For the past 6 months, I’ve had a super sweet brown tabby male cat come to my door for affection, a little conversation through the screen with my interested cats, and some treats. I have learned that his name is Eddie and rumor had it that he belonged to a family a few doors down. So I left them a few notes asking them to please keep their kitty indoors because there is a feral cat in the neighborhood who has staked his claim (which I support) and he attacks Eddie over territory disputes. I also noticed a month ago that we have foxes taking up residency in the woods behind my house. So I am afraid for Eddie’s safety.
My notes did not receive a response. So in speaking with a few neighbors, they told me that Eddie appears to be living outside 24/7 and that at least one of the family members from Eddie’s “home” has spoken negatively about Eddie and could care less about his safety. So it was unclear whether Eddie was “owned” or abandoned. So earlier this week, when Eddie was on my porch again begging for some love, I decided to help him. After all, he was an outdoor cat without a collar or any identification and, legally speaking, appeared to be an abandoned stray cat. Or was he?
I took him to a veterinary clinic that my cat orphanage goes to and I asked them to first scan Eddie for a microchip. I crossed my fingers in hopes that he did not have one because then my cat orphanage would hold him for the required time period and then rehome him. I was heart broken when a microchip was located. Being an attorney, I followed the law and I called the microchip company and then called the owner. When 24 hours went by without a return phone call, I was hopeful that they had decided they did not want Eddie. But then I received a fateful call that they wanted him back.
So what do you do in that instance? Do you bite your tongue and politely return a cat that they treat like a toss away piece of garbage? Do you tell them what you really think about the situation? Do you educate? Do you put the cat in a witness protection program and not return their calls?
My approach was to be polite and educate. I explained to the lady in the household that neighbors love Eddie because he’s so friendly, but we are greatly worried about his safety. I shared with her that I had broken up two fights between Eddie and the resident feral cat in the past week and that it was only a matter of time before Eddie had an unpleasant encounter with the foxes. I explained that it’s not safe (in this area) for Eddie to be roaming outside. Initially she was pleasant and sounded as if she really loved Eddie. But when I asked her why she let him roam (in violation of our neighborhood bylaws), she became abrupt and said “he loves to go outside.” I really wanted to reply back “well, some people love to smoke cigarettes, but it doesn’t mean that it’s safe.” But I held my tongue and shared with her that we are concerned about Eddie and it would be best if she kept him indoors. I explained that most people would not follow the law, would ignore the microchip, and would either take him to a shelter where he could be euthanized, or would keep him. I also offered for my cat orphanage to take Eddie should she not want him.
And that was the end of the call after I gave her instructions on how to retrieve Eddie at the veterinary clinic. It’s been 3 days and I have not seen Eddie outside, so I hope my message was received. Even though I am an attorney, the animal protectionist in me wanted to not return Eddie and keep him safe. But then it reminded me of a situation a year ago where one of my beloved St. Croix rescue kitties escaped her home and was found by a volunteer of another cat rescue group (a group that hates my cat orphanage and would go to great lengths to harm us). And sure enough, they refused to return the cat named Smiley despite intervention by our local animal control. So my anger and sadness over Smiley brought me back to not wanting anyone else to go through that situation. If this happened to one of my cats (who are microchipped), I would hope that someone would follow the law and contact me. Legally, Eddie had a family and it is not for me to judge how they care for him so long as they are following the law.
So I hope that Eddie stays safe. I would love to hear from you as to what you would do in this instance. Would you follow law or would you ignore the microchip rehome the cat?
Allie Phillips is a nationally-recognized author, attorney and animal advocate. As a prosecuting attorney volunteering in her local animal control shelter, she exposed the barbaric practice of pound seizure and has gone on to eliminate the practice in numerous shelters. That started her path as a strong, effective and respected animal advocate. Allie has been a federal and state animal protection lobbyist and nationally trains criminal justice professionals on animal protection and prosecution issues. She has written the award-winning and only book on pound seizure: How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure and the go-to guide on getting involved to help animals: Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets.
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