You Can Fight
by Steve Hockensmith,
ALDF Communications Manager
OT MANY PEOPLE HATE DOGS.
Not many people hate horses. Not
many people hate chickens or gold-fish.
Yet for some inexplicable reason, certain
people hate cats.
Just why is a mystery. But one thingâ€™s clear:
Cat haters have a new capital cityâ€”Akron, Ohio.
In 2002, the Akron city council declared war
on cats by passing an ordinance that made any
feline caught outdoors illegalâ€”and subject to
summary execution. At the time, Councilman
Michael Williams told his fellow council mem-bers
heâ€™d â€œsleep fineâ€ if 20,000 cats died as a
result. Sadly, it looks like Williams is getting his
wish. More than 2,000 cats and kittens have
been killed since the ordinance was passed, and
dozens more are dying each week.
â€œWhatâ€™s happening in Akron is both a
tragedy and a travesty,â€ says ALDF Executive
Director Joyce Tischler. â€œThere are more com-passionateâ€”
and effectiveâ€”ways to control the
feral and stray cat populations. But rather than
explore these options, Akronâ€™s leaders have
gone on an indiscriminate killing spree.â€
Fortunately, animal advocates in Akron are
fighting backâ€”and ALDFâ€™s backing them up.
(To find out what you can do, read to the end
of this article.)
With the support of an ALDF grant, attor-ney
(and longtime ALDF member) J. Jeffrey
Holland has filed suit on behalf of six Akron res-idents
with cats. Holland and his clients say the
city left them with no other choice.
â€œWe did everything we could to seek com-promise
and common ground,â€ Holland says,
pointing out that local activists presented the
city with a variety of alternative plans that would
use trap-neuter-return strategies to reduce the
number of free-roaming cats. Though these
models were based on successful programs in
other Ohio towns, the council ignored them,
instead passing an ordinance that essentially
sentences outdoor cats to death.
â€œThe council wasnâ€™t interested in alterna-tives,â€
says Deanne Christman-Resch, co-chair
of Citizens for Humane Practices (CHAP),www.saveourcats.org,
which was formed to
round up cats because they consider them a
nuisance. They claimed cats are a big health
concern because of rabies, but thatâ€™s bogus.
There hasnâ€™t been a case of cat or dog rabies
in this county for decades.â€
Itâ€™s not just the cityâ€™s motives that have been
called into question. So have its methods. The
city hands out cat-traps to anyone who asks
for them. As long as a trap is â€œactiveâ€â€”i.e.,
capturing cats on a regular basisâ€”the individ-ual
is allowed to keep it.
â€œThe city shouldnâ€™t encourage any person
to trap cats,â€ says Holland. â€œAbuse and neg-lect
Not just inevitableâ€”already all too common,
according to Christman-Resch.
â€œWe know that people are trapping cats to
get back at neighbors because of personal
feuds,â€ she says. â€œPeople who are in organ-ized
dog-fighting are trapping cats because
they can use them to train their dogs. Weâ€™ve
got animal dealers here who sell cats to re-search.
A lot of these animals are never even
making it to the pound.â€
Even if a cat is actually picked up by the city,
Under the ordinance, cats are supposed to be
held for three days before being killed, thus giv-ing
their guardians a chance (albeit an exceed-ingly
short-lived one) to claim them. But CHAP
has found case after case in which captured cats
were put to death immediately because they were
deemed â€œsick,â€ â€œflea-infested,â€ or â€œferal.â€
â€œEighty percent are killed the same day
theyâ€™re brought in,â€ Christman-Resch says.
â€œMore than 2,500 cats have been trapped since
this started, and of those only three or four dozen
went home with their guardians. And when-ever
anyone does actually manage to rescue a
cat, theyâ€™re hit with all kinds of fees and fines.â€
Of course, anyone who cares for an out-door
cat would be more than willing to pay a
few fines in order to get their friend back. Sadly,
however, by the time they find out their catâ€™s
been captured, itâ€™s probably too late.
Thatâ€™s exactly what happened to Sue
Richardson. She befriended a feral kitten last
year, feeding the young cat after she was aban-doned
in Richardsonâ€™s neighborhood.
â€œI couldnâ€™t bring her inside. I tried once, but
my other cats had a fit and so did my neighbor downstairs,â€ says Richardson, one of the
plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by Holland. â€œStill,
I was trying to work with her to domesticate
her. She got comfortable enough to sit with
me in the yard in the evenings. Everyone in the
neighborhood knew she was mine.â€
Unfortunately, being outside made the catâ€”
whom Richardson had named â€œKittyâ€â€”fair
game. Unbeknownst to Richardson, a neigh-bor
set out cat traps, and eventually Kitty dis-appeared.
When Richardson checked with the
city, she found that a cat matching Kittyâ€™s de-scription
had been brought to the pound and
killed the same day.
â€œShe wasnâ€™t a danger. She wasnâ€™t hurting
anyone or damaging anything,â€ says
Richardson. â€œThe city had no right to do what
it did. Granted, she wasnâ€™t inside my apart-ment,
but she was no less my cat.â€
Thatâ€™s how Rachel Neuwirth felt about
Mikey, the indoor/outdoor cat she lost to the
cityâ€™s traps. Mikey was neutered, vaccinated,
Neuwirth found his collar tossed in the street
near her house. Mikey she never saw again. A
cat matching his description was killed due to
an unexplained â€œinjuryâ€ mentioned in the
â€œIâ€™m really angry with the city,â€ says
Neuwirth, whoâ€™s also a plaintiff in the suit
against the city. â€œThereâ€™s definitely a better so-lution
than just picking up cats and killing them.
Itâ€™s cruel. Itâ€™s not the catsâ€™ fault people are too
ignorant to spay and neuter their animals.â€
So whose fault is it? Certainly the city has
done nothing to deal with the problem hu-manelyâ€”
it doesnâ€™t even have a spay/neuter pro-gram,
despite studies (presented to the city coun-cil
by CHAP) that demonstrate that such efforts
are cheaper and more cost-effective than killing.
â€œWhat does it say about a communityâ€™s gov-ernment
when both public sentiment and hard
facts are ignored and numerous offers of ex-pertise
and assistance are rebuffed?â€ asks Becky
Robinson, national director of Alley Cat Allies,
and let the Akron
city council know you donâ€™t approve of its ac-tions.
You can also support ALDF and CHAP as
they take the battle against the ordinance to
â€œYou donâ€™t need to be a lawyer to appreci-ate
the time and resources it takes to fight city
hall,â€ says Holland. â€œThe city will use the full
weight of its resources to win. We need every-oneâ€™s
This article is reprinted with permission from ALDF
(Animal Legal Defense Fund). ALDF is a 501(c)(3)
nonprofit organization that has been pushing the
U.S. legal system to end the suffering of abused an-imals
for nearly a quarter-century. Founded by at-torneys
active in shaping the emerging field of ani-mal
law, ALDF has blazed the trail for stronger
enforcement of anti-cruelty laws and more humane
treatment of animals in every corner of American life.
Today, ALDFâ€™s groundbreaking efforts are supported
by hundreds of dedicated attorneys and more than
100,000 members. For more information on ALDF,
go to www.aldf.org.