Animals 24-7 | News of the animal protection community worldwide
ANIMALS 24-7 is organized to conduct activities which are exclusively charitable, literary and/or educational for the purpose of exposing the existence of cruelty to animals and educating the public of the need to prevent and eliminate such cruelty.
Feral pigs may be poached as African swine fever & trade war cut off pig imports
HONG KONG––A three-way collision among African swine fever, feral pigs, and the global pork industry, U.S. interests included, may be only days away in Hong Kong.
Whatever the outcome, pigs––both factory-farmed and living free––are already the big net losers, even if they are not yet hunted to help satiate the suddenly unfilled Hong Kong daily demand for pork.
(Beth Clifton collage)
African swine fever in 2019, the Chinese Year of the Pig, has become the scourge of Chinese pig farmers, large and small. African swine fever is incurable, easily transmitted, there is no vaccine for it, and while it is not known to afflict humans, humans who have contact with pigs, pork products, or pig waste are major immune carriers.
“Beijing hasn’t divulged the exact number of hogs lost to swine fever,” reported Jeff Daniels of CNBC on May 7, 2019, “but Rabobank,” the Dutch global leader in agricultural finance, “estimates up to 200 million animals could be affected and Chinese production could decline by 30%,” or about 120 million.”
“That compares with about 75 million hogs and pigs in the total U.S. inventory,” Daniels noted.
(Lindsay Spaar photo)
Beijing government already planned to cut pork consumption
The decrease in Chinese pig production does not appear to disturb the Beijing central government. A national plan to halve meat consumption per capita by 2030, for health and environmental reasons, was unveiled in June 2016.
Chinese pork consumption per capita has now declined for three years in a row, and China through mid-May 2019 has cancelled purchases of 4,513 metric tons of pork from the U.S. since the January 22, 2018 start of a trade war initiated by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Hong Kong, however, has been in turmoil since the May 2, 2019 discovery of African swine fever in one pig at the government-owned Sheung Shui pig slaughterhouse triggered an indefinite suspension of pig deliveries from mainland Chinese farms.
(Beth Clifton collage)
How the Hong Kong shortage began
Hong Kong normally receives about 3,500 to 4,000 live pigs per day from the Chinese mainland: about 1.5 million pigs per year, compared with about 73,000 pigs per year raised by 43 licensed pig farms within Hong Kong and the New Territories, the semi-rural region linking Hong Kong to mainland China.
The Sheung Shui pig slaughterhouse, which by itself kills about 80% of the pigs who are eaten in Hong Kong, received the infected pig from a farm in the southern mainland Chinese province of Guangdong.
Following the discovery, 6,515 pigs were electrocuted at the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse––the usual killing method there––but instead of being butchered for human consumption, their remains were dumped into the Ta Kwu Ling landfill in the New Territories.
(Beth Clifton photo)
Pork trader objects to “blindly killing innocent pigs”
The culling brought protest from Hui Wai-kin, secretary general of the Pork Traders General Association of Hong Kong, against “blindly killing innocent pigs” instead of testing them each for signs of infection, and then slaughtering to be eaten those who were found healthy.
“The pigs were wrapped in plastic before being taken to landfills,” reported South China Morning Post health and environment writer Ng Kang-chung. “But pictures taken by the press showed many of the carcasses were being dumped unwrapped. The Food & Health Department dismissed concerns that this might pose health risks. A spokesman said disinfectant powders would be used to cover the carcasses before the pits were filled in with soil. The vehicles transporting the dead pigs would also be sterilized before they left the landfills.”
“Thorough cleansing and disinfection” of the Sheung Shui pig slaughterhouse followed, said Hong Kong Food & Health Department secretary Sophia Chan.
(Beth Clifton collage)
Farmers threaten to release pigs
The privately owned Tsuen Wan pig slaughterhouse, also serving Hong Kong, closed at the same time as the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse. This was apparently because the owners believed it would not be profitable to operate, just to kill the 400 pigs per day it normally receives from local pig farmers.
That caused some local pig farmers to threaten to release unsaleable pigs in front of the Tsuen Wan pig slaughterhouse, rather than continue to feed them past their original slaughter date. No such releases, however, are known to have occurred.
(Beth Clifton collage)
U.S. uses Chinese-made pig feed
Meanwhile, reported Jeff Daniels of CNBC, “American pork producers are using feed from China for their pigs, raising concerns about bringing African swine fever to the U.S.
“At least 129 cases of the African swine fever in China have been reported since August 2018, and the incurable viral disease has spread to other parts of Asia, including Viet Nam and Mongolia,” Daniels summarized.
Should African swine fever reach the U.S., Daniels said, “it could devastate the more than $20 billion-per-year pork industry.”
“Feedstuffs can carry it, and one of our concerns is that we bring in vitamins and trace minerals for our pork industry from manufacturers in China,” Kerns & Associates agricultural risk management expert Steve Meyer told Daniels.
(Beth Clifton collage)
“Organic” producers may be at greatest risk
Meyer, director of economics for the National Pork Producers Council and National Pork Board from 1993 to 2002, explained to Daniels that one possible vehicle for transmission of African swine fever to the U.S. might be organic soybean meal, commonly imported from China to feed organically raised pigs.
“So far, the U.S. and Canada haven’t banned imports of plant-based food from China,” Daniels observed, “but some experts have recommended a quarantine on imported feed of at least 20 days before using it.”
Chinese-produced soybean meal accounted for about 12% of all the soybean meal used in the U.S. in 2018, according to the WISERTrade research group.
(Beth Clifton collage)
Islam & Judaism formerly kept African swine fever out of Asia
African swine fever can also be spread by the meat and body fluids of infected pigs, and even by ticks, believed to be the main way that it spreads among free-roaming swine in Africa.
The largely Muslim expanses of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, together with Israel, where few pigs are raised because both Islam and Judaism forbid eating pork, long formed a barrier to the spread of African swine fever to Asia.
In the era of high-volume overseas trade in livestock and animal-based commodities, however, many diseases have spread globally, jumping from nation to nation via ships and aircraft, that were formerly confined to single regions or even single small nations.
(Beth Clifton collage)
What if African swine fever came here?
“With wild hogs in America being a problem, it would be much more so if African..
By Karen Davis, PhD., president, United Poultry Concerns
In “How chicken became the rich world’s most popular meat,” The Economist reported on January 19, 2019 that “the total mass of farmed chickens exceeds that of all other birds on the planet combined.”
This startling news comprises 1) The unimaginable number and size of chickens suffering for food worldwide and 2) The disappearance of wild birds from the world.
As the prison population of chickens grows, the number of birds living free declines. The dwindling population of free birds includes the chicken’s tropical forest ancestor and wild relative, the jungle fowl, whose habitat is being destroyed acre by acre, in part to grow soybeans for industrialized chickens.
Rachel Carson remembered
In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson opens chapter 8, “And No Birds Sing,” with the observation that:
Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song. This sudden silencing of the song of birds, this obliteration of the color and beauty and interest they lend to our world, has come about swiftly, insidiously, and unnoticed by those whose communities are as yet unaffected.
Silent Spring documents the effects of industrial chemicals on the planet and the reckless and careless conduct of human beings, of which this chemical catastrophe is a prime example. When it first appeared in 1962, the book was ridiculed and dismissed by corporate interests; but even after Silent Spring was hailed, grudgingly or gratefully, for its accuracy and justifiable urgency, nothing really changed. Half a century later, wild animals are being harmed and killed every day by pharmaceutical waste, plastics, poisons, and the aggregating crises of global heating.
Mars & the Moon
Even so, more taxpayer dollars will probably be spent on trips to Mars and the moon than will ever be spent caring for the Earth and its creatures. Just last week, an MSNBC show host rhapsodized over a renovated space program. Listening, I wondered – If he knew how his fellow earthling chickens are mired in misery and filth in metal sheds out of hell for his food – would he care?
Something I learned about chickens when I started knowing them decades ago is how vocally charged they are from morning to night. All day long I hear their voices outside ringing and singing. Since we built our predator-proof outdoor aviary in 2014, so that our roosters and hens could perch safely in the bushes and trees if they liked, I have felt the true sense of their vocal exuberance and how utterly their voices express their vitality. Their comical commotion each evening as they rustle around in the branches and leaves before settling down for the night evokes the tropical forest in which they evolved and the primal chords in the heart of each bird.
(Beth Clifton photo)
Not a peep or a rustle
By contrast, if you open the door of a Tyson or Perdue chicken house after the newborns have been there a week or so, you will not hear a peep or a rustle. If you enter a facility where hens have been caged for eggs a few months, the sound of silence will strike you more forcibly than commotion. Of all the indicators of their suffering, the sound of thousands of chickens together, mute and unmoving, is the eeriest, most audible signal that something is wrong.
In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson writes: “From all over the world come echoes of the peril that faces birds in our modern world.” I hope that her elegiac plea for attention and action for the birds included a thought for the chickens who, at that very time, were being taken from the land and put in concentration camps. There are now more chickens in those hopeless places than there are birds in the sky.
KAREN DAVIS, PhD is president and founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl, including operating a sanctuary for chickens in Virginia.
Silent Spring did change quite a lot, just not enough. As the book which, more than any other, launched the late 20th century environmental movement, Silent Spring moved environmental news coverage as such to page one in newspapers and the top of the news on television. Previously, environmental reporting tended to be buried toward the bottom of disaster coverage, or in “outdoor” coverage focused on expanding hunting, fishing, and trapping opportunities.
Silent Spring also led directly to the replacement of almost all of the first generation sprayed chemical pesticides, such as DDT and lead arsenate, with others believed at the time to be safer for both animals and humans, notably the carbamate chemical family and 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, and others in that chemical class. Later, as the risks of these pesticides became evident, they in turn were replaced or updated with safer variants.
Merritt & Beth Clifton
What did not change, though, was the age-old idea that humans can somehow kill our way to heaven on earth.
Incidentally, while much has been written and said about the budget cuts afflicting the U.S. space program since the 1969 moon landing, the 2019 NASA budget of $21.5 billion is still more than triple the Environmental Protection Agency budget of just $6.1 billion.
PORT RICHEY, Florida––Pasco County Animal Services and Suncoast Animal League personnel on May 3, 2019 removed thirty-two dogs, four cats and a gerbil from the rented premises of the Humane Society of West Florida, a dilapidated former self-storage building in Port Richey, Florida.
“According to Pasco County Animal Services,” reported Isabel Rosales of ABC Action News WFTS, in nearby Tampa Bay, “the rescue was operating illegally for nine months without an active rescue license. A county spokesperson says the Humane Society of West Florida failed to renew its rescue license in August 2018.”
“Hoarding. Overwhelmed caregiver”
The Pasco County Animal Services seizure report described the case, Rosales said, as “Hoarding. Overwhelmed caregiver.”
The allegedly overwhelmed caregiver was identified as Sharon McReynolds, 66.
Continued Rosales, “McReynolds faces several citations, including failure to vaccinate and failure to obtain animal license tags. While the county cleared out her rescue of any pets,” Rosales said, Suncoast Animal League founder and executive director Rick Chaboudy’s “biggest worry is she’ll be in charge of animals again.”
Inside the Humane Society of West Florida building, Chaboudy told Rosales, “That smell was a knockout punch. How does she go in there and smell that smell and even think that’s okay?”
Alleged perp denies wrongdoing
Asked by Rosales whether he would testify in court against McReynolds, Chaboudy said, “I’d be the first in line.”
McReynolds, in a 402-word statement posted with Rosales’ report on the WFTS web site, essentially denied any wrongdoing, accused Chaboudy of a lack of professionalism, blamed the intense ammonia odor that Chaboudy described on “the failure of one of the four air conditioning units and refusal of the landlord to repair such promptly,” and said that because of this, “for the benefit of the animals’ well being, assistance was sought.”
Rosales, however, reported that she “spoke with the property owner, off camera, who told us he was the one to call in the complaint because of the horrible smell. This owner says he will not renew the rescue’s lease.”
Rick Chaboudy (Suncoast Animal League photo)
Accuser set positive example
Chaboudy, 65, meanwhile knows quite a bit about running animal shelters, working with all-volunteer rescue organizations, and operating in the climatically challenged, economically depressed Suncoast environment.
For 20 years Chaboudy was executive director of the Humane Society of Pinellas. He was a frontline rescuer in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He founded the no-kill Suncoast Animal League a year later, in 2006, in a similar building also near U.S. Highway 19, ten miles south.
“When Chaboudy and Annette Dettloff, a former HSP volunteer, set up in their modest Suncoast Animal League digs behind Palm Plaza off U.S. 19, they had $232 in the bank,” reported Belleair Bee editor Chary Southmayd.
The Suncoast Animal League is scarcely rolling in the clover now, but by dint of 13 years of hard work is now a $750,000-a-year organization, according to www.Guidestar.org, though IRS Form 990 filings show annual income as being more like $450,000 per year.
New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit
The Humane Society of West Florida, ten miles north, incorporated in 2015, has yet to file an IRS 990, according to Guidestar.
Within the same time frame that Chaboudy and Dettloff have been building the Suncoast Animal League, McReynolds became well-known within the Florida animal rescue community for entirely different reasons.
On October 1, 2012, the nearby city of New Port Richey transferred the community animal control contract from Pasco County Animal Services to the newly formed New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit, formed under the umbrella of the New Port Richey Police Department, supervised by then-police chief James Steffens.
Rosie, a Sharon McReynolds favorite, cried often and spun in circles.
Promised to take New Port Richey to no-kill
Sharon McReynolds, her husband Jeff McReynolds, and veterinarian Terry Spencer founded the New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit and won the endorsement of the project from the New Port Richey city council, Tampa Bay Times correspondent Robert Napper reported, with the promise that they could simultaneously take the city to “no kill” status, with a 90% “live release rate” for impounded animals, and save taxpayers about $26,000 of the $60,000 per year previously pad to Pasco County Animal Services.
Sharon McReynolds became executive director. Longtime local rescuer Tonya Vogt was named shelter director, though the New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit had no actual shelter, housing animals in 11 borrowed runs at the nearby SPCA Suncoast instead.
(Founded in 1964 as the SPCA of West Pasco, the SPCA Suncoast is not to be confused with the Suncoast Animal League.)
Spencer dropped out of the New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit before actual animal control operations began.
Kiona, an aggressive pit bull with a large tumor, was treated at cost of $1,400 while other dogs went without basic treatment.
Pit bull shooting
Jeff McReynolds, a former police officer, and New Port Richey police officer Greg Williams were designated the New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit animal control officers.
Within days two pit bulls were reported for menacing a pedestrian. One of them charged Jeff McReynolds and was shot dead by Williams. Criticized by Jeff McReynolds, Williams remained a police detective, but resigned as an animal control officer.
That may have sparked the first of many controversies to embroil the New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit, at least after it officially existed, as there were already disputes about the mission of the new agency even before it had a name.
Another controversy developed in January 2013, with all of the borrowed kennels full, along with an array of stacked cages, while a plan to build kennels behind the New Port Richey Police Department proved unworkable due to police security concerns.
Beth Clifton as New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit animal control officer.
Having previously been a Miami Beach police officer, a Polk County animal control officer, and a veterinary technician for the Pasco Animal Welfare Society, I volunteered my services as an animal control officer to the New Port Richey Animal Protection Unit.
Sharon McReynolds accepted my offer and seemed very happy to have me aboard. Speaking at length by telephone, we agreed that I would come to the shelter to meet the dogs and have a brief volunteer training session with another volunteer, as well as signing a nondisclosure form.
Upon arrival, Vogt showed me around.. I never received the volunteer training session because Vogt determined that it wasn’t necessary because of my background.
I also never received, nor was asked to sign, a nondisclosure form. In the weeks to come, I would realize the significance of that.
Three of the Humane Society of West Florida dogs who were surrendered to the custody of the Suncoast Animal League.
“No kill” sounded good…
Instead I was given a tour and met some of the dogs. Soon I was equipped with a uniform and began ride-along training with Jeff McReynolds, by then the only other animal control officer. Jeff McReynolds acknowledged to me that he had failed the Florida Animal Control Association certification test. The purpose of the ride-along training was to help me become familiar with the geography of New Port Richey and with the specific procedures of the New Port Richey Police Department.
The concept of “no kill” sheltering, meaning that animals would not be killed simply for exhausting a set holding time or because a shelter was out of housing space, sounded to me then like a sensible and humane plan for shelter animals.
But as I learned, first through my New Port Richey experience, and since then through extensive research into other attempts to convert animal control agencies to “no kill” by delegating much of their work to volunteers, what I saw first-hand in New Port Richey is occurring all over the country.
Publicity added much spin & gloss to what was already a positive record
CARMEL, California––Doris Day, 97, died from pneumonia on May 13, 2019.
Day was remembered worldwide as a singer who recorded more than 650 songs between 1939 and 1967; an actress who starred in more than 40 films between 1947 and 1968, as well as her own television situation comedy, 1968-1973; and an animal advocate, for whom the Doris Day Animal Foundation, the Doris Day Animal League, and the Doris Day Equine Center were all named.
Distinguishing the real Doris Day, however, from the legend manufactured by publicists, gossip columnists, and the roles she played was never easy.
Composer Oscar Levant (1906-1972) in 1965 famously remarked on the Perry Como Show that he knew Doris Day before she made her first film, “before she was a virgin.”
Doris Day at a 1928 dance recital. She was six years old.
Careers in show biz & for animals began with a train wreck
Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio, her name appears to have first appeared in print on January 13, 1939, in connection with an incident she later remembered as indirectly kindling her interest in animal welfare, as well as beginning her ascent to stardom by changing her career direction.
Reported the Hamilton Daily News Journal, “The Pennsylvania Railroad Company, joint defendant with the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, & St. Louis Railroad company,” had elected to contest lawsuits filed as “result of a crossing accident on October 13, 1937.”
“The suits were instituted,” the Hamilton Daily News Journal said, “by Doris Kappelhoff, age 16, professional dancer, who seeks $20,000; Albert Schroeder, who asks $10,500; and Marian Bonekamp, age 18, who seeks $5,000. The trio, all residents of Cincinnati, were riding in Schroeder’s car when it collided with a locomotive.”
Doris Day circa 1950. (DorisDay.com photo)
Changed both her name & her age
Turning from dancing to singing as result of her injuries, winning her first singing job from big band leader Barney Rapp, Doris Kappelhoff became Doris Day, according to her official biographies, because “Kappelhoff” was too long to fit on marquees.
But, six years before recording her first hit, Sentimental Journey, in 1945, the future Doris Day was still far from becoming a headliner. More likely, “Kappelhoff” sounded too Germanic, with the U.S. close to war with Germany.
Official biographies also contend that, as Wikipedia has it, “For most of her life, Day believed she had been born in 1924 and reported her age accordingly; it was not until her 95th birthday — when the Associated Press found her birth certificate, showing a 1922 date of birth — that she learned otherwise.”
The 1939 Hamilton Daily News Journal item about the railway crossing accident, however, establishes that Day knew her actual age all along.
Doris Day had many dogs later in life. (Facebook photo)
Tiny the dog?
Leaving the subsequent facts of Doris Day’s singing and acting careers, and her frequently complicated personal life, to mass media and entertainment media to untangle, ANIMALS 24-7 perused several books, many obituaries, and approximately 3,000 articles at NewspaperArchive.com to try to discover the truth of her involvement in animal advocacy.
According to a posthumous remembrance by Humane Society of the U.S. president Kitty Block, “Her beloved dog, Tiny, was her closest companion and a comforting presence while she recovered from injuries sustained in a car crash that ended her budding career as a dancer. When they were out for a walk together, Tiny uncharacteristically bolted away and was struck by a car and tragically killed. Tiny’s death left Doris with a strong determination to help animals.”
The 1939 Hamilton Daily News Journal item affirms that the car crash occurred. The rest of the story, though media documented practically everything of note that Doris Day said and did during her eight decades of fame, does not appear to have surfaced until the 1970s.
Doris Day & Jimmy Stewart in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Day recalled in 2015 that “she first became interested in animals on the set of a 1956 Alfred Hitchcock film,” Nick Thomas of the Victorville Daily Press wrote in a feature entitled “A Christmas message from Doris Day.”
“One of my first profound experiences working with animals in my films was in Morocco on the set of The Man Who Knew Too Much,” Day told Thomas. “I was never one to make waves when working on my films, but was appalled at the condition of the local animals used in this film.”
Because The Man Who Knew Too Much was made abroad, there apparently was no on-set supervision by the American Humane Association, which had begun monitoring the sets of U.S.-made films through a contract with the Screen Actors Guild in 1940.
Day “refused to continue,” she continued to Thomas, “until we made sure they were all well-fed, well-treated, and happy. I think this was one of the instances where I truly realized how my celebrity could help improve animals’ lives.”
Day must have told the same story to someone else earlier, because then-Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle blogged on her birthday in April 2014 that “as a young actress, she had the courage to stand up to the formidable Alfred Hitchcock on the set of The Man Who Knew Too Much, saying she wouldn’t work unless the emaciated animals on the set received proper care.”
Lindsay Pollard-Post of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told essentially the same story in her posthumous remembrance of Doris Day.
But ANIMALS 24-7 was unable to find any published trace of the Morocco story predating 2014––not from Day herself, not from other members of The Man Who Knew Too Much cast and crew, not from the publicists who continually bolstered her image, and not from the gossip columnists who detailed her every move.
Shirley Temple was twice the American Humane Association “cover girl.”
Doris Day v. Shirley Temple
And it was not as if actresses maintaining a wholesome all-American image––or their agents––had not already made a point of promoting kindness toward animals for generations.
Shirley Temple, for example, a film star from 1933 to 1950, at the height of her popularity posed as cover girl for the June 1935 and March 1936 editions of the American Humane Association magazine, The National Humane Review.
Doris Day in “Jumbo,” 1962.
Shirley Temple, however, while playing late career roles similar to those of Doris Day, and though seven years younger, was done as an actress by age 21.
Doris Day, 25 when she made her screen debut, enjoyed her peak of success during her thirties and early forties. During that time Day played many roles which, while not overtly inhumane by the standards of the era, were not especially sensitive toward animals, either. Her on-screen romantic opposites included cowboys, ranchers of species from cattle and poultry to lobsters, rodeo performers, and a circus elephant trainer in Jumbo (1962).
That Touch of Mink (also made in 1962) both borrowed from and amplified a sales slogan used to promote mink coats.
Yes, Doris Day posed in 1952 with dyed poodles. (Beth Clifton collage.
“Be Kind to Animals Week”
The earliest clips that ANIMALS 24-7 found furnishing any evidence that Doris Day had any more than ordinary awareness of animal suffering or sentience were media releases published in May 1965, when the American Humane Association named Day and actor Fred MacMurray, the leading man in several Day films, as co-chairs of “Be Kind to Animals Week”––a role that Shirley Temple filled in 1936.
After that, the next mention of Doris Day in the same article as the word “humane” came in April 1969. That was when a dog named Lord Nelson Again was nominated for a Performing Animal Television Star of the Year award for his work on the Doris Day Show.
The “Patsy” awards, as they were known, were presented from 1951 to 1986 by the American Humane Association. After the AHA dropped the program, the concept was revived and expanded as the Genesis Awards by Broadway actress Gretchen Wyler (1932-2007), initially under the auspices of the Fund for Animals, founded in 1968 by TV Guide and Parade columnist and author Cleveland Amory (1917-1998).
The Genesis Awards were later hosted by the Ark Trust, founded in 1991 by Wyler herself, merged into the Humane Society of the U.S. in 2002.
Cat purge masks otherwise weak record on endangered species
CANBERRA, Australia––Cats are nowhere on the May 18, 2019 Australian federal election ballot, and are not among the official campaign issues for any of the contestants, either. Yet the Liberal Party scheme to kill two million cats by 2020 lurks just behind polls suggesting the Liberals or a Liberal-led coalition will prevail.
Should the Liberal government or a Liberal-led coalition remain in office, the attempted national purge of feral cats underway since 2015 will go on, full speed ahead, at any cost.
For most Australians, the cat purge is not really about cats at all, and never was. Nor is it about saving native wildlife, the official pretext for it, but a cause which otherwise has won little but lip service over the years from governments led by all major parties.
(Beth Clifton collage)
Surrogates & scapegoats
Cats, branded an “alien invader,” have long been surrogates and scapegoats for the fear of Asian immigration that has often driven Australian politics ever since the First Fleet in 1788 left 753 British prisoners and 277 others, including 222 women and 41 children, to fend for themselves on an unfamiliar continent.
The new arrivals were acutely aware that they were much closer to Southeast Asia and China than anywhere that looked like home, and desperately vulnerable to pirates. Yet the First Fleet arrivals were apparently unaware that they were landing an unknown number of cats along with 74 pigs, 29 sheep, seven horses, seven cattle, and six rabbits known to have survived the voyage.
That cats were not on the First Fleet landing roster, though traced to the First Fleet by recent historical research, has probably contributed to a succession of anti-cat policies now in effect for more than a century.
Scott Morrison. (Beth Clifton collage)
“Ramping up fears about refugees”
The Australian Liberal Party has since August 2018 been led by Scott Morrison, of Cook, New South Wales. The Morrison governing coalition “has a history of ramping up fears about refugees during campaigns,” recounted the Financial Times on April 11, 2019.
In the closing days of the campaign, the Financial Times predicted, “Morrison may try to manufacture a crisis. [In March 2019] he slammed Labor’s support for a bill to transfer sick asylum seekers held on South Pacific islands for treatment in Australia, warning that [the opposition leader] would allow ‘those suspected of violence, sexual crimes and abuse, including against children’ to walk Australian streets.”
Former Australian environment minister Greg Hunt, who made national policy of the cat extermination campaign long promoted by anti-cat conservationist John Woinarski, is now health minister in the Morrison government. Hunt is likely to be re-elected and well-positioned to ensure that the cat killing continues.
Greg Hunt declares war on feral cats.(Merritt Clifton collage)
“Patriots rallied to the cause”
“After Hunt announced the plan [to kill cats], editorials and letters almost universally welcomed it,” recalled New York Times magazine contributor Jessica Camille Aguirre in an April 25, 2019 feature entitled “Australia Is Deadly Serious About Killing Millions of Cats.”
Explained Aguirre, “The issue was framed as a grand scheme to protect Australia’s wildlife, as a war against cats — and, as with any war, it was couched in language about mission and values. Part of something uniquely Australian was under threat, and this is what it would take to save it. Patriots rallied to the cause.”
Aguirre accepted without evident question the decades old party line, amplified most vigorously by Woinarski, that “Feral felines are driving the country’s native species to extinction.”
Aguirre, like most who have not closely examined the science of the matter, evinced no awareness that the scientific basis for this much echoed claim is flimsy indeed––especially in view that feral cats are the primary control, biological or otherwise, on the Australian rat, mouse, and rabbit populations, also widely blamed for losses of native species.
Arian D. Wallach
“Gobsmacking how much hatred there is”
Indeed, Aguirre interviewed only one critic of the cat purge, Daniel Ramp, director of the Center for Compassionate Conservation in Sydney, and quoted him for just one sentence.
“I can’t help but use terms like ‘xenophobia,’” Ramp told Aguirre. “It’s gobsmacking how much hatred there is.”
Explained Aguirre, “Adherents to compassionate conservation say that Australia should embrace cats as an element of its environment, rather than trying to restore ecosystems to an arbitrary point in history whose selection is dependent on the whims of those doing the choosing.”
As Center for Compassionate Conservation cofounder Arian Wallach often suggests, “Whether we like it or not, cats are now an integral part of Australia’s eco systems. We cannot get rid of them. We may as well learn to love them.”
(Beth Clifton collage)
Up to 100 cats per square kilometer?
Summarized Aguirre of the standard anti-cat argument, “Over millions of years of isolation, Australia’s native beasts became accustomed to a different predatory order, so while cats aren’t necessarily more prevalent there than anywhere else, their presence is more ruinous. They have also become nearly ubiquitous: According to the estimates of local conservationists, feral cats have established a permanent foothold across 99.8 percent of the country, with their density reaching up to 100 per square kilometer in some areas.”
Aguirre did not mention that only areas with plentiful mice, rats, and/or rabbits could possibly sustain that many cats.
Instead, Aguirre devoted most of her 5,873-word feature to profiling several of the Australians who are hell-bent on extirpating feral cats despite the likelihood that they cannot possibly succeed in achieving a goal that eluded medieval Europe over several hundred years of persecution of cats with religious zeal.
“Curiosity poison baits.” (Beth Clifton collage)
Among Aguirre’s profile subjects was “Dr. Death, whose real name is Dr. Dave Algar, principal research scientist in the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions for the state of Western Australia,” developer of sausages made from kangaroo meat, chicken fat, and sodium fluoroacetate, the poison better known as Compound 1080.
These, along with Compound 1080-based cat poisoning pellets called Curiosity, are extensively air-dropped in remote regions to try to kill cats.
(Beth Clifton collage)
But “Even though large-scale baiting has proved effective at reducing the number of cats, often by half or more,” Aguirre said, not citing any data in support of that claim, recreational cat-shooters have killed the most.
“Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology data,” Aguirre wrote, “showed that shooters were responsible for 83% of feral-cat deaths nationally in the first year of Australia’s efforts. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology estimated that 211,560 cats were killed during the first 12 months after the plan was announced,” of the two to six million feral cats targeted for extermination.
This would amount to, at most, about a seventh of the number of cats who would have to be killed each year just to prevent a population increase––if the arid conditions of much of Australia could support an increase.
(Beth Clifton collage)
“Conservation or politics?”
Among the cat purge plan critics whom Aguirre overlooked were conservation biologists Tim S. Doherty, Don A. Driscoll, Dale G. Nimmo, Euan G. Ritchie, and Ricky‐John Spencer, whose extensive critique “Conservation or politics? Australia’s target to kill 2 million cats” was published on February 19, 2019 in the journal Conservation Letters, published by the Society for Conservation Biology.
“We argue that the well‐publicized target to cull two million feral cats has a weak scientific basis,” the five scientists began, because: (1) reliable estimates of Australia’s cat population size did not exist when the target was set; (2) it is extremely difficult to measure progress (numbers of cats killed) in an accurate, reliable way; and, most importantly, (3) the cull target is not explicitly linked to direct..
Christine Liquori & Ryan Hazel. (Beth Clifton collage)
Thought they knew the risks…
FORT PIERCE, Florida; DIGHTON, Massachusetts—Killed in unwitnessed dog attacks on May 9, 2019 and May 10, 2019, respectively, Christine Liquori, 52, of Port St. Lucie, Florida and Ryan Hazel, 14, of Rehobeth, Massachusetts, had almost nothing in common––except that they were alone in kennel facilities with one or more dogs of known dangerous breeds.
Liquori was the tenth U.S. pit bull fatality of 2019. Hazel was the tenth victim of a fatal attack inflicted by dogs of other breeds.
Liquori, 52, a volunteer and longtime outspoken pit bull advocate, bled to death from injuries suffered while she walked or exercised a pit bull alone in a fenced play area beside the older of the two Humane Society of St. Lucie County shelters in Fort Pierce, Florida, the oldest parts of which date to 1956.
Christine Liquori. (Beth Clifton collage)
35th person killed by a shelter dog since 2007
Of the 61 shelter dogs known to have participated in killing 35 people since 2007, including Liquori, 44 were pit bulls. Only five shelter dogs had killed anyone in the previous 150 years.
The Liquori and Hazel deaths resembled at least three others in recent years: Mary Jo Hunt, 53, of North Carolina Bull Terrier Rescue, killed by a pit bull in 2012; Carol Harris, 59, of the Akita Advocates Relocation Team Arizona, killed by an Akita in December 2017; and Happy Hound Hotel boarding kennel worker Laura Williams Ray, 53, of Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, killed by a pit bull in a January 2018.
Each was around one or more dogs who were not their personal pets. All were working without backup and without any way to quickly summon help.
Hazel, 14, a high school freshman, had reportedly often assisted 3 Dogs Running kennel owner and trainer Scott Dunmore, 49, over the year before his death.
Dunmore was away in Boston, however, about an hour’s drive north, when Hazel’s grandmother dropped him off at the kennel to help do the evening dog care chores at about six p.m.
“His grandmother told investigators she waited in the car, as he expected to spend just 30-45 minutes completing his tasks,” recounted Dalton Main of WFXT. “After an hour, police say the grandmother became worried about Hazel and contacted his parents, who were away in New York. The boy’s parents contacted neighbors of Dunmore and asked them to check on their son. The neighbor called police to report the attack on Hazel at 7:59 p.m.
(Dutch Shepherd left/ Belgian Malinois right)
Dutch shepherd & three Belgian Malinois
“Police say they found four dogs – one Dutch shepherd and three Belgian Malinois – roaming the property outside of their enclosure,” Main added.
In addition to the Dutch shepherd, an American Kennel Club-recognized variant of the Malinois and German shepherd dog types, and the three Belgian Malinois found running free at the 3 Dogs Running site, police found seven other dogs still in their kennels.
Often used for police and military work, Malinois are only known to have killed one person in the U.S. before Hazel: David Fear, 64, of Grover Beach, California, who suffered fatal injuries on December 13, 2016 while rescuing neighbor Betty Long, 85, from an unprovoked attack by a Malinois previously trained as a police dog by another neighbor, then-Grover Beach police officer Alex Geiger.
Kenneth M. Phillips (LinkedIn photo)
Malinois owner/trainer acquitted
Geiger was on April 12, 2019 acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and failure to maintain a large animal causing serious bodily injury and death.
Commented California dog bite attorney Kenneth Phillips immediately afterward, “”The worst part about this ‘not guilty’ verdict is the ‘get out of jail free’ message. The defense was largely based on the absence of standard guidelines that would dictate how to protect the public from police dogs that are out of training.
“The defense used that argument to its advantage to get this particular defendant found not guilty, but the long term effect of the jury’s decision will create the missing guideline,” Phillips predicted. “Freedom from criminal responsibility means less of a need to be vigilant. The guideline will admit more casual confinement of these dogs. Public safety will suffer.”
Scott Dunmore. (Beth Clifton collage)
Kenneth Phillips called it
Less than a month later, Phillips’ words appear prophetic. Dunmore’s dogs are not known to have been police dogs, but are Malinois apparently used in combat sports, and Dunmore is a “name” trainer who might have been expected to be acutely aware of the risks to which Hazel was exposed when visiting the 3 Dogs Running kennels alone.
Dunmore, originally from Britain, earned a degree in engineering from the University of Surrey. Turning to dog training in 1998, Dunmore on the 3 Dogs Running web site boasted of “titled dogs in Schutzhund, French Ring, Mondio Ring, Protection Sports Association, and Dock Diving,” and of being “the only decoy in the country certified in Schutzhund, Mondio Ring, French Ring and PSA.”
While Lisa Kashinsky and Marie Szaniszlo of the Boston Globe found victim Hazel remembered as being from a “super, super family, a very nice kid, [and] an excellent athlete,” who played baseball, football, and ran track, victim Liquori appears to have led a troubled life.
Christine Liquori with pit bull. (Facebook)
Was Liquori infamous in Philadelphia?
Graduating from high school in Staten Island, New York, Liquori crossed paths repeatedly with several other women of the same name, but of differing ages.
Some online sources place LIquori in Philadelphia before she arrived in Florida, where she lived in several different cities.
A man named Samuel W. Landis, then 46, of Telford, Pennsylvania, was in 1995 convicted of beating to death Edna Hiestand, 71, on March 7, 1994, after extensively embezzling from her.
“In 1981,” summarized Allentown Morning Call reporter Debbie Garlick, “the former Quakertown councilman was convicted of embezzling funds from the borough fire department where he was chief. He later forged his mother’s checks and stole from her.”
Forgery & fraud
Among the alleged beneficiaries of Landis’ crimes, Garlick mentioned, were a “Christine Liquori of Philadelphia, who received expensive gifts from Landis and who traveled with him by limousine to New York City getaways,” while Landis “occasionally paid her rent.”
Landis was sentenced to serve life in prison. The Christine Liquori who was involved in that case dropped out of sight.
The Christine Liquori who was killed by a pit bull at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County appears to have been arrested at least three times on felony charges, in June 2010, October 2012, and May 2013. Her alleged offenses included forgery and fraud, according to arrest reports published by the Hometown News of Fort Pierce and the St. Lucie News Tribune.
Paws Fur Recovery
Liquori had volunteered at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County for about three years, through an organization called Paws Fur Recovery.
Not listed as an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) charity by Guidestar.org, the IRS service contractor that provides public access to nonprofit accountability documents, Paws Fur Recovery describes itself as “a group of grateful recovering addicts and alcoholics helping shelter dogs find new homes.”
Lori Boettger, founder of Paws Fur Recovery, told Chuck Weber of CBS-12 that Liquori was due to reach six years of sobriety later in May 2019.
According to Facebook postings, Liquori had worked as a chemical dependency technician at the Just Believe Recovery Center in Fort Pierce, had started a new job at the Banyan Treatment Center in Stuart, Florida, on March 30, 2019, and was in a relationship with a behavioral health technician at another addiction treatment center.
James Nash & hippo’s revenge. (Beth Clifton collage)
Disqualified by protest sparked by hunting photos
SALEM, Oregon––Hunters nationwide are worried over the outcome of a high-profile confrontation among ranking Democrats over who will serve on the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission.
Their side lost. This signaled a significant loss of grip in a largely rural state where for decades hunters were politically dominant.
The defeat of a hunter seeking a state wildlife commission seat because of his high profile history of legal hunting may be a U.S. first.
But even that is not the biggest implication of what was essentially a fight over what Americans want to be the face of wildlife conservation: wolves in the wild or mounted heads.
Trophy hunter, rancher, and hunting guide James Nash was nominated to fill one of five open seats on the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission by Oregon governor Kate Brown, a Democrat serving since 2015.
Based on Oregon political history and his strongly pro-hunting credentials, Nash might have expected quick and easy confirmation from the Oregon Senate Rules Committee on May 8, 2019.
Ginny Burdick. (Facebook photo)
Blackballed by state senate majority leader
Instead, Oregon Senate majority leader and Rules Committee chair Ginny Burdick, also a Democrat, bucked precedent––and what remains of the ballot box clout of hunters––by dropping Nash entirely from the list of Fish & Wildlife Commission candidates to be considered.
Hunters are a negligible constituency for Burdick, serving her sixth term representing the cities of Portland and Tigard. Animal advocates and environmentalists, however, are a core constituency for any successful politician in one of the nation’s “greenest” districts.
“A spokeswoman for Brown says the governor had nothing to do with [Burdick’s] decision,” reported Pulitzer Prize-winning political journalist Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week.
“Conservation groups decried Brown’s decision to put Nash in a position to help set state policy on wolves,” Jaquiss explained.
James Nash & six of the animals he killed. (Instagram photos)
“A giant middle finger”
Oregon, where wolves were officially extirpated by 1947, now has 137 resident wolves, up from none as recently as 2007. Finalizing a state wolf management plan is expected to be among the major activities of the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission during the next several years.
“James Nash’s Instagram feed showed him with big game he killed [in Africa],” Jaquiss recounted, “including a hippopotamus, a zebra, a giant crocodile, a warthog and more pedestrian trophies, like the five coyotes he shot one winter’s day, until he took the photos down this month. His father, Wallowa county commissioner Todd Nash, has been the Oregon Cattlemen’s spokesman in opposition to the re-introduction of wolves into Oregon.”
Said Oregon Wild conservation director Steve Pedery in April 2019, “Appointing James Nash is a giant middle finger to the conservation community.
Oregon governor Kate Brown.
Guv allegedly double-crossed enviros
Pedery “applauded Burdick’s decision,” but “remains disappointed that Brown nominated Nash in the first place,” Jaquiss reported.
Assessed Pedery, after Burdick killed Nash’s nomination to the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission, “This is better than where we were, but with a draft wolf plan on the table that contemplates sport hunting of wolves, it’s still not good.”
Brown “pledged during her re-election campaign [in 2018] to protect wolves,” Jaquiss recalled, despite having previously favored removing wolves from endangered species protection, “but after winning, she picked Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission nominees favoring groups that include ranchers, loggers, commercial fishermen, and hunters whose economic interests may conflict with the desires of a majority of Oregonians.”
Opposing Nash’s nomination, besides Oregon Wild, were Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Audubon Society of Portland.
The Clifford Berryman cartoon that inspired the creation of the teddy bear, showing Teddy Roosevelt refusing to shoot a tethered bear cub.
“Fading ideal of the Teddy Roosevelt hunter/conservationist”
Nash’s hunting photos “became a kind of conservationist Rorschach blot,” observed Oregon Public Broadcasting science and environment reporter Tony Schick. “Either Nash hunting big game was incompatible with governing the state’s wildlife, or he represents the fading ideal of the Teddy Roosevelt hunter/conservationist.”
But Quinn Read, northwest director for Defenders of Wildlife, apparently mindful that hunters are still an influential part of the Defenders donor base, downplayed the importance of hunting in Defenders’ opposition to Nash.
“It was easy for everyone to focus on Nash,” Read told Schick, “because of the nature of those photos and how they captured public outrage,” said Quinn Read, Northwest Director for Defenders of Wildlife. “But to focus on him is to miss the larger point, and that is that Governor Brown put forth a slate of commissioners that are going to let industry direct fish and wildlife policy.”
In other words, Defenders of Wildlife opposed Nash for a different reason from most Oregonians who voiced opposition to his nomination.
Yet, paradoxically, other Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission nominees who hunt and fish did not meet high-profile opposition from either advocacy organizations or the public.
Blake Fischer with the baboons he shot.
Unlike Nash, none of the rest put photographs of themselves and the animals they killed on prominent public display.
Idaho trophy hunter forced to resign
The Nash debacle came six months after Idaho Governor Butch Otter on October 15, 2019 announced that trophy hunter and bowhunting equipment maker Blake Fischer, 40, had resigned from the Idaho Fish & Game Commission.
Fischer resigned, reportedly at Otter’s request, three days after Idaho Statesman reporter Chad Cripe exposed a smoldering controversy among other current and former Idaho Fish & Game Commission members over gruesome photographs of 14 animals whom Fischer and his wife Elizabeth killed in Namibia during early September 2018.
Fischer emailed the dead animal photos to more than 100 recipients on September 17, 2018.
Otter ousted Fischer despite having a long history of kowtowing to hunters.
Blake Fischer & dead giraffe.
In October 2010, for example, responding to trophy hunters wrongly blaming wolves for a perceived scarcity of elk, moose, and bighorn sheep, Otter ordered the Idaho Fish & Game Department to quit responding to reports of illegal wolf killing.
What Americans expect of leaders is changing
The hunting photos displayed by Nash and Fischer could not have been easily and spontaneously distributed to mass audiences a generation and more ago. Yet most of those photos probably would not have offended many people in times and places––including much of the rural U.S. today––where and when photos of local hunters with kills were and are among the staple content of small town news media.
Less than a century ago even partial human remains such as scalps, dried or pickled genitals, and even skulls were often displayed in public places, as trophies of warfare and lynching.
But the times and what Americans expect of leaders are rapidly changing.
Donald Trump Jr. after 2012 elephant hunt in Zimbabwe. (Beth Clifton collage)
For the first time in U.S. history, two consecutive U.S. presidents––who have little else in common––are neither military veterans nor hunters, nor even former hunters.
Current U.S. president Donald Trump’s sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are prominent trophy hunters, but have even lower public approval ratings (35% at the moment) than the president himself (37%).
Hunters “aging out”
Fewer than 1% of Oregonians now buy hunting licenses, compared to 11.7% of Idahoans (among the highest rates of hunting participation in the nation) and 2.3% of Washingtonians. Altogether, there are now 723,419 licensed hunters in the three contiguous Pacific Northwest states. This is about 5.3% of the total human population of the region, approximately the same rate of hunting participation overall as for the U.S. as a whole, according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service survey data most recently collected in 2016.
Adult hunting participation in the Pacific Northwest is down by about 8% since 2006; youth hunting participation by more than 20%, a trend visible nationwide.
“Nearly a third of all hunters in the U.S. are baby boomers,” observed Nathan Rott of the PBS radio program All Things Considered on March 20, 2018. “They hunted like no other generation since. But the oldest Boomers are already aging out of the sport, and the youngest, at 54, are only about a decade away from joining them.
(Beth Clifton collage)
“When put on a timeline, that cohort of older hunters looks like a wave, moving through time, that drops as it hits the age of 65.”
Fewer meat-eaters means lower potential hunting recruitment
Despite increasingly desperate hunter recruitment efforts by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, and hunting advocacy..
(Beth Clifton collage, based on Toronto Cat Rescue photo)
Neighbors reportedly complained of corpse-like odor for seven years
NORTH YORK, Ontario––Even before nearly 300 cats were found on May 3, 2019, huddled in Apartment 1811 at 30 Falstaff Avenue, North York, Ontario, the suburban Toronto building was well-known to police.
Built in 1970, Falstaff Towers, a cluster of buildings including three 19-story public housing projects, has been involved in at least seven homicides, several other allegedly drug-related shootings, and one apparently unsolved disappearance.
The discovery of so many cats stashed in just one two-bedroom apartment, however, was a shock to just about everyone, including frustrated neighbors who said they had complained for as long as seven years about feline odors and noise.
Some reportedly suspected that the apartment contained a rotting corpse––which, for the location, would not have been surprising.
(Toronto Cat Rescue photo)
Humans “taken out of the unit”
Three hundred or more cats, and sometimes as many dogs, have been found in many previous investigations of animal hoarding cases around the U.S. and Canada, but not in such limited space.
Toronto Animal Services program manager Mary Lou Leiher told media late on May 6, 2019, the fourth day of cat evacuations by rescue workers wearing hazardous materials suits and respirators, that the apparently multiple human residents of Apartment 1811, who have not yet been named, “have been taken out of the unit and are no longer living there.”
Leiher indicated that the cat owners would not be criminally charged, despite exceeding the metropolitan Toronto area limit of six cats per resident almost 50 times over.
“It’s not the appropriate course of action,” Leiher said.
(Toronto Animal Services photo)
Video from the scene showing a bathtub stool and grab bar indicated that at least one resident was elderly and/or disabled.
ANIMALS 24-7 tentatively identified one possible suspect, a university-educated woman of approximately 50 years of age who spent 14 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, but has apparently drifted through multiple temporary jobs in the dozen years since her discharge, often holding more than one job at a time.
While some particulars of identification link this person to the address, however, ANIMALS 24-7 found nothing linking her to the cats, and also found her name associated with another address about 20 minutes to half an hour away.
As of sundown on May 6, 2019, Toronto Animal Services staff had removed 171 cats from Apartment 1811, Leiher said, expecting to find and remove about 100 more.
(Toronto Cat Rescue photo)
No parasites or illness
“We haven’t found parasites or illness,” Leiher said. “The good news is we can help all these cats and it shouldn’t take too long.”
Toronto Animal Services was summoned to the scene by Toronto Community Housing, which owns and manages the Falstaff Towers complex, and by Toronto Public Health, Leiher told media.
Toronto Cat Rescue took in 79 of the first cats to be taken out of Apartment 1811, executive director Belinda Vandersluis said. Many of them were pregnant.
“They’re doing really well, playing, eating — some are quite shy and a little stressed out, some are a bit thin, but for the situation [they are coming from], they’re doing quite well,” Vandersluis told media.
No evidence of involvement in rescue
Contrary to widespread speculation that Apartment 1811 was somehow involved in organized cat rescue, Vandersluis added, “I think the situation is that the cats in the home had litters of kittens and then those litters of kittens had litters of kittens.”
Thirty-eight of the first cats removed from the apartment were taken to the Birch Dan Animal Hospital in Scarborough, another nearby Toronto suburb.
“Surprisingly, most of the cats were healthy,” Birch Dan Animal Hospital employee Karley Lux told CTV News producer Adam Ward. “There are no fleas or infection, which is surprising.”
(Toronto Cat Rescue photo)
Second big case in six weeks
The Falstaff Towers hoarding case came to light just six weeks after Toronto Animal Services, Toronto Cat Rescue, and the Etobicoke Humane Society responded to a similar situation in Etobicoke, the Toronto suburb just west of North York.
In that instance, about 120 cats were taken from the premises of a person who reportedly called the Etobicoke Humane Society after realizing the situation was out of control.
“This person was not out collecting cats,” Vandersluis told Global News reporter Erica Vella. “They had a few cats, [the cats] were never spayed or neutered, and they kept procreating,” until “they just filled the house.”
(Cindy Beernink photo)
Mayhem in “Toronto the Good”
The Toronto Community Housing Corporation, which built and manages the Falstaff Towers complex, is the second-largest public housing provider in North America, second only to the New York City Housing Authority.
Among the 58,000 Toronto Community Housing residential units, occupied by 164,000 tenants, few have been more problematic than some of those at Falstaff Towers.
The first known murder at 30 Falstaff Avenue was the July 1991 shooting of Dwight Anthony Kelly, 28. Two other sometime residents, Warren Anthony Blackstock and Renford Farrier, were convicted of the killing in 1993.
(Cindy Beernink photo)
Next door, at 40 Falstaff Avenue, Marcia Hylton, 38, was stabbed to death in July 1995 by Nathaniel Cyril Findlay, father of one of her five children. A five-year-old child was stabbed trying to protect Hylton. Findlay jumping from a balcony, killing himself.
Lincoln Wilson, 22, was shot dead at 30 Falstaff Avenue in April 1997. Two men, Mark Evans and O’Neil Saunders, were convicted of that murder in 1998 and 1999, respectively.
Warren Anthony Blackstock, by June 1999, was out of prison and back in the neighborhood. One night Blackstock pistol-whipped a man named Craig Patrick. The next day someone shot Blackstock, paralyzing him below the waist, and killed his three-year-old daughter Breanna Davy.
30 Falstaff Avenue, North York, Ontario.
Convicted of the murder, Patrick served six and a half years in prison, but was released in 2005 by order of the Ontario Court of Appeal and acquitted at a second trial in 2007.
Four more shootings
Meanwhile, at 50 Falstaff Avenue, 20-year-old Jermaine Miller was fatally shot in June 2006. At 30 Falstaff Avenue, Aeon Grant, 19, was shot dead in December 2009, and Tyrell Duffus, 22, was shot in February 2010.
Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno attributed the Grant and Duffus killings to “internecine bang-bang between the Cripps and the Generalz over drugs and territorial control.”
Merritt & Beth Clifton
There have apparently been no further confirmed fatalities at Falstaff Towers, but men were shot and wounded there in November 2015 and February 2019, and an 18-year-old woman was last seen there in June 2017.
The late linguist, lexicographer, and “crazy cat man” Reinhold Aman would have relished the question
SONOMA, California––Researching the etymology of the terms “pit hag,” “rescue angel,” “crazy cat lady,” “dog man” and “chicken fighter,” absent from most dictionaries yet almost universally understood within the animal advocacy world, would have fascinated Reinhold Aman, 82, who died on March 2, 2019 in Sonoma, California.
Aman, a longtime cat rescuer, feral cat colony caretaker, and promoter of online petitions seeking stiff penalties for cat abusers, was a former chemical engineer and professor of German.
But Aman was best known, and will be longest remembered, as editor of Maledicta, The International Journal of Verbal Aggression, of which 13 editions were published between 1977 and 2005.
(Beth Clifton collage)
Before Maledicta, few scholarly journals recognized research into the words and phrases that express conflict, sometimes even leading to war. Post-Maledicta, what is considered insulting or taboo, and why, has become a respectable branch of linguistic and sociological research, with particular importance to people who study conflict resolution.
After all, it is difficult to resolve a fight over someone alleging that someone else’s mother wears combat boots, without understanding why the allegation matters to either party.
Born on April 8, 1936, in Fürstenzell, Germany, Aman apparently died before finding the opportunity to investigate where “pit hags,” “rescue angels,” “crazy cat ladies,” “dog men,” and “chicken fighters” came from, or how and when they entered the pejorative lexicon of American slang.
Reinhold Aman & friend. (Beth Clifton collage)
“Crazy cat man” & worse
More than 30 years before Aman died, however, he asked ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton to keep his eyes and ears open for the emergence of any widely used pejorative terms that might emerge from the then relatively young animal rights movement, and these five terms seem to fit his definition, which included widespread use, specific negative connotations, and limited social acceptability despite widespread use.
Sporadically acquainted with Aman from 1977 to 2011, initially helping Aman as a freelance researcher and later when Aman called to consult about feral cat colony caretaking, Clifton imagined Aman had died when he dropped out of occasional communication by email, after years of health problems, learning of his recent death only by accident while researching “crazy cat lady.”
Aman described himself at times as a “crazy cat man.” The self-description he used in multiple languages during occasional television and radio talk show appearances, however, was that he was a “fat little foul-mouthed four-eyed jewboy kraut.”
(Beth Clifton collage)
Understanding pejorative speech
Aman used that self-description to demonstrate that pejorative speech, in any language, attacks perceived deviations from the societal norms, tending to follow a pattern so rigid and so universal from culture to culture that he imagined it might also eventually be found among other intelligent species.
The most frequent targets of pejorative speech, as Aman laboriously quantified in English, German, French, Yiddish, and Hungarian, and had other researchers quantify in a variety of Asian and African languages, tend to be aspects of appearance, behavior (especially sexual behavior), disabilities, religion, race, gender, and diet.
Aspects of Aman’s observation can be found in both the words themselves and the common use of “pit hag,” “rescue angel,” “crazy cat lady,” “dog man” and “chicken fighter”––albeit in some instances just beneath the surface rather than overtly.
(Beth Clifton collage)
27 months for cursing a judge
According to an online obituary posted by Columbia University adjunct professor Jesse Sheidlower, who from 1999 to 2005 was principal North American editor for the Oxford English Dictionary, Aman “gained fluency in several languages at a young age, and worked as a translator for the U.S. Army in Frankfurt.”
Emigrating to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1959, Aman in 1968 earned a PhD in Medieval German from the University of Texas.
“A scholar with high standards for the work of others and higher standards for his own work,” Sheidlower recalled, Aman “following a bitter divorce, was imprisoned for sending threatening materials to his ex-wife, her lawyer, and the judge who oversaw the case. Aman claimed that verbal aggression was the method of venting anger used by ‘civilized people,’ and that he had never intended actual harm,” but the court disagreed, sentencing him in 1993 to serve 27 months in federal prison.
Jesse Sheidlower. (Facebook photo)
“Exceptionally hostile” yet “polite & often charming”
“Denizens of Usenet in the 1990s and 2000s,” Sheidlower continued, “will remember Aman’s exceptionally hostile behavior, especially in the language-related groups alt.usage.english and sci.lang, and while he would regularly post useful and informed commentary, the overwhelming amount of vituperation he directed at anyone with whom he disagreed led him to be regarded as one of the more extreme trolls of that era.”
Yet, “In person, Aman was polite and often charming,” Sheidlower mentioned. “He had deep, unqualified love and loyalty to his daughter Susan and her family. He loved feral cats, maybe above all, and would skimp on his own needs to provide for them.
“Though his legacy is tarnished by his problematic behavior,” Sheidlower finished, “it is nonetheless the case that he was willing to explore difficult topics at a time when serious, or indeed any, treatment of such language was not really possible in academia. Maledicta remains an important source for the study of offensive language.”
Forward, then, in the spirit and memory of Maledicta, to exploring the origins, evolution, and meanings of “pit hag,” “rescue angel,” “crazy cat lady,” “dog man” and “chicken fighter.”
“Pit hags” as they see themselves (left) and are seen by others (right). (Beth Clifton collage)
“Pit hags” in 1862?
Searching NewspaperArchive.com indicates that “Pit hag,” probably the newest of the commonly used pejorative terms unique to animal advocacy, could actually be among the oldest. Multiple links appear to articles originally published by Bell’s Life in London & Sporting Chronicle on March 9, 1862, page 16.
Indeed, an item near the center of that page, entitled “Canine Fancy,” advertises three bulldog exhibitions, two ratting contests, and an event, apparently a dogfighting tournament, at which a “Mr. Ackerman will be prepared to match dogs, at all weights.”
But the “pit hag” reference turns out to be a typographical error in an article two columns to the left about widows and orphans of a mining disaster at the Hartley Colliery that killed 207 men and boys. The actual reference is to a line that was supposed to read, “The pit has been closed.”
(Beth Clifton collage)
First use of “pit hag” was probably by dogfighters
“Pit hag” as currently used in all probability originated soon after the rise of organized pit bull advocacy in the mid-1980s. It appears to have already been in use for some time before emerging into visibility in response to pit bull rescue/transport operations following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The earliest use of “pit hag” may have been among dogfighters, who derided and resented pit bull advocacy of a sort that downplayed, and in their eyes feminized, the prized quality of “gameness,” or readiness to fight.
Historically the only breed standard to which pit bull breeders aspired was for their dogs to be known as “dead game,” meaning willing and determined to fight to the death, even maintaining a “death grip” when deceased.
Thus “dog men,” as many dogfighters called themselves, ridiculed “pit hags” for perhaps 20 years before the emergence of organized dog attack victim advocacy, counter to pit bull advocacy, circa 2007.
Penny, a spayed female pit bull, and Bosston, a castrated male pit bull, killed Daxton Borchardt, 14 months old, on March 6, 2013 in Walworth, Wisconsin.
Victim advocacy came late to the fray
Dog attack victim advocacy arose in response to the..