Guest Commentary

A reader responds to last week's Armory Park 'cat battles' article

Tim Vanderpool's unbalanced article, "Trap Trip" (Currents, May 8), distorts and omits relevant facts, employs sensationalist word choice and selectively places quotes out of context. The result is an irresponsibly inaccurate profile of me, rather than a conscientious report on the problem of feral animals in urban settings--the project he described when we spoke.

Had that been his intention, he might have started by describing the issue. The feral-cat problem results from negligent, albeit well-meaning human behavior. Individuals who indiscriminately feed cats, yet do not spay/neuter or vaccinate them, are doing a disservice to their human neighbors, domesticated cats and the birds the cats prey upon. Besides the capacity for spreading disease to domestic cats, the feral animals attempt to mate and fight with them, as well as other feral cats. These mating/territorial encounters cause individual cats to mark selected areas by repeatedly urinating on multiple vertical services (humorously, they seem to favor doors) and leaving numerous uncovered feces. Entire blocks in Armory Park reek of cat waste.

The only solution when your front porch becomes the area/target of this behavior is to remove the cat. This can be done with a humane trap designed for the purpose. I have been forced to do this more than once. Each time--except once when my neighbor's domestic cat, Bob, got caught--the cats' mangy appearances and wild, aggressive behavior were those of feral animals. I don't engage, à la Grizzly Adams, in trapping expeditions. Neither do I have a "plan (my emphasis) to trap and dispose of un-neutered cats," as Nadine Rund is quoted as saying. Nope, I'm just a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen, dealing with a foul--or should I say feline?--problem. Incidentally, when Ms. Rund came by to tell me of her cat's disappearance, she thanked me for previously trapping one such bothersome "rogue cat." She expressed no objection to my having transported it to Pima Animal Care Center (PACC)--an action Mr. Vanderpool characterizes as "haul(ing) them to their doom."

PACC officials take the identification of individuals delivering animals, note the location found and post photos on their Web site. The fate of the animal is determined by public policy, not the citizen forced to deal with its behavior. If any part of this process could be illegal, as Mr. Vanderpool's article absurdly suggests, Pima County would be implicated. The proposition that turning such animals over to the appropriate public agency can be construed as "theft" is equally ludicrous. Actually, what is illegal is the failure of pet owners to remove their animals' waste--wherever it occurs--and, as Mr. Vanderpool informed me, forthcoming legislation may, by law, require spaying/neutering pets. The article also bizarrely suggests that one could easily tell whether a wildly behaving cat had been spayed/neutered, but then quotes PACC's spokesperson saying that assessing such animals, which "get so defensive," can be daunting even for their staff.

Whatever became of Bob? Of course, I did not mistake a docile, domestic, properly identified cat for a feral counterpart. He went happily on his way, none the worse for a few hours spent in a cage, when I, feeling badly, released him. It doesn't please me that a cat turned over to PACC is likely to be euthanized. But even a trap-spay/neuter-release process would not solve the problem, recently reported in the Arizona Daily Star, of Tucson's exploding population of stray animals. And given the size of the feral-cat population, doing it yourself would be an expensive, full-time endeavor. Nonetheless, on the neighborhood listserv (and cc'd to Mr. Vanderpool), I invited anyone wanting to do so to contact me so that if this occurs again, anyone could retrieve the animal and get it spayed/neutered, vaccinated, etc. Nobody has responded.

At one point, Mr. Vanderpool and I discussed relationships among birds, mosquitoes, West Nile virus and humans--a tangent he said was "off-topic." Nevertheless, he couldn't resist quoting my paraphrasing of Woody Allen's reference to pigeons as flying rats--sans context. I didn't call pigeons my "enemies"; he did.

The article includes additional examples of omission, distortion, innuendo and hearsay, but I suspect you get the point. You can do better, Mr. Vanderpool.

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