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Calling Cat People to Action

Hawthorne neighborhood resident Kathryn Mason's eloquent guest column online in the 7/21 edition of the Oregonian, "A cat named Pretty" about the death of a loved neighborhood cat at the hands of animal control authorities, prompted me to post a flyer I wrote calling for cat law and policy that errson the side of life for cats.
God made the cat in order that man might have the pleasure of caressing the lion.
Frederick Mery

Of all God's creatures, there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat, it would imporve man but deteriorate the cat.
Mark Twain

Cats and music are the antidotes to life's miseries Albert Schweitzer


I hate quotations. Tell me what you know. Ralph Waldo Emerson


I begin with some of my favorite quotes about cats to get the attention of cat people. I included the Emerson quote to encourage them to action of behalf of cats. To create a safety net to protect all cats, I am appealing to them to urge their state and local representatives to adopt the non-lethal Trap-Neuter-Return method of controlling feral cats and to repeal "anti-TNR" laws and ordinances-such as Multnomah County's mandatory cat licensing and Constitutionally troubling cat trespass ordinance that permits trapping and impounding of "trespassing" cats without notice to owners or caretakers. In addition, pound seizure, the practice of releasing or selling unclaimed cats and dogs from animal shelters for use in biomedical research, product development, safety testing and for educational purposes, shoudl be outlawed and stopped. Further, the stories of cat theft (Screens removed to steal indoor cats, children paid to pick up cats off the streets), must be investigated. The interests of vivisectionists, furriers, and other profiteers (Represented by groups such as the National Animal Interest Alliance) are not properly part of a legitimate humane function.

To be effective on behalf of cats, we must usher these ugly realities out from the sometimes respectable closets where they have been lurking for far too long (Such as under the banner head of "responsible pet ownership").

Alley Cat Allies defines TNR this way:

A full managment plan in which stray and feral cats already living outdoors in cities, towns, and rural areas are humanely trapped, then evaluated, vaccinated and sterilized by veterinarians. Kittens and tame cats are adopted into good homes. Healthy adult cats too wild to be adopted are returned to their familiar habitat under the lifelong care of volunteers. See: www.alleycat.org; see also "How to start a feral cat program at www.maddiesfund.org/organizations/feral_cats.html.)

Controlling feral cats in this manner reminds us that cat life has value. While there are myriad good reasons for keeping pet cats indoors, finding a cat outdoors should not be an excuse to trap and impound (and usually kill) it. Such methods are extreme and should be used only as a very last resort. As the above quotations show, the work "cat " is not synomymous with nuisance. We need cat policy that recognized the human-cat bond. That errs on the side of life for the cats themselves. And policy that does not prevent the work of the citizen humane worker from bearing fruit.

Perhaps a dozen years ago now, I encountered a situation that illustrates how the old-fashioned presumption that cats are a nuisance abateable at the whim of the state can render the hard work of animal advocates useless: Through a church program, I met a woman who recently had moved to Portland from Warm Springs. She had a pet cat she couldn't afford to spay. I put her intouch with Alice Schenk,a dedicated volunteer with Animal Aid, who arranged both funding and transportation for th esurgery. Sometime later, I again encountered the woman and asked about the cat. She told me the cat had been trapped, taken to the Troutdale facility and killed before she realized what had happened.

Multnomah County's permitting-or acquiescing through its laws- to the trapping, and often ultimately, euthanizing, of owned and loved pet cats and then turning around and blaming owners for "irresponsiblity" raises troubling questions.Foremost among them: Why don't humane organizations make humane education their TOP priority???????????????????? Because they have conflicts of interest that make fulfilling their missions too difficult? In the course of practicing law in Portland for seven years, I learned some incredible things: that a veterinarian on the Board of the Oregon Humane Society had ties to the rendering industry; that Paatti Strand, President of the National Animal Interest Alliance that boasts vivisectionists and furriers among its members, served on the citizen oversight committee at MCAC for the better part of the 1990s and on the task force appointed in 2000 to recommend reform under the guise of a "responsible breeder's" group. In the midl 1990s, when I asked my veterinarian at the time whether there was a cat and dog body part industry operating in town, he replied, "You must be a lawyer or an investigator:. He then expressed his opinion that Sharon Harmon would stay as executive director of the Oregon Humane Society indefinitely-something I am hoping concerned cat people will rise up to change. She has had many chances to implement pro-cat policy and has chosen not to do so. People involved in using cats and dogs for non-pet industrial/educational purposes feed on the public's ignorance. I encountered so many obstacles trying to make my concerns public that I became a bundle of nerves and had to closes my practice.

In August, 1999, immediately after John Rowton (Both kennel director and media liason at MCAC) was questioned at a focus group by an irate couple as to exactly what kind of business was being conducted in Troutdale, a strange statute appeared on the books. ORS 167.390 (1) reads: Commerce in fur of domestic cats and dogs prohibited; exception (1) A person may not take, buy or sell or otherwise exchange for commerce in fur purposes the raw fur or products that include the fur of a domestic cat or dog if the fur is obtained through a process that kills or maims the cat or dog.

To what might this shining piece of legislation apply, if not to euthanized shelter animals???????

Also, sometime in the fall of 1999, a representative of the County was quoted in a piece about the ill-conceived and ill-gated pet food sales tax, as saying Hank Miggins, then Director of MCAC, was relieved of that posiiton so that he would not be blamed for wht was about to be made pubic.

Now 3 1/2 years later, we still ahven't focused on the crux of the problem with the humane function in our region/state. "Humane" directors come and go. We won't see needed changes until we DEMAND that cat-friendly policy be implemented and leadership installed that will have hte vision to work with the cat people in the community to bring it about.

You who know and love cats-who understand their language, if you will, must be ever vigilant to speak on their behalf. Speak until your voices are heard and respected.

phone: phone: (503) 245-9318

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