Tag: SPCA

One Unverified Claim Of An Aggressive Stray Prompted A New Jersey Town’s Plan To Trap And Kill Cats

The recent saga of a New Jersey town’s ill-advised plan to “destroy” feral cats highlights almost everything wrong with local government.

First, a notice went out from the northern New Jersey town of Matawan, informing residents that feral cats had become a “nuisance” and their presence posed a danger to “the welfare and safety of both the community and the cats.” The town, in cooperation with the police and SPCA, the notice said, would begin trapping stray, feral and free-roaming felines in November, and any cat not claimed after seven days would be “destroyed.”

The backlash was loud and immediate, and it took the Monmouth County SPCA by surprise.

After receiving angry complaints, the local SPCA posted a notice on Facebook blasting the “outlandish and outrageous campaign.” The SPCA’s leaders said they hadn’t been consulted and hadn’t approved of the policy, blaming the Matawan Animal Welfare Committee, a three-person group comprised of the town’s business administrator, Scott Carew, town councilwoman Melanie Wang and an animal control officer.

“We are completely outraged and disheartened that our organization has been attached to this archaic campaign to euthanize feral cats, when there are so many other successful, humane alternatives,” the Monmouth County SPCA wrote in its statement.

Carew backpedaled in the fallout, claiming the notice was a well-intentioned way of informing people who live in Matawan to keep their cats inside and stop feeding strays and ferals.

“By no means was the goal of the trapping efforts to destroy trapped cats,” Carew told NJ.com. “That said, since there was the chance that cats would be trapped and brought to the shelter, we wanted to alert cat owners whose cats are allowed to roam outside.”

But Carew also said he and the other were “obligated to address the complaint,” and said the town would have to enact “a resumption of trapping efforts” if it received more complaints about the cats. According to a statement by the Matawan police department, in a meeting between local leaders and people concerned about cats in one neighborhood, it was a single complaint about a possibly aggressive feral cat that prompted the plan.

That’s it. That’s all it took, in the eyes of local government officials, to justify a policy of trapping and killing sentient, human-habituated innocent animals, a group that includes free-roaming pets, former pets, strays and true ferals. A single, unverified complaint of a potentially “aggressive” cat, with no further detail about what the word aggressive means in that context, no information about what the cat supposedly did, or even confirmation that the cat was a feral and not a stray or a wandering pet.

When the dust cleared from all the finger-pointing, Carew said his committee should have informed the SPCA of its plans, and police brushed off responsibility by saying they “assumed” the notice was drafted with the cooperation and intent of the SPCA and other local animal welfare groups.

Cat trap
A cat caught during a trap, neuter, return program, which reduces feral/stray populations in the long term without the cruelty of culling. Credit: Pixabay

Local government leadership and incompetence has become a big problem. With the death of newspapers, particularly regional dailies that employed trained journalists, there are entire swaths of the country no longer served by local government watchdogs who have the time, skills and resources to monitor local officials and inform the public.

We’re fortunate that NJ Advanced Media, an online portal for content from more than a dozen New Jersey local newspapers, has found a way to exist as a viable business serving millions of readers throughout its home state. Without it, it’s doubtful the story would have surfaced anywhere.

Lots of people think local government is small potatoes, but the truth is that local officials are responsible for enormous budgets and wield considerable power. The decisions they make very likely have more impact on our lives than decisions made in the halls of congress, even if it’s the latter that gets people’s blood boiling.

In this case we have a meeting conducted in secret, without public notice, that would have determined the fate of an unknown number of animals. We have anonymous, nebulous complaints and allegations about “nuisances.” What constitutes a nuisance? How many cats are involved? Are the cats part of managed colonies and cared for by people who trap and neuter them? None of those questions were answered.

Additionally, instead of taking intermediary steps or using widely available resources — the “other successful, humane alternatives” the SPCA referenced, from the willing cooperation of local shelters to the free toolkit created by the authors of the incredible D.C. Cat Count — the local officials came up with their own ill-advised plan to trap and kill cats.

Outrage by animal lovers and the SPCA were enough to make sure a plan like this was quickly discarded this time around, but you have to wonder how many other places this kind of thing might be happening without so much as a blurb about it.

Sunday Cats: A Lost Cat Story With A Happy Ending, UK Takes Cat Abuse Seriously

A North Carolina woman suffered a roller coaster of emotions after she lost her cat, then found out the local SPCA had taken her cat in, only for the shelter’s staff to tell her a family had already adopted the cute tuxedo.

Chevelle Griffin of Asheville says her cat, Sally, went missing on Oct. 18. She didn’t know what happened until a few days later when she saw a Facebook post indicating a neighbor had taken Sally to the local SPCA. Sally was wearing a flea collar, but not an ID collar and was not microchipped.

Griffin blamed herself.

“That was my fault,” Griffin said. “That was my mistake. I should have had her chipped, but I didn’t and she’s mine and I want her back.”

She wasn’t happy when staff at the shelter “very bluntly” told her Sally had already been adopted out.

Sally the Cat
Sally was taken to the SPCA by a neighbor.

Lisa Johns, chief operating officer for the local SPCA, told local ABC affiliate WLOS that the shelter takes in as many as 35 cats a day and holds new animals for 72 hours. After that, if they have no health issues they’re put up for adoption.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. After Griffin lobbied the SPCA and WLOS began looking into the incident, SPCA staff contacted the family that had adopted Sally and asked if they would be willing to return her. They agreed, and Griffin said she’s relieved and has learned from the experience.

“I’ve kicked myself so much,” Griffin said. “If I’ve learned anything from this, get your pets chipped.”

It’s a tough balance for shelter operators dealing with overcrowding and the need to constantly free up spaces for new strays, but should the hold period be extended beyond 72 hours?

Zouma apologizes again

zoumabengals
Zouma, left, and his Bengal cats, right. Both cats were confiscated and remain in the care of the RSPCA. As part of the sentencing agreement for his animal abuse plea, Zouma will not be permitted to own a pet for at least five years.

Kurt Zouma — the West Ham player who ignited a firestorm earlier this year when his brother uploaded video of Zouma slapping, kicking and harassing one of his own cats — said he learned his lesson and again expressed remorse after he was sentenced by a magistrate’s court.

Zouma, a French national, faced consequences that would be unheard of in the US as a result of the abuse: He lost all his sponsorship contracts, was fined the maximum amount by his club team (£250,000, equal to about $338,00 at the time, a full one fifth of his salary), paid court fines of £9,000, is prohibited from owning pets for at least five years, and was ordered to complete 140 hours of community service. West Ham donated Zouma’s fined salary to animal charities in the UK.

He was persona non grata in the UK football world, subject to hearty boos and chants from crowds any time he touched the ball, and his cats were taken from him and placed in the care of the RSPCA. In addition, he was not selected for the French national team, meaning he won’t compete in the World Cup.

Following his sentencing this week in his first public comments about the controversy — aside from a terse apology in the form of a written statement issued months ago — Zouma said he acknowledges the video was “very tough for people to watch” and admitted he’d “done something very bad.”

Zouma’s brother Yoan was also convicted of animal abuse, receiving court fines and 140 hours of community service for participating in the abuse and filming it in front of his brother’s young son. Our readers might recall the brothers were turned in by a woman who was courted by the younger Zouma and was disgusted when she saw the video.

The woman had initially agreed to meet Yoan Zouma for an informal date, but told him to keep his distance after she saw the abuse clip, then reported the brothers to authorities.

“I don’t think hitting a cat like that is OK – don’t bother coming today,” she wrote in a message to Yoan Zouma at the time. “I do not want to associate with people who find that funny, in front of a child as well.”

Although what Zouma did was terrible, it feels like justice was served and the UK did right by the cats by taking the abuse seriously, both criminally and professionally. Instead of “canceling” Zouma, as would have likely been the response here in the US, the authorities in government and the Premier League made sure the footballer understood the gravity of his actions and took responsibility for them. Hopefully it served as an example to others who would think of harming their pets.

SPCA Offers $6k Reward After Shooter Kills NY Woman’s Beloved Cat

When Margaret Oliva’s husband died eight years ago, her cat Stella helped her through her grieving.

“She was my sanity, you know?” the Long Island woman said.

Oliva’s beloved tortoiseshell went outside on Sept. 1 and didn’t come back that night. Oliva enlisted the help of relatives to find Stella but wasn’t able to locate her until she heard “whimpering cries” on her Ring system’s audio.

Stella had collapsed near a bush on the front lawn. Oliva rushed her badly injured cat to an emergency veterinarian, where the fading feline fought for her life but succumbed hours later. The vet told the shocked Hicksville woman that someone had shot Stella twice, likely with a pellet gun.

“To have her taken like this…No, I can’t accept that,” Oliva told a local TV news station.

Now the SPCA is offering a $6,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of Stella’s killer. Matt Roper, a detective with the Nassau County SPCA’s law enforcement division, said he believes Stella was shot by someone in the immediate neighborhood.

spcastella
The SPCA is offering a $6,000 reward for Stella’s killer.

Studies have shown that house cats who are allowed to wander outside during the day rarely go far. In a paper published in Scientific Reports earlier this year, a team of scientists from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences tracked 100 indoor/outdoor cats by equipping them with GPS collars. The data showed cats spend almost 80 percent of their time within 50 meters — or about 164 feet — of their homes, and a handful of statistical outliers who traveled a longer distance didn’t exceed more than a quarter mile.

The SPCA’s Roper said Stella suffered one projectile to her chest and one to a leg. Her killer is likely nearby and almost certainly knows about the anguish caused to Oliva. If caught, the killer could face a felony charge.

“This could be a high powered pellet gun,” Roper said. “This could be something that could be shot a couple of houses length, a couple of yards in length.”

Oliva’s home in Hicksville is about 10 miles from Glen Cove, where a cat named Gracie was shot and left paralyzed last summer when one pellet hit her stomach and another hit her spine. Poor Gracie was in a neighbor’s yard, dragging herself toward her home while her back legs hung limp. A woman found Gracie after hearing her crying out in pain, Newsday reported.

“What happens is a woman takes her kids for a walk,” said detective Lt. John Nagle of the Glen Cove Police Department. “When she returns to the house she hears an animal crying and goes to investigate. She finds this cat, just beyond the neighbor’s chain link fence, and the animal is crying and it can’t walk. Another neighbor, who happens to be a vet, comes over. She gets a cat cage, places it in the yard — and the cat immediately crawls over to it … She takes the cat to her vet, where she works, thinking maybe it’s been hit by a car. That’s when she finds out it’s not damage from a car, but that there’s two bullets.”

There’s a $5,000 reward for Gracie’s shooter.

In October of 2021, a young cat the rescuers named Abraham was shot with a pellet gun in Suffolk County on eastern Long Island. Like Gracie, Abraham was struck in his spine. The SPCA of Suffolk County, which called Abraham’s shooting “a horrific act of animal cruelty,” is offering a $4,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his shooter.

graciecatreward
Gracie’s shooter hasn’t been found yet either.

Sunday Cats: Expert Fails At Feline Facts, Aussie Karen Lures Cats From Home To Issue Roaming Fine

This is why we always say it’s better for cat servants to regulate themselves than allow the government to get involved.

A Karen in Australia issued a $280 fine to a homeowner for allegedly allowing his cats to roam — after she lured the kitties onto the street herself.

The entire bizarre spectacle was captured on security cameras at the home of Julie and Steven Stephens, a couple in Toowoomba, about 80 miles west of Brisbane. The uniformed Karen, who is employed by the Queensland council, totes a clipboard in one hand as she walks up the Stephens’ driveway in broad daylight.

As one of the curious cats approaches, Karen reaches for a pen in her pocket and starts scribbling on her clipboard, apparently eager to get started on the paperwork, before slowly backpeddling so the kitty will continue to follow her. When the cat reaches the sidewalk, the unnamed woman scoops it up and walks to her government-issued vehicle parked in front of the Stephens’ home.

Steven Stephens was watching the episode unfold via his camera system and bolted outside to stop the government employee from taking his cat, he told Yahoo News Australia.

The Karen wasn’t able to “impound” the cat, but she wrote Stephens a hefty fine for “allowing his cat to roam,” and promised she’d be back to inflict more misery.

“She said she would be back in two weeks with the police to take all but two of our dogs,” Mr Stephens said.

Queensland cat story
A municipal employee from the Queensland council is seen luring a cat away from its home in this still shot from surveillance video. Credit: Steven Stephens

We’re unable to embed the video, but you can watch it at Yahoo News Australia.

Unbelievably, Toowoomba Regional Council “CEO” Brian Pidgeon doubled down and quoted the relevant section of law on pet roaming when a local newspaper asked him about the incident. Pidgeon did acknowledge his employee was accused of luring the Stephens’ cat, but said he couldn’t talk about that because he’s conducting an “internal investigation,” which is bureaucrat-speak for figuring a way to worm his way out of the situation. There is, after all, clear video showing the Karen luring the cat away. There is nothing ambiguous about what happened.

Stephens admitted he and his wife have “too many” dogs according to local law, which has set arbitrary limits on animal custodianship, but said there are good reasons for that. The dogs sooth his wife, he said.

“A few years ago she had a severe car accident, her partner at the time died, she has a metal plate in her head and now has severe depression and anxiety,” Stephens said. “The dogs help with her anxiety.”

The family has been so rattled by the incident, and apparently has so little faith in their local government to treat them fairly, that they told Yahoo News they’re looking to sell their home and move to “a larger parcel of land in the bush.”

That in itself is an extraordinary admission, indicating they don’t expect basic courtesy, honesty or professionalism from the local authorities.

Now imagine how this would have played out if the Stephens family did not have security cameras. The council worker would have said their cats wandered off the family’s property of their own accord, and that would have been it. The Stephens would be forced to pay the fines, have a legal battle on their hands to get their cats back, and would be fretting over the impending confiscation of their dogs.

I know I sound like a broken record with regard to how local governments, guided by bunk “research” studies, impose themselves on pet caretakers, especially those of us who have cats. That’s why it’s important not to give them any reason to interfere — and to make sure everything is recorded, as the Stephens family wisely did.

Who knows what the government Karen’s motivations were. Was she trying to meet a quota? Does she dislike animals? Does she enjoy flexing the little bit of power she has, or inflicting misery on others? By preempting legislation on cat ownership and roaming, we can avoid putting ourselves at the mercy of such people in the first place, which is in the best interest of cat caretakers, and most importantly cats themselves.

Feline fact fail

I’m sure Nigel Barber, PhD., is a nice guy. I don’t mean to give him any grief. But when you present yourself as an expert on a topic and you write an authoritative column on a trusted site that has millions of readers, you really should make sure you’re not spreading misinformation or providing a picture of a situation that is decades behind the current science.

In a column for Psychology Today titled “Does Your Cat Love You?“, Barber rattles off a list of cliches, half-truths and outright falsehoods about cats, the kind of thing you might have expected 20 or 30 years ago before a wealth of research helped us dispel incorrect assumptions about felis catus.

close up of person cuddling cat
Credit: Sevra Karakuu/pexels

After mucking up the domestication timeline, Barber says cats are “fearful of people,” “tend to withdraw from strangers,” and paints an outdated picture of aloof animals who technically don’t need human care to thrive. He also says cats attack people, including their caretakers, without warning or provocation.

Then there’s this nugget:

“As essentially wild predators, cats can be quite unpredictable. Many owners who are devoted to their cats complain that the cat often scratches them unexpectedly. One acquaintance had the cat declawed and found that the pet reverted to using its teeth on her!”

Can you believe it?!?! A woman had her cat declawed, and the cat bit her!

It’s not just that we know cats give off plenty of nonverbal warnings when they’re uncomfortable, or that declawing makes a cat much more likely to bite. Organizations like the Humane Society, SPCA, The Paw Project and others have been saying that for years.

It goes well beyond that — studies, including the most comprehensive study to date on the effects of declawing, have proven without a doubt that cats are much more likely to bite when they’re subjected to the cruel and painful declawing procedure. (See “Pain and adverse behavior in declawed cats,” a 2017 paper in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.)

That’s because declawing a cat not only inflicts a lifetime of physical pain and psychological trauma, it robs felines of their primary defense mechanism, making them feel much more vulnerable. Without claws with which to warn off unwanted handling, the poor declawed cats have only one defensive weapon available to them — their teeth.

An evolutionary psychologist should understand that, and should also understand that scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for cats. It’s not right or wrong, it’s cats being cats. Mutilating innocent animals to protect inanimate objects like furniture is objectively wrong and cruel. When you adopt a cat, scratching comes as part of the package along with all the positives like unconditional love, amusing antics and calming purring.

There are ways to dissuade and train your cats to mostly avoid scratching furniture, but no one should expect their cats will never put a claw on their couches. If you don’t want your furniture scratched, don’t get a cat. End of.

Sunday Cats: Eurasian Lynx Captured On Long Island, ‘Loneliest Cat’ Has Been Returned To Shelter Twice

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.)

lynxleonardo
Authorities said the Eurasian Lynx was clearly socialized and wasn’t aggressive when they finally caught him. Credit: SPCA

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.

“I know everybody wants something that’s exotic,” Gross said. “They want something cool. It’s not cool.”

Header image of Eurasian Lynx courtesy of Pexels

A lonely cat in the UK needs a forever home

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.

Eleven the Cat
Eleven the Cat takes a while to warm up to new people. Credit: Battersea Cats and Dogs

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.”