Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[CAT] Two links on cat sanctuaries

I came across two news items about cat sanctuaries--one passing, one newly-regulated--that I thought might interest you.

First comes the Canadian Press' "Cat sanctuary on Parliament Hill heads towards a quiet end"</u>. I didn't see the sanctuary in Ottawa when I visited this summer, alas.

A decades-old cat sanctuary nestled behind Canada's Parliament buildings is heading towards a quiet end as its feline population slowly shrinks.

The sanctuary — a hold-over from the days when cats worked as mousers on Parliament Hill — was once home to as many as 30 strays, but spaying and neutering has reduced their ranks to just four today.

"There were kittens born here, the last ones probably 10 to 15 years ago," said Brian Caines, a sanctuary volunteer and former public servant.

"So now, we're down to four."

In 1955, more modern, chemical-based rodent control methods put the cats out of work, but they never left the hill. Volunteers like Irene Desormeaux, who died in 1987, took it upon themselves to take care of the animals.

In the 1980s, Rene Chartrand became known as "the cat man" after taking over for Desormeaux, building an elaborate wooden shelter for the animals and adopting the role as their full-time volunteer caregiver.

Chartrand cared for the cats without government help, relying entirely on public donations, until retiring in November 2008. He does not run the shelter any longer due to health reasons.

The structures have since been updated and replaced with newer ones to provide the cats shelter and some warmth from Ottawa's bitter winters. Caines said he got involved with the sanctuary when he worked for the Privy Council in the 1990s. The eventual decline of the cat population is a good thing, he said, since Parliament Hill isn't really the best place for them.

Next comes the New York Times' "Cats at Hemingway Museum Draw Tourists, and a Legal Battle"</u>. I honestly think that complaints about the regulation of the cats are ill-founded--yes, the cats are treated well now, but absent regulation what will ensure that they will continue to be?

As any visitor to Ernest Hemingway’s house knows, the grounds here boast more than just Papa’s typewriter, his white iron-framed bed and the oft-used urinal he brought home from Sloppy Joe’s bar.

The place teems with six-toed cats — the so-called Hemingway cats — who for generations have stretched out on Hemingway’s couch, curled up on his pillow and mugged for the Papa-razzi. Tour guides recount over and over how the gypsy cats descend from Snowball, a fluffy white cat who was a gift to the Hemingways. Seafaring legend has it that polydactyl cats (those with extra toes) bring a bounty of luck, which certainly explains their own pampered good fortune.

But it seems the charms of even 45 celebrated six-toed cats have proved powerless against one implacable foe: federal regulators.

The museum’s nine-year bid to keep the cats beyond the reach of the Department of Agriculture ended in failure this month. The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that the agency has the power to regulate the cats under the Animal Welfare Act, which applies to zoo and traveling circus animals, because the museum uses them in advertisements, sells cat-related merchandise online and makes them available to paying tourists.

In other words, the cats are a living, breathing exhibit and require a federal license.

“The most ludicrous part of the whole thing is that if we were really dealing with the health and welfare of the cats, this would have never been an issue,” said Michael A. Marowski, the great-nephew of the woman who bought the Hemingway house in 1961, the year Hemingway died, and opened it as a museum in 1964.

“These cats are so well taken care of,” he said, “but because there is a book, and this book tells us that exhibited animals need to be kept this way, we have been put through this.”
Tags: canada, cats, florida, links, ottawa, tourism, united states
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