For the next 5 weeks, we'll be cross-posting a series of articles on a feral cat situation in and near Canton, Ohio to help spread the word.
Our "guest blogger" is BZ TAT, an artist and former counselor/therapist who is the founder of Okey's Promise, an outreach through public art designed to create awareness about the connections
between animal maltreatment, child abuse and domestic violence.
The original posts can be found at the Okey's Promise blog.
In recent weeks, numerous friends have brought to my attention
concerns about the way feral cats are treated in my community. The city
of Canton, OH has one of the most draconian animal control policies
around, and many friends have asked me to get involved in the process of
“Just think, had someone called Animal Control on Okey, she would
never have become the star that she is,” one friend posted on my
A friend from California sent me this message: “Vicki, this is going on right in your own backyard – isn’t there something you can do?”
How could I not get involved?
Here is the situation.
The city has a contract with an individual to perform Animal Control
Officer duties. This individual reportedly takes complaints from the
community regarding nuisance animals, including feral cats and assorted
wildlife (skunks, raccoons, etc.) and he removes them from the location
of the complaint. Wildlife apparently are relocated and released back
into the wild where they will be less of a nuisance. Feral cats are
taken to the Humane Society and euthanized. A handful of kittens and
adoptable cats are rehabbed and placed for adoption, but unsocialized
cats are deemed “ill” and destroyed.
Aside from the ineffective and inhumane method of dealing with the
animal control problem, there are also complaints about inappropriate
and inhumane treatment of animals by the individual in the role of
Animal Control Officer. There is a personnel issue here – complaints
from the community that the officer is doing his job in an inhumane
manner – in addition to the problematic policy in place.
Alley Cat Allies, Best Friends Animal Society, ASPCA, Found Animals Foundation, and every other major animal welfare organization in the United States advocate for TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) as the most humane and the most effective
means of controlling feral cat problems. Neutering and providing basic
vet care to feral cats typically reduces the nuisance behaviors that
cause problems, and returning a neutered cat to it’s previous location
leads to a reduction of non-neutered cats entering the area. Progressive
cities are instituting TNR programs and seeing great benefit.
With all of this in mind, I accompanied my friends to the City
Council meeting on Monday, February 6, 2012. Ten other advocates and I
spoke at the meeting to implore our City Council to consider: 1)
discontinuing the current contract, and 2) developing a TNR program for
Surprisingly, we encountered interested and open minds on the
Council. They continued the current contract for a shortened period of
time (90 days), however, they also agreed to work with advocates to
develop alternatives to the current method of animal control.
Although I am concerned that the city contracted with an individual
who has active complaints of animal maltreatment from the community
against him, I did receive personal assurances from 4 council persons
that the complaints would be investigated immediately.
I will keep you posted on the progress of the effort in this space.
What follows are the remarks that I shared in the Public Speaks portion
of the City Council meeting on February 6, 2012.
My name is Vicki Boatright. I speak to you as a counselor, as an
advocate for children and as an advocate for animals. I also speak to
you as an artist who has personally contributed to the redevelopment of
Downtown Canton with 2 murals depicting the bond that exists between
animals and human beings. I am currently working on a third public art
project along the same theme with funds provided to me by my community.
In my 20 year career as as a counselor with children, I saw
clearly that there is a link between the maltreatment of animals and
violence towards children. Considerable clinical research backs up my
own observations. When animals are treated poorly, children are often
treated poorly as well.
As a counselor, I worked with parents, teachers and other child
advocates to help children develop empathy and wise methods of problem
solving. My objection to the renewal of a contract for very inhumane and
ineffective feral cat control practice follows that trajectory of my
I believe that we must set an example for our children in our actions and in our public policies.
Trap-neuter-release has been proven to be the most effective,
efficient and humane method of managing feral cat problems. Trap and
euthanize programs have been proven to be ineffective, inefficient and
inhumane. We should not even be having this conversation.
We often talk of attracting young professionals to Canton as a
place to make their home. With the documented rise of pet ownership
among young professionals, progressive cities are working to become more
animal friendly communities. What is Canton doing? Killing cats. As a
result of this contract renewal issue, pet writers across the country
have already begun to black-list Canton as a very pet-unfriendly
community. Yes, we are on their radar. I first heard of it from a writer
This issue is not simply about whether or not to appease some
bleeding heart animal rights activists. This issue is about how we as a
community demonstrate the empathy and the wise problem-solving that we
desire our children to embrace. It is about the economics of making this
city a place where people want to live. I urge you to stop this
ineffective and cruel practice of killing cats today, and show our
children what empathy and wise problem solving really means. Thank you.