A Free Speech Debate
Once again we must clearly state the definition of speech:
Hate Speech: speech that attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.
Free Speech: the right to express information, ideas, and opinions free of government restrictions based on content and subject only to reasonable limitations (as the power of the government to avoid a clear and present danger) especially as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Political Ads: vote for so and so, here’s how I see the issues, here is who I am.
Political Attacks Ads: a personal attack on a candidate or party.
Last week’s banner ads clearly demonstrated hate speech and political attacks, and reasonable limitations were not employed. The opinion in The Dispatch would like us to believe that Mr. Bunting’s free speech rights are being violated, that the language on the banner ads was “banal” and that anyone who prefers civil discourse is in the minority and should just be quiet.
Are we to conclude from your article that it’s annoying when other Americans exercise their right to free speech? On that we can agree.
Responding To Cat
Situation In West OC
This letter is in response to the articles written about my colony cat “Oliver,” who was killed by Worcester County Animal Control. I have tried to no avail to reason with the Health Department of Worcester County as well as Animal Control of Snow Hill.
I attended the July 19 meeting of the County Commissioners to speak about trap/neuter/return and to let them know the other side of this story. I was denied my right to speak before the council.
Susan Rantz, the Chief of Animal Control, was telling the commissioners that she doesn’t want to see the managed colonies of cats here in Worcester County.
I would like to first address Bud Church’s comment to Susan Rantz at this meeting.
Bud Church asked Rantz “why are these colonies allowed to be here?” Her reply was “I’d like to see a law made for them not to be allowed here.”
I would like to ask Bud Church if he knew how these colonies come to be here. They are here from irresponsible pet owners dumping/abandoning their pet cats, unaltered, who ultimately become pregnant having litter after litter of kittens, which without socialization grow up to be feral.
These cats form colonies and left unaltered continue to breed with one another. Cats don’t recognize family status, thus a father can impregnate his daughter and a son can impregnate his mother thus making for inbred kittens, which are born with all kinds of deformities and illnesses.
This issue is not a cat overpopulation issue, it is a human issue. We must educate the public about responsible pet ownership. We must educate them to the fact that a female kitten becomes sexually mature at four months of age. Without this knowledge people allow their kittens to grow without getting them altered and the next thing you know that cute little kitten is pregnant.
We also need to work with the local vets here on the shore to offer low cost spay/neuter services. Dr. Carol Lewis of Healing Hands Animal Hospital has opened her own clinic dedicated strictly to low cost spay/neuter. When you have the local vets charging prices of $160-$200 to spay a female, this is often another deterrent for those who are trying to do the right thing and spay their animals but can’t afford to do so at that price.
I’d like to ask the commissioners if they don’t implement or allow TNR, what is their solution for this current crisis of stray cat overpopulation.
I have spent $57,000 last year alone of my own money, trapping, spay/neutering, providing medical care for stray, feral and abandoned cats. Not one penny came from the taxpayers of Worcester County. I am providing a service to the community for free. I work two jobs and am a registered non-profit rescue organization which allows me to apply for grants, which are few and far between. I have rescued cats for over 40 years and have dedicated my life to advocating and helping these animals who were abandoned by their owners. Last year alone, I was able to spay/neuter over 1,248 cats. If I hadn’t fixed them, they would all have had more kittens. For every female I spay, roughly 20 kittens will not be born. A female cat can have four to five litters a year with usually five to seven kittens per litter.
The taxpayers of Worcester County are paying for Animal Control to round up and kill these same cats that I have spent my own money fixing. Is this how they want their hard earned tax dollars being spent?
Rounding these colonies up, that are fixed and vaccinated and in good health, only to kill them is not the answer. That only provides a “vacuum effect” where more unaltered cats move in and the process begins all over again.
To address the comment that feeding the managed colonies attracts more cats into the colony is false. When a managed colony is maintained on a daily basis, the caretaker knows each and every cat and can see when and if a new cat shows up. If one does, that cat is immediately trapped, fixed and vaccinated. Cats are territorial and usually will not let new cats into the colony.
To address Debbie Goeller’s comments that even if they are fixed and vaccinated, she feels they still present a health risk to the public as she stated they all carry disease, toxoplasmosis and cat scratch fever.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). Toxoplasmosis is one of the most common parasitic diseases and has been found in nearly all warm-blooded animals, including pets and humans. Despite the high prevalence of T. gondii infection, the parasite rarely causes significant clinical disease in cats-or any species.
Because cats only shed the organism for a few days in their entire life, the chance of human exposure is small. Owning a cat does not mean you will be infected with the disease. It is unlikely that you would be exposed to the parasite by touching an infected cat, because cats usually do not carry the parasite on their fur. It is also unlikely that you can become infected through cat bites or scratches. In addition, cats kept indoors that do not hunt prey or are not fed raw meat are not likely to be infected with T. gondii.
What Is cat scratch fever? Cat scratch fever, also called cat scratch disease (CSD), is a bacterial infection. The disease gets its name because people contract it from cats infected with Bartonella henselae bacteria, one of the most common bacteria in the world.
Anyone who owns a pet indoor cat or interacts with a cat is at risk for contracting cat scratch fever. This is not a disease of only feral cats.
My rights have been violated as well. I went to Animal Control to identify and claim Oliver and to quarantine him for the required 45-60 days. Oliver never came in contact with the infected cat. His daily caretaker fed him, waited till he finished eating and picked up the bowl. The person who said they saw Oliver eat out of the same bowl as the infected was lying. The place where Oliver was being fed was hidden way back in the woods. Not a place where the general public could ever see him being fed. Officer Grandstaff was there that day and refused to let me see the cat. When I tried to go into the back to see Oliver, he blocked my way. Grandstaff is over 6’2”, weighs close to 250 pounds. He blocked me, crossed his arms, spread his legs in a military style and quite smugly told me that I was “not going to see the cat.” I asked him why he was denying me the right to see the cat; he said he didn’t have to give me a reason. I am a tax paying citizen of this county. That building is a government run agency paid for by my tax dollars and here I am being denied the right to see my cat. He likes to intimidate and bully people by his size and presence.
The charge of Grandstaff being assaulted is not true. The incident he is referring to happened Friday night. We got a call that Grandstaff was sitting at Ocean Village, at 8:30 p.m. (not Animal Control’s hours of operation) with a rifle waiting to shoot the last two cats as they were coming out for their evening meal. I called my friend and asked him if he could go over and see what was going on? My friend went over there where he was accosted by Grandstaff. Grandstaff asked him for his name and address, which my friend politely provided him with (although according to Maryland law, officers can’t ask this unless they are going to detain you, otherwise you are free to go).
My friend then asked Grandstaff for his name and badge number (it was late at night and my friend couldn’t see into the vehicle). Grandstaff asked him if he was a lawyer. My friend said no he wasn’t, but wanted Grandstaff’s name and badge number. Grandstaff refused to give it to him. This is policing at its best. My friend stated that if you won’t give me your name, then you are not going to have mine. Grandstaff became very agitated when my friend simply told him that what he was doing shooting these cats were wrong.
Susan Rantz stated that a clipboard was thrown at Grandstaff. There was no clipboard present. Just a pad of paper. Within 10 minutes of returning home, three Sheriff deputies were at his door, threatening him with arrest for assault and theft. This is nothing but intimidation and closing ranks. Sheriff’s department controls Animal Control. My friend did nothing but stand up to a bully and to stand up for these innocent cats’ lives. Lt. Schreier told my friend that all of this would go away if my friend wrote a letter of apology to the officer. At this point, my friend still didn’t know the officers’ name. He asked why he was supposed to write a letter of apology when he didn’t know the officer’s name and what was he apologizing for. Schreier told him he would be over on Monday morning to pick the letter up. If he didn’t write the apology, he would be charged.
Subsequently, my friend was criminally charged and now had to obtain a criminal defense attorney. Is this how the government works here in Worcester County? Intimidation and threatening tactics? Those in power have the power to do whatever they want, including violating a person’s civil rights.
County Commissioners are basing their opinion and comments from what Susan Rantz told them at the meeting on July 19. Is this not still the United States of America, where every citizen has the right to defend themselves and to tell the other side of the story? Why would the commissioners of this county not want to implement trap/neuter/return? Why would they not want to see rescue groups pay for a solution to the problem out of their own pockets and not have to use the taxpayer’s money?
If the commissioners enforce Rantz’s “round them up and kill them all” program, this county is going to see an even larger increase in cats. If you miss one female cat she in turn will continue to reproduce and then the cycle begins all over again. Why not allow the rescue groups to continue what we have been doing? We are taking care of other people’s problems, those that continue to dump an animal when they no longer want it, which by the way is a crime, punishable by jail time and fines. Why doesn’t animal control go after those people instead of focusing on the cats?
How can any issue be resolved if only one side is being allowed to present their story? All we are asking is to come before the commissioners and give our side of this. We have asked for a meeting with the Health Department and Animal Control so that we may come to the table and work out a solution to this, but we have been met with nothing but bullying, intimidation, lies, no transparency and an abuse of power and authority.
(The writer is the director of Community Cats Coalition.)