Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

cat bounty update

I’m not exactly posting on breaking news, but having posted already about the cat bounty in Randolph, Iowa, it seemed only fair to post that they’ve rescinded the bounty.

The City Council approved the bounty after receiving numerous complaints about feral cats. Under the initial policy, which went into effect March 1, stray cats without collars would be taken to a veterinarian, and if they weren’t claimed, they’d be euthanized. That caused an uproar among animal lovers.

On Thursday, the city voted to end the bounty and form a task force involving three organizations, Maryland-based Alley Cat Allies, Best Friends Animal Society of Utah and Feline Friendz in Nebraska.

“We’re very keenly interested in helping this community. The mayor is reaching out for help,” said Barbara Williamson of the Best Friends group.

The task force will meet next week to devise a plan, which the City Council will consider on Thursday, said Elizabeth Parowski, spokeswoman for Alley Cat Allies.

“What will happen is the cats that are truly feral will return to the outdoors and the cats that are strays that are actually socialized will be adopted into homes,” Parowski said.

Sherry Haftings of Feline Friendz said she already has several veterinarians lined up to help, but a lot more needs to be done.

This change of heart doesn’t surprise me – when you have a town of 200 people hitting headlines in the national news in a way that makes them look like uncaring animal haters, there are a few things that is going to happen. You’ll have animal groups stepping up to make a point and help the people and animals, and you’ll have a town that is going to be more than happy to get the negative attention off their backs.

I have no doubt that the story was manipulated on several levels. Misrepresentation was likely the order of the day. I am quite sure that the people of the town were not as awful as their mayor was quoted to make them sound, and I’m also sure that the quote by the HSUS representative was carefully chosen to give a certain impression. It is all in the name of selling papers and getting attention, and if that means making both the residents of a town and an animal welfare organization sound like animal-haters, well then by golly that is what AP is going to do.

Meghan, with HSUS, left a comment on my blog:

The HSUS’s comments were misrepresented in the article referenced above. HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle wrote on his blog Friday about the organization’s support of Trap-Neuter-Return programs to humanely manage feral cats; you can see that at http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2008/03/feral-cats.html.

And so I went to check it out. I knew what to expect, more or less. I figured that if an HSUS employee (her IP identified her as such, so I’m not just guessing that she’s an employee) was sent out to find random blogs, even small low-traffic ones like mine, to spread the word in an attempt to correct the impression of HSUS, well, the post she’s sending me to is guaranteed to be a bit of damage control spin-doctoring.

I was interested to see how the misrepresentation came about. After reading a rather long post about Cleveland Armory and how much he loved cats, and what various things HSUS does for cats, we came to the closing of the post:

We’re not alone, of course, and I’m personally grateful to see Alley Cat Allies, Alley Cat Rescue, Neighborhood Cats, Best Friends, the ASPCA, and other groups working so hard on this front. A major challenge like this requires that kind of organizational unity, along with the contributions of literally thousands of volunteer cat advocates on the front lines in communities across the nation.

In many communities, feral cats are not welcome, and they’re sometimes demonized by public officials. This happened just the other day, in an Iowa town, where, unfortunately, The HSUS’s role and comments were misrepresented in a poorly edited story that was widely circulated. That situation has been resolved, with an offer of Trap-Neuter-Return assistance being accepted by the local government. But it reminds us that the issue is a challenge in communities throughout the nation. We need to do even more to defuse local controversies surrounding the presence of feral cats, and to address them humanely and responsibly. And we will. Cleveland Amory wouldn’t have it any other way.

And I can honestly say that while I gave them the chance to explain the misrepresentation, they squandered that. And the spin doctor, to me, is that they are trying to imply credit for what Best Friends, Alley Cat Allies, and Feline Friendz are doing for the town in Iowa. The reporter writing the article for the Mercury Sun was careful to include quotes from all three of the groups forming the task force. It irks me that the blog post that was supposed to address the alleged misrepresentation really didn’t address it. At all. And still tried to give the impression that they are part of the task force.

Pfft.

I’m extremely happy that the cats will be helped. That’s the point, in the end.

But I was curious, so I emailed AP to see what the reporter who originally reported on the bounty would have to say, hoping she’d provide the full text or something along those lines. AP doesn’t give us, their audience, direct access to their reporters. You have to go through the general email address and hope that it is a slow day for them (yeah right) and that they’ll bother to forward your email to the appropriate person.

This makes the AP reporters as good as anonymous to me, and if a reporter doesn’t have to answer to his or her public, I wonder whether they feel accountable at all. If we can’t ask them to clarify something, if we don’t necessarily know who they even are, or whether a person by that name really exists, how can we trust them?

I can’t!

Wayne could have easily convinced me that the AP reporter was blowing smoke. He didn’t.

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3 responses to “cat bounty update

  1. Billy March 23, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Hi Deb,

    Thanks for writing on this. I read Wayne’s post about the employee’s comment being taken out of context as well and came to the same conclusion as you. HSUS seemed to dodge the issue. It’s frustrating. I want to know what was said. I’m worried about the potential for HSUS to take PETA’s stance on feral and sheltered animals (euthanasia).

    I tried to add a comment to Wayne’s blog but it wasn’t posted. HSUS operate blogs that require all comments to be moderated. They choose only a select few to post. That’s odd.

    Anyway, thanks again for talking about this. I’m doing the same.

  2. Deb March 25, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks Billy! I hesitated to write it at first, but I do expect better of an animal group, even if their focus isn’t precisely in line with my own beliefs. If there was a misrepresentation, there is no reason for them not to be upfront about it.

    Another friend tried to add a comment to that blog as well, with the same result.

    Glad you tried, at least, and I’m also glad you’re talking about the issue! :)

  3. whispert March 26, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    I’m glad to see that matters like these are spreading so fast. It means that widespread TNR education is possible. I live in Omaha, NE where Feline Friendz is located and thought I would let you know that if you want any future updates as to how things are going in Randolph, Iowa you can visit their website (http://felinefriendz.org) I know that they have recently delivered shelters, and traps and that they have already begun altering the tame cats in Randolph. It is going to be a big project though because Randolph is a small town and they do not have anyything already in place to handle this. So keep the keep the news spreading so we can help them raise funds, and thank you for your heartfelt attention to those that cannot speak for themselves.

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