What the Cat Dragged In
McGrath’s “Go Forth, But Don’t Multiply” [Feb. 24] provides
useful perspectives regarding the dilemma of dealing with
feral and free-roaming cats. Quite accurately, it is pointed
out that this is a problem stemming from irresponsible pet
ownership. Those who abandon cats, or who allow these nonnative,
alien predators to roam out-of-doors, are ultimately to blame
for the many problems resulting from their presence in our
communities. Unquestionably, veterinarians, public health
officials, ecologists, and cat owners themselves must do a
much better job of educating cat owners of the importance
of keeping their cats indoors.
A number of studies indicate that average life spans of feral
and free-roaming owned cats are in the neighborhood of two
to three years, whereas lifespans for cats kept indoors is
in the 12-14-year range. Subjecting TNR [trap neuter release]
cats to the harshness of the elements, inadequate diets, encounters
with automobiles, and exposure to multiple diseases and parasites
with little or no chance of obtaining veterinary care should
be viewed as inhumane. Whether one abandons cats, or reabandons
them, both are inappropriate.
Reabandoning cats disregards the lives of hundreds of millions
of wild species upon which they annually prey. Well over 500
references are available addressing this reality. Reabandoning
cats ignores the inevitable realities of their serving as
reservoirs for diseases and parasites affecting both cats
and humans. It is important to note that cats are the domestic
animal most frequently diagnosed with rabies in this country.
In 2003, 27 such cases were diagnosed in New York State. Many
TNR cats are not vaccinated against rabies, and nearly
all are never revaccinated! Seldom are any TNR cats
vaccinated against the multiple other diseases for which conscientious
pet owners are advised to protect their cats. Retrapping cats
is often difficult if not impossible to accomplish, therefore,
few are revaccinated.
I believe legal risks may face those promoting and financing
TNR programs. Should a TNR colony cat, or a cat attracted
to such a colony, be involved in a bite or scratch case which
leads to an untoward medical outcome, be that actual disease
or an allergic reaction resulting from treatment, lawyers
might argue that the risk situation was proactively supported
and encouraged by those fostering a TNR colony. Who will bear
the potential legal responsibility?
Another area of concern is the lack of consideration provided
for citizens who do not appreciate the many social impositions
inherent to feral and free-roaming cats. Urinating on patio
furniture, defecating in neighbors yards and flower beds,
climbing on and scratching ungaraged automobiles, causing
disturbance to properly confined pets, all occur as a result
of human irresponsibility and inconsideration for others.
Examples of the elimination of cat colonies via trap-and-remove
methods are well-documented. The rationale that removing a
colony creates a “vacuum” into which other cats inevitably
migrate is false. If feeding stops, cats do not congregate.
If feeding stops, fewer people “dump” unwanted cats believing
they will be “fed and cared for.” Stop feeding and nontarget
species like dogs, skunks, raccoons, and rats will also diminish
and go away. Artificial feeding complicates the overall problem.
It does not help solve it.
The keys to success in reducing the problem of feral and free-roaming
cats are: education of the public regarding responsible cat
ownership; promotion of spay and neuter programs as an essential
element in controlling pet overpopulation; support for, and
enforcement of, strong animal control ordinances (to include
mandatory microchipping to insure definitive animal identification.
A cat which has been “ear tipped” confirms nothing); whenever
possible, trap and remove free-roaming cats (and dogs),
followed up by adoption when possible, confinement to a privately
funded sanctuary if available; use for legitimate biomedical
purposes, when feasible; or, as a last resort, euthanize.
A responsible public would not promote free-roaming dog colonies.
Neither should they do so for cats. Single-species elitism,
particularly in the face of the myriad of harmful consequences
associated with such behavior, is not in the best interests
of either the animals involved or the public at large.
L. Barrows DVM, Ph.D.
Union, Please” [Letters, Feb.10] struck me as indicative of
the sad state of working-class consciousness in America. Part
of me still wants to believe it is management propaganda,
but a rational portion of my brain realizes that the political
and economic consciousness of American workers is low enough
to allow for pro-management opinions in the low-wage,
unskilled service sector, in a company which completely monopolizes
its sector (and thus faces no wage competition).
The letter itself suffers from critical flaws in judgment
and reasoning. Apparently, the author is satisfied (at 49
years of age) to be working for $8.50 an hour, and believes
her fellow workers should be, as well, as if it were some
preordained wage level decreed by the Ticketmaster gods. Yet
American wages have been generally stagnant since the Nixon
recession of 1973, and the value of minimum wage has fallen
over 25 percent in the last 25 years. Benefits have been under
attack throughout the same period; all the while productivity
in America has increased by 25 percent or more.
Do things have to be this way? Obviously not. On the whole,
unions raise wages by 20 percent, and compensation (wages
and benefits) by 28 percent. Statistically, union members
are up to 28 percent more likely to have employer-provided
health insurance, with 18 percent lower deductibles. If this
were not enough, union workers receive 26 percent more vacation
time than their nonunion counterparts. Unlike the assumptions
of the author of last week’s letter, the increased wages (possibly
even a living wage, and not a paltry $8.50 an hour) a union
would bring more than compensates for small amounts of union
dues—which, incidentally, would constitute a strike fund during
a walkout/lockout period.
There is another portion of the debate on unions the author
ignores: their great potential for creating a radical and
democratic culture. A union is what the workers make of it.
Many unions, indeed, are run by bureaucrats whose goal is
to conciliate corporations and members of the ruling class.
Some, like UE, the ILWU, and the IWW, are politically active
and democratic. They are so because members have worked to
make them real unions, and not passive and hierarchical tools
of their hired officials. Workers in those unions do not have
to use an anonymous opinion box, but can air grievances openly
without fear of recrimination, suggest policy changes and
possibly even implement them because of union strength. A
union at Ticketmaster could be like these examples, a democratizing
force instead of a burden.
In the end, the interests of management and working-class
citizens are diametrically opposed. The author says many people
are content with the rules of the store—but what if they were
not? There is no way for workers in this economy to set the
rules themselves, or to participate in changing them. It is
part of that taboo phrase—the class struggle—something American
workers must relearn. Unions create many tangible benefits
for their members: higher wages, health care, and job security—and
the possibility of a democratic organization where employees
can act collectively, and shape the working environment instead
of it shaping them. Yet, unions are part of that class struggle
that management and ownership have done their best to persuade
us no longer exists—a fight between a minority business elite
in corporations like Ticketmaster who run workplaces and the
economy for themselves, and the potential embodied in working-class
solidarity, which envisions a new society in embryo, with
an economy based around human need. A strong, combative, democratic
union can provide all of these things.
Chair, Albany County Green Party
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