Thursday, May 19, 2011

I promised I'd update

I don't honestly know what to say here.  As far as the cats go, it boils down to this: MEB refused to let them stay, citing health and safety hazards, and are removing them to an undisclosed location. 

If you're looking at that last part and thinking, "Um, that won't work," you're right. Cats are territorial and will do everything they can to come back here to this space.  If you're looking at that last part and thinking,  "Hey, that's illegal," you're also right.  Under AZ Animal Cruelty Laws, you cannot dump a feral cat-- you are not allowed to take them anywhere but the Humane Society.  But if you're also looking at that last part and thinking, "Well, at least they'll have a chance there, unlike the Humane Society," you will see my current dilemma.

A wonderful, kind, and smart feral-cat caregiver, a volunteer with the Foundation for Homeless Cats, was to come with me to this meeting.  She and I met and spoke ahead of time and I had a little bit of hope from this veteran negotiator.

False hope, alas, as when we got to our meeting I was completely blind-sided.  The complex manager had called in two higher managers from MEB and they refused to allow the volunteer to stay and talk.  This was, apparently, about a "resident concern" and thus for residents only. 

Let me tell you, guys, it was awful.  Imagine being taken to the principal's office with your teacher and your guidance counselor there, all of them thinking you're a recalcitrant child in need of severe behavior modification.  (Later, when I pointed out that I'd been blind-sided, they had the gall to say, "Well, you brought someone."  And I responded with, "Yeah, and you made her leave.")

Clearly the purpose of this meeting as far as these three managers were concerned was to get me to shut up and to have you all stop writing to them.  It seems that they honestly don't care what anyone thinks except their residents (and their residents have said only negative things about the cats.  I pointed out that angry people are the 10% who are vocal-- what about the 30% who are neutral and the 60% who are happy to let the cats stay?  They said that wasn't their experience.  Well... yeah, by definition of those other 90% not being vocal!) Not caring what potential renters might think? Seems short-sighted to me.

They've been taking down my flyers because they are "Solicitation." Since I don't try to sell anything, that would be completely untrue.  Not to mention, those flyers are posted directly next to other flyers THAT ARE SELLING THINGS.  So, uh, solicitation?

The only two resident complaints that they shared with me were one: a small child was attacked by a feral cat recently.  Uhh... No.  I'm not saying that the mother claiming this is lying (although she might be) but I think there must be a lot more to this story that we're no getting because that's not what feral cats do.  When I pointed that out, I was dismissed with, "well, maybe it was stray or a pet or whatever, but it can't be there." And they suggested that children may run after a feral, corner it, and get scratched.  My thought there, as I'm sure any responsible parent or sane person would have is, "Teach the freakin' kids not to chase strange animals!" but again, no.  And secondly, they complained about the smell near my building.  I will admit that Sir Percy's penchant for spraying made the area slightly pungent.  I pointed out his story, and that he's been removed.  They said that I couldn't promise that it was that cat doing the spraying.  I said, actually, that I could, because all the other males have been neutered.  They refused to believe me.

I tried everything I could, although I'm not a skilled negotiator.  They had all the cards in this situation-- a veiled threat not to let me renew my lease (I so don't care) atop the whole ganging up on me thing.  THREE OF THEM against me.  Sure, they had the temerity to claim that they were all there out of concern for me, because I'm a resident and had registered a complaint, but I'm calling them on that BS.

End result... not sure, precisely.  They claim that they took the three cats they've caught the Humane Society but that upon finding out that they were going to be killed, they did not leave them there but took them to a housing development elsewhere where they had permission to leave the cats.

There are holes in that story, however.  If they're using only one trap, how did they catch three cats and take them to this special location? If they caught one and found that out and took the cat elsewhere, then took he others elsewhere, that might make sense- but when I asked the manager last week she said that three cats had been taken to the Humane Society.  Today she said she hadn't known, and that since then they've changed their mind.  Well... that doesn't make sense.

And the larger problem-- dumping cats, even ferals, elsewhere is ILLEGAL.  No two ways about it-- it's part of AZ's anti-cruelty laws, as I stated above.  I said as much to them, and I was informed that their attorneys said it was okay.  Well, I don't know what loop-hole they've found, but it's not.

I suggested that I would be fine with everything if two things happened:
1. They removed the cats in a safe, humane, and effective manner--- which includes keeping the cats contained at the new location for several weeks.  (A 21 day period is suggested by this group, for example)
2. That they offer me some proof that they have permission to move the cats to this location.

They FLATLY denied both. Flat out. Offered nothing in return.  Claimed I was giving them an ultimatum (they said I was free to do whatever I liked but they were equally free to not renew my lease.) They said their attorneys wouldn't let them tell me where the cats are being taken (could this be the way they're getting around the fact that it's ILLEGAL!?) 

I said that between being blind-sided by this meeting and their refusal to listen, I had no real reason to trust any of them without some kind of proof.  They said they'd never lied to me-- well, a) first time for everything and b) ... isn't that what a liar would say?

Look, bottom line? I believe that they think that they're doing the right thing.  They honestly believe that they're at risk because of the cats and that by removing them they'll be fine.  (They're wrong, but nevermind that.)  And if they actually are taking the cats to some undisclosed location (or a sanctuary in Mesa, supposedly as their second location), they undoubtedly again believe that at least they aren't getting the cats euthanized. 

Because I heard them say that this is what they're doing-- all three of them said it at one point or another-- I could legitimately report them to the police's anti-animal-cruelty division.  But I'm terrified that if I do, they'll simply revert to taking the cats to the Humane Society.  And okay, that option's legal but equals death.  On the other hand, there's a reason that dumping a cat is illegal and considered cruel-- they're away from their food source, their familiar territory, and if they're just dumping the cats in the desert, well, they're just sentencing them to death anyway, but a longer and more painful one. 

So I'm at a loss. And the cats have lost, too.

Fingers Crossed

 I will be meeting with the complex management again tomorrow (today, for most people reading this, I should think, and technically "today" for me, too) so please keep the free-roaming cats and I in your thoughts and your fingers crossed. 

If you haven't written to MEB about the choice to kill the free-roaming/feral cats, now would be a *wonderful* time to do so (and please share this blog around-- maybe friends, family, or coworkers might like to chime in on this lousy situation?)  This kind of support could really help in tomorrow's meeting.  (The meeting is at 4pm AZ time and I'll try to post about it immediately after.  If you haven't emailed/called MEB by 4pm AZ time tomorrow, that doesn't at all mean that your call/email isn't helpful, it's just that it'd be more immediately helpful before hand...)

MEB Phoenix offices: 602-279-5515

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Links: Successful Feral Colonies

Since there's no news today (ie: MEB still trapping, still taking down my flyers, etc.), I thought I'd direct you to a couple of articles on feral colonies where everyone has learned to live together.  Most people who care for feral cats won't give away the location of the colony to anyone but another caregiver.  No one wants to encourage people abandoning pets there (or, frankly, anywhere), or call attention to themselves/the cats to be blamed for whatever feral cats are being blamed for today.  But here are places where free-roaming, neutered, managed colonies are successful-- with stabilized numbers and healthy cats.  And don't forget, of course, that feral cat colonies are, in some ways, very helpful-- they keep away mice, rats, voles, scorpions (for which I am grateful) and other things you usually have to pay an exterminator to come put down poison for. (If Villagio is successful in killing the feral cats currently here, they will find an increase in vermin.  Which will, in turn, attract more feral cats-- this time un-neutered ones-- and they will find themselves back to a full colony in no time.  See yesterday's post on the Vacuum Effect for more information.)

Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats: This colony has been there since the 1880s.  Free-roaming colonies?  Not a new situation.

Coronado Cats of Phoenix: A neighborhood in historic downtown Phoenix which has banded together to take care of their feral cat situation using TNR.  You think the dozen or so cats at Project-Cat is a lot? They've already TNRed 250 (!!!) and aren't done yet!

Disneyland:At the happiest place on earth, feral cats keep out the unwanted mice -- not including Mickey!! -- attracted by the detritus of the average tourist.

The Los Angeles Flower District: Carnations were being eaten by rats, ruining heir stock, but they found a green solution in hiring feral cats to work for them!

LAPD:  (Also a second article on a different precinct) Rats and mice were destroying records, burrowing into bicycle officers' gear and generally causing an uproar -- until several stations installed FE-9 units to combat the problem!

For more information on Los Angeles area working cats-- feral colonies located in specific places  (after neutering, micro-chipping, etc.), visit the Voice for the Animals Foundation website. They seem like a really awesome program and I salute them! 

It seems that the  San Fransico ASPCA has a similar program for saving feral cats by making them "working cats", with some information available.

Sadly, I can find nothing similar in AZ.  So as per usual, the best bet for these cats is to stay right here, where they're happy and healthy and cared for. Tell MEB what you think about this colony: and 602-279-5515.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Meeting on Thursday

The apartment complex manager and I will be meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss the situation.  Please keep your fingers crossed.  And keep emails and phone calls coming.  MEB should know that they are in the spotlight for this, that people who care are watching their choice here.

I'm not sure that they care, mind you.  They took down my informative fliers less than 24hours after I put them up. Nicely done, MEB-- take down a community item  from he community board (covering up, might I point out, some rather truly offensive curse words etched into the cork).  There are no guidelines, no rules about the corkboards, no one has to look at them if they don't want to. People in the community advertise there all the time-- none of it is from management.  But my fliers?  Oh no, that's apparently bad.  Well, I have more.

Since there's nothing else to report, here's an interesting article on the Vacuum Effect--in other words, why Catch & Kill, as MEB is doing, doesn't work.  Read it here.

MEB: 602-279-5515

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Not Much to Report

I haven't posted this weekend because I've been dealing with a stomach flu.  (Seriously unpleasant.)  But you're here about the cats, not me, so let's see...

There has been no activity at the trap since Friday afternoon.

I have spoken with the founder of the Foundation for Homeless  Cats for advice.  Also, I received an email from the complex manager saying she was willing to take other solutions to the cat problem, so I have asked to meet with her this week.

I put up flyers just this evening (I wanted to do it on Saturday morning, but, uh, see above re: stomach flu) explaining to residents, in case they don't know, precisely what a feral cat is, where they come from, and how they've been managed (ie: TNR).

And really, that's all I can report at the moment, but I will post more when more happens.  Keep your fingers crossed, and if you haven't already contacted MEB to let them know what you think of their choice, please do so ( and 602-279-5515)-- it'd be great if they had lots of messages to come in to Monday morning. 

The people who hate cats (feral or otherwise) tend to be the most vocal, but they aren't in the majority.  I think it's important that the apartment complex and the management company understand that.  (In fact, according to a poll that Alley Cat Allies conducted via Harris Interactive, more than 80% of Americans nationwide "believe that leaving a stray cat outside to live her life is more humane than having that cat caught and killed."  (14% wanted the cats put down, 5% didn't know.)  This is the kind of thing that the managers need to understand.