloning humans?
Right now no one’s gone down that route, at least not publicly, because of the inevitable backlash. What’s happening deep in the bowels of clandestine medical facilities in nations with murky ethics laws is another question entirely.
I am opposed to human cloning, but I don’t believe it will remain the immutable taboo some people think it is. Someone will break the dam, and while that pioneer will likely get raked over the coals, the bell cannot be unrung. Things change so fast these days that what’s shocking one day merits a shrug the next, and it’s possible the world will be introduced to a man or woman one day before it’s revealed the person is, in fact, a clone. (Not unlike the way the world was introduced to Imma, a Japanese influencer and model who exists only digitally.)
They’ll be the Dolly the Sheep of the human race, and ethicists won’t get a say in whether they should exist because it’s already been done.
“See how normal they are?” people keen on cloning will say. “They’re just regular people. Are you going to tell them they shouldn’t live?”
But before that, it looks like the movie Gattaca will become reality, and people will order up a great baseball player or a child with intuitive musical genius just like they might commission a piece of art or a custom car job. Gene editing with CRISPR is surprisingly trivial.
Of course, it won’t be lost on people that we’re cloning humans when there are millions of unwanted, uncared-for street kids in the third world, not to mention people who live without the consideration of their fellow human beings in every nation. Just like it hasn’t escaped the notice of activists that South Korea and China are leaders in cloning pets, yet dogs and cats are also food in those countries.
What separates the dogs and cats bound for restaurant kitchens from the dogs and cats having their cells preserved for cloning?
Nothing except for their individual value to humans, just like pure luck separates a cat who finds a loving home from a cat who ends up euthanized with a needle. We are a fickle species.
Yet both the beloved pet and the unwanted shelter cat are sentient, experience intense emotions and have their own thoughts. That’s not conjecture, it’s fact as confirmed many times over experimentally, but it shocks a lot of people. Our education system has not done right by the billions of non-human minds we share our planet with.
I’ve thought about what might have happened if Buddy had been adopted by someone else, and what his fate may have been. I love the little guy, but it’s possible that someone else may have viewed him as an annoyance, a loud and incessantly chatty cat who needs an inordinate amount of attention and affection, sometimes lashes out, and needs to be surrendered.
Likewise, unwanted cats have languished in shelters for months before viral posts spark interest in them, and suddenly offers to adopt come in by the hundreds from across the globe. Nothing about those cats changed, but humans formed an emotional attachment to them after learning their stories.
Of course, the ethics of how we treat and consider animals can change depending on where you’re sitting. If you’re young, healthy and energetic, your view may be radically different than the person sitting on an organ donation waiting list, knowing their time may be up before a new liver or kidney becomes available. Suddenly a seemingly simple moral calculus becomes murky and complex.
There’s strong evidence that people who take the first steps toward cloning their beloved cats and dogs spend time wrestling with the ethics of the decision as well. Texas-based ViaGen, the western leader in commercial cloning, told the BBC that 90 percent of its clients are not people who have gone through with cloning, but have only taken the initial step of preserving their pets’ cells for $1,600.
And what of the mammoths? Bringing them back from extinction isn’t as simple as filling in the gaps in their genome, implanting gene-edited eggs in female elephants and hoping gestation takes care of the rest. Mammoths are social animals. Will an elephant mother raise a mammoth baby? Where does that mammoth baby belong? Without a herd of its own kind, can it be happy?
We can’t ask the mammoths, and even if we could, it might not be up to them anyway. As one paleogeneticist put it to NPR last year: What if the technology isn’t used to resurrect the mammoth, but to save the elephant? Does the end justify the means in the latter situation, but not the former?
Mammoth, Dolly the Sheep and rhesus macaque images credit Wikimedia Commons
The saga of a “big cat” spotted on Long Island this week has come to an end with the animal’s capture.
Authorities believe the cat is a Eurasian Lynx and was a pet who escaped or was abandoned by his owner. The frightened feline was first spotted on Wednesday in Central Islip, Long Island, a suburb that stretches for 118 miles just south of New York City.
“Scared the daylights out of me,” Diane Huwer, a self-proclaimed cat lover who was the first to encounter the lynx, told the local ABC affiliate.
The area encompasses two counties and is one of the most densely populated places in the U.S. with more than 7.6 million people. It’s one of the worst places in the world for a wild cat to be abandoned, with heavy traffic, ubiquitous environmental noise and endless shopping plazas surrounded by labyrinthine residential neighborhoods.
It’s illegal to own wild animals in New York, and the cat’s “owner” likely would have kept it without a proper enclosure to avoid attention from authorities.
The lynx’s sightings made the headlines in the New York papers, as well as coverage by local TV news and online publications. It went viral on social media, with users trying to determine what kind of cat it was from the handful of blurry photos witnesses were able to snap. Some media coverage suggested it was a true big cat. (Here at PITB, we thought it was possibly a Savannah cat or an American lynx.)
Local authorities searched fruitlessly for three days and were about to give up early Saturday morning when someone spotted the wild cat in a residential neighborhood and called police.
The hungry feline was pawing through garbage cans next to a house in Central Islip. Authorities said the young lynx was friendly and socialized to humans.
“He was rubbing his face on the cage, looked like he was a friendly cat and from the tips we’ve gotten,” Frankie Floridia of Strong Island Animal Rescue said. “It seems these people have had him since he was a baby.”
Veterinarians have named the lynx Leonardo de Catbrio and said he’s about a year old. Despite his ordeal, the 40-pound cat was not malnourished or dehydrated, and the vets who gave him a check-up said he’s in good health. They’re waiting on lab results to confirm his species.
“Someone obviously had it as a pet,” the SPCA’s Roy Gross told Newsday. “These are wild animals, not the type of animals anyone should have. … They don’t belong in captivity this way.”
In the meantime, police, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the SPCA are looking for Leonardo’s “owner,” who faces misdemeanor charges and a fine of up to $1,000 if he or she is convicted. They’re sure to have questions about how the person acquired a wild cat, let alone a non-native species. It’s been illegal to “import” wild animals since the Wildlife Act of 1976, and the illegal wildlife market has been a scourge on law enforcement and conservationists alike.
Eleven is a silver tabby who’s been returned to the shelter twice by would-be adopters, and staff at the shelter are appealing to the public to find her a forever home with patient humans.
The four-year-old with bright green eyes has been with Battersea Cats and Dogs in south London since April. Her rescuers say she takes a while to adjust to new surroundings, and they believe that’s why Eleven was returned twice within days. If Eleven’s failed adopters had been more patient, shelter staff said, they would have discovered she’s a loving lap cat once trust is established.
They hope to place her in an “understanding home” with people who “will give her the time and space to settle in, as she would be a wonderful addition to a home.”
“Eleven needs her own space when she’s settling in, so she can hiss and swipe if pushed into interactions that she is not ready for,” a shelter spokesman told the Mirror. “She expects respect, but once given she will reward you with plenty of love. She is a super clever cat, who enjoys learning and she will sit on command for a treat of course.”
UPDATE, 12/1: To Rescue says Kaya the kitten is “healing nicely” after surgery on her eyes, but will remain with her foster family for another week before she’s cleared for adoption. Kaya was examined by a veterinarian on Nov. 30 and was given the all-clear. She’ll stay in foster care until she’s finished with her medication.
Several readers asked for a follow-up about Kaya the kitten after our earlier post about her.
The shelter To Rescue turned to the internet for help after not a single potential adopter showed interest in Kaya, who has a congenital facial malformation but is otherwise healthy.
Kaya had successful surgery on her eyes on Nov. 16 and has been recovering in her foster home, where she continues to be her natural, playful self, shelter staff say.
She was scheduled for a follow-up vet visit today, Nov. 30. We’ll update as soon as we hear anything else.
If you’re interested in adopting sweet Kaya, you can visit the shelter’s site and fill out an adoption application.
In 2012, veterinarian Amélia Oliveira started a program to trap and neuter hundreds of cats who had been abandoned at Ilha Furtada, an island about 20 miles west of Rio de Janeiro.
Known as Ilha dos Gatos — island of the cats — the island was teeming with starving former pets and their feral offspring. Ilha Furtada has no natural source of drinking water, Oliveira said, and cats without hunting skills would quickly starve.
With the help of others, Oliveira began a program to end the misery on what’s been called “Cat Alcatraz”: The group managed to neuter more than 380 cats. Former pets were adopted out to new homes, but the ferals would need to remain on the island, so volunteers began feeding them and bringing fresh water on a regular schedule.
With the cooperation of local authorities, the group put up signage around the island and the coast warning that abandoning pets is illegal and asking people not to interfere with the island cats. There were plans for an official survey to quantify the feline population, an initiative to use cameras to dissuade people from dumping their pets on the island…
…and then came the Coronavirus pandemic.
Whatever gains Oliveira and company made over eight years have now been erased as Brazil — one of the countries hardest hit by the virus — has suffered more than 450,000 deaths officially (and likely much more uncounted) and an economy wrecked by waves of infection and lockdown.
Many owners could no longer afford to feed themselves or their cats while others died, leaving their cats at the mercy of relatives and landlords. Once again, people began abandoning their pets on Ilha Furtada.
“If you don’t take them, they’re going out to Island of the Cats,” people would tell shelter operators, a veterinarian told the Washington Post’s Terrence McKoy.
While the feline population of Furtada Island increased, resources dwindled as lockdowns prevented volunteers from delivering food and water as often as they had in the past.
Now the island has “the appearance of a feline shantytown,” dotted with dilapidated and hastily-constructed shelters for its resident felines.
I recommend reading the entire story, one of just a few highlighting the toll the pandemic has taken on pets.
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.