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.
The Alabama veterinarian accused of brutalizing a cat he was supposed to be treating pleaded not guilty to criminal charges at his first court hearing on Tuesday, but his legal woes are far from over.
In addition to the two charges of animal cruelty lodged against him by the Ozark Police Department, an ongoing criminal probe and an investigation by the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medicine, veterinarian Richard Timothy Logan now faces a lawsuit from the abused cat’s owners, Richard and Christina Miller.
The 65-year-old veterinarian, who has been practicing animal medicine since 1982, drew the ire of animal rights activists and cat lovers across the country this week after a new video showed a man identified as Logan punching, choking and dropping a cat he was supposed to be treating at the Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital in Ozark, Alabama.
The video shows two separate incidents that happened after the Millers brought their 21-year-old cat, Mimi, in for routine tests and shots in November of 2020.
“(Dr. Logan) is dangling the cat like a hangman’s noose in one video,” said Will Matthews, the Millers’ attorney. “In the other video, he punches the cat as hard as he can punch right in the cat’s mouth.”
The videos, which were combined into one clip, were uploaded by Carrie Pritt, a former employee at the animal hospital.
WTVY, a local news station in Alabama, inexplicably seemed to blame Pritt for the ensuing outrage, saying she “hatched her plan to record Logan after discussing concerns about [him] with friends for several months.”
Hatchedher plan? She recorded the vicious abuse of a cat because she was horrified by what she saw. The fact that she was prepared to record the incident strongly suggests it wasn’t the first of its kind.
The natural question is: What had Logan allegedly done in the past that would prompt Pritt to record him? WTVY didn’t ask that question. Instead, at the behest of Logan’s attorney, David Harrison, the station aired a story saying Pritt had taken her own dog in to be treated by Logan months after the November incident with Mimi the cat.
Here’s the bush league lede from the web version of WTVY’s story:
Though her secret recording led to the arrest of an Ozark veterinarian, a woman apparently trusted that vet enough that she later allowed him to treat her dog. However, her attorney said her dog did not receive treatment, though she went to the clinic.
Matthews, who also represents Pritt, said the former employee stopped by the animal hospital to pick up paperwork and was there less than 10 minutes. Her dog was not treated there, he said.
Several WTVY stories about the incident also include variations of this line: “Videos posted Facebook on or about April 5 by a former clinic employee shows the incidents, though it is not clear if other circumstances contributed.” [Emphasis ours.]
It’s not clear if other circumstances contributed?Can anyone at WTVY give us a single reason why a veterinarian — a man whose job is to treat animals — would punch, slap, drop and choke a cat in his care?
If the man has been in practice since 1982, as his attorney says, then after four decades as a veterinarian, shouldn’t he know how to restrain a scared cat? That’s a basic, essential part of the job, as is basic compassion for scared and suffering animals.
It turns out the TV station was simply parroting Logan’s attorney, who told the station that the video “shows Logan appearing to abuse a cat, though contributing circumstances, if any, are not known.”
Translation from absurd lawyerspeak: Harrison says Logan wasn’t abusing Mimi, he was just “appearing to abuse a cat,” and besides, the cat must have done something to deserve it.
We’re sure that’s very reassuring to Logan’s clients: “Sorry, we had to beat the everliving crap out of your dog because he didn’t like being on the exam table, you know how it is. That’ll be $250 for the examination and another $125 for the blood work.”
Veterinarians take an oath to relieve animal suffering and to protect animal health and welfare. Allegedly abusing a terrified, screaming cat is nowhere in the job description.
If this nasty mess doesn’t prompt you to take a shower, Logan’s attorney garnishes it with the rotten cherry on top by invoking America’s war dead in an outlandish claim that uploading and sharing the video is unlawful. Harrison — who has already said he’s instructed his client to sue everyone who’s posted the video online — doesn’t seem to understand the difference between due process in court and the public’s right to know a veterinarian in their community is allegedly abusing animals.
“1.5 million Americans have died on foreign soil for us to have the right to be innocent until proven guilty,” Harrison told WTVY.
A longtime veterinarian in Alabama has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty for hitting, choking and dropping a terrified cat in his exam room, according to police.
Richard Timothy Logan, 65, is a veterinarian at Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital in Ozark, Alabama.
A man identified as Logan was examining a calico cat in November, in an exam room at the animal hospital when he grabbed the cat by the scruff of her neck and punched her on the top of her head with a closed fist, video of the exam shows. Still holding the cat by her scruff, he slammed her down onto the exam table, then did it again more forcefully.
Logan then swiped the cat off the exam table, causing her to fall to the floor.
Logan steps out of the frame for several seconds, then the video cuts forward, showing Logan again with his hands on the cat as a veterinary assistant holds the terrified, screaming feline down.
He punches the cat a second time, makes an annoyed gesture, then picks the cat up by her collar and dangles her as she struggles.
Animal rights activists and local people outraged by the video protested outside Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital this week, holding signs of the abused calico and demanding the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medicine — which is conducting its own investigation separate from the criminal probe — revoke Logan’s license.
“We’re hoping for awareness, first of all, of animal abuse and we’re hoping that Dr. Logan will lose his license,” cat owner Rhonda Eller told Alabama’s Dothan Eagle. “There should not be veterinarians that don’t love animals and care for animals. Obviously, they should choose a different profession.”
Some of the protesters were clients of the animal hospital, and were alarmed not only by what they saw on the video — which was anonymously posted to Facebook on April 5 — but what may have happened behind closed doors when they brought their own pets in.
“I’ve been coming here so long, leaving my animals overnight [or] for a week when he said they needed it,” Michele Brown, a client of the hospital, told the Eagle. “What has happened to my animals while they were here and I never knew it?”
Neither Logan nor the animal hospital have issued public statements on the allegations, but Logan’s attorney, David Harrison, is acting as if the video does not show his client terrorizing a cat who was supposed to be in his care.
“He is a good veterinarian and people are destroying this man’s reputation,” Harrison told WTVY, an Alabama local news station. “I have instructed Dr. Logan to file a lawsuit against all who have smeared lies on social media. Facebook is not a court of law.”
Logan was charged with two counts of cruelty to animals.
Under Alabama law, if Logan is convicted, the most severe potential sentence is a $3,000 fine and up to one year in county jail. Because he doesn’t have priors, if he’s convicted he’s not likely to serve any jail time. Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor in Alabama’s penal code.
In the meantime, comments from Dale County District Attorney Kirke Adams do not sound promising.
“While this video is deeply concerning, I would like to take this opportunity to implore people to have this same concern over child victim crimes and gun violence,” Adams said, appearing to downplay the severity of the allegations against Logan.
The cat “is alive and doing better with its owner,” Ozark police wrote in a statement posted to Facebook. Cops say they’ve interviewed the owner as well as “other witnesses.” It’s not clear if those witnesses include the veterinary tech who was present or other employees at the animal hospital, nor did police say who filmed the abuse.
Top photo: Richard Timothy Logan mugshot courtesy Ozark Police Department
A protester at Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital
A protester stands outside of Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital in Ozark, Alabama, this week.
Human beings have lived in the city known as Aleppo for more than 4,000 years, making it one of the oldest continually-inhabited settlements in human history.
But as the raging civil war in Syria expanded and bombs began to fall on the country’s largest city, there was an unprecedented mass exodus — reducing Aleppo’s population from 4.6 million in 2010 to less than 600,000 by 2014.
Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel was one of the stubborn few who stayed. His wife and children fled to safety in Turkey in 2015, but anchored by his commitment to people who couldn’t leave, Aljaleel stayed behind to continue driving his ambulance and feeding a growing population of abandoned cats.
At first friends and acquaintances turned to Aljaleel to take their cats as they prepared to flee the crumbling city, knowing he was fond of felines and would care for them as his own.
Others heard about the “cat man of Aleppo,” and soon Aljaleel’s home became a sanctuary for former pets from all over the city, which was becoming a ghost town.
With few remaining people to feed them — and food sources like restaurant dumpsters drying up — hungry stray cats started showing up too.
“Since everyone has left the country, including my own friends, these cats have become my friends here,” Aljaleel said in 2016, as a BBC camera crew filmed him among the hundreds of cats in his care.
One day a car pulled up and a little girl stepped out, cradling a cat.
Her parents “knew there was a cat sanctuary here,” Aljaleel told the BBC at the time. “The girl had brought the cat up since she was a kitten. She cried as she handed her over to me, and they left the country.”
For many people leaving the city in search of refuge in Europe or elsewhere in Syria, the decision to leave a beloved pet was agonizing.
But entrusting a cat to Aljaleel and his makeshift sanctuary — where the animal would be fed and well cared for — was much more palatable than making it to the border of an EU country only for a border guard or customs official to refuse the cat entry, forcing families to choose between pet and safety.
For people like the little girl, knowing their cats were in Aljaleel’s sanctuary meant maintaining a tie to home and hope that they could return.
“I’ve been taking photos of the cat and sending them to her in Turkey. She begs me, ‘Send me photos of her. I miss her. Please promise to return my cat to me when I get back.'”
That was in 2016. Almost five years later it looks like the young girl won’t be returning to Syria, and her cat is likely dead.
After Aljaleel’s makeshift cat sanctuary swelled to include more than 200 cats, things took a turn for the worse.
The Syrian government and rebel forces dug in, calling on allies for support and resources. ISIS and Iranian-backed insurgents entered the fray, seeing opportunity to advance their own interests amid the chaos.
So too did Russia and the United States. Both countries treated the conflict as a proxy war, with Russia backing Assad and his Syrian government forces, while the US and its allies threw their support behind an opposition that grew out of the Arab Spring in 2011.
The US and Russia provided the combatants with training and weapons systems, increasing the destructive firepower at the command of the belligerents. Both countries sought to advance their geopolitical ambitions in the region when they entered the conflict.
In internal memos justifying intervention in Syria, the US State Department predicted the civil war would flare out in months. Instead, the war has now lasted more than a decade, and in a move The Guardian called “a bloody end to [former President Barack] Obama’s reign,” in 2016 the US dropped 26,171 bombs on countries in the Middle East, with Syria absorbing the lion’s share.
Perhaps it was one of those bombs — or a bomb from Russia, or one of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s own warheads — that obliterated Aljaleel’s sanctuary. It’s unlikely anyone will ever know. But one thing all sides agree on is that the chlorine gas was courtesy of Assad, who has not hesitated to use chemical weapons against his own people in the bloody war.
Weeks after Aljaleel was featured in a BBC short about the impact of the war, Aljaleel “watched helplessly as his cat sanctuary was first bombed, then gassed during the intense final stages of the siege of Aleppo,” per the BBC.
Some 180 of the 200 or so cats who found refuge with Aljaleel were killed by the bomb and the chlorine gas, and the stubborn man who dug in his heels and cared for Aleppo’s cats while everyone else fled finally gave up on his city.
Aljaleel and his cats survived the power outages, the destruction of the water works, the food shortages and a military siege of the city, but now the Cat Man of Aleppo was just a cat man in an ambulance.
He packed the few surviving cats, his meager possessions and a few sick, injured or elderly people into an ambulance and joined a convoy of civilians escaping the crumbling city. It was a tense and perilous journey, as those who fled knew Assad had no reservations about targeting his own people if it served his goals.
After seeing his family and recovering in Turkey, and with the help of an Italian benefactor and a growing community of supporters on social media, Aljaleel took his cats and his friends to a rural area in Syria, far from targets of opportunity, where he purchased a plot of land, put down roots and began his sanctuary anew.
Ernesto’s Paradise is home to several hundred cats, plus four monkeys, horses, rabbits and dogs. There’s a playground for kids and — after a long search to find a veterinarian who hadn’t fled — Ernesto’s finally has a doctor in the house too.
The civil war in Syria has created perhaps the worst refugee crises in modern history, with millions fleeing to Europe and elsewhere in search of sanctuary.
The war had claimed 387,118 souls as of December 2020, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Another 205,300 were missing and presumed dead, according to SOHR. In addition, more than 88,000 people have been tortured to death in Assad’s prisons, while thousands more were taken by ISIS and other terrorist groups operating in the country.
But “children and animals are the big losers” in war, Aljaleel told the BBC, and that’s why he chose to return.
“I’ve always felt it’s my duty and my pleasure to help people and animals whenever they need help,” he said. “I believe that whoever does this will be the happiest person in the world, besides being lucky in his life.”
You can follow and support Aljaleel’s work via Twitter, Facebook and by visiting his sanctuary’s official site. Direct donations to the sanctuary can be sent here.
Today we’re bringing you a story about another Buddy the Cat from New York, a well-loved domestic shorthair who went missing before a series of snowstorms walloped the New York City area.
This Buddy belongs to John Forestieri of Southold, NY, a town in Suffolk County, at the easternmost tip of Long Island. Forestieri brought the little guy to Fork Animal Hospital in Southold on Feb. 8 for surgery, but on the way out of the veterinary office something spooked Buddy and he bolted from his carrier.
Forestieri searched for his missing feline friend and enlisted the help of others. The veterinary office wasn’t far from his home at just more than two miles away, but a storm was bearing down on the area and Buddy would have to cross busy roads to make his way back.
“I walked for miles, for days and days and days,” Forestieri told local media. “Then the weather got nasty. I didn’t give up on him, but I did think, ‘I don’t think I can do anything for him now.'”
The New York area was already deep into winter weather after it was blanketed with more than a foot of snow on Feb. 2 in one of the worst winter storms in recent memory. A second snowstorm dumped another half foot of snow on the day Buddy went missing. To make matters worse, New York was caught in the deep chill that enveloped most of the country, knocked out power to millions and set new records for low temperatures.
“At first I was holding out hope that he’d be able to stay warm,” Forestieri said.
The Long Island man was beginning to think the worst when he was awoken by scratching outside his sliding door at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
Forestieri was overjoyed to see his Buddy. The cat, who’s been with the family for 10 years, was skinny and his epic trek had taken a toll on him, but he was otherwise okay. He cried out to Forestieri, and the Long Island man said he cried too — tears of joy at his cat’s safe return.
“I thought I was dreaming,” Forestieri said. “But he did it. He found his way home.”
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.