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Look What the Cat Dragged In

To the Editor:

Darryl 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.

Paul L. Barrows DVM, Ph.D.

Wimberley, Texas

The Collective Good

To the Editor:

“No 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.

Peter LaVenia

Chair, Albany County Green Party

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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