OCEAN CITY — The apparent rift between a popular cat and the town of Ocean City it promotes was called into question this week by the pet’s owner, but it appears the differences might be irreconcilable.
For about the last two years, Pip the Beach Cat has become a fixture around the resort with a popular social media site showing the charismatic cat engaged in all manner of activities from playing on the beach to paddle-boarding to visiting nursing homes and everything in between. The cat’s owner, Emily Meadows, has started a company to promote Pip the Beach Cat, and perhaps more importantly, the Town of Ocean City, and all of its family-friendly activities.
The company produces children’s books and other marketing materials that promote both Pip and the town. Ocean City has never had a formal agreement with Meadows and her company, but the two entities instead peacefully coexisted in an informal partnership, including a working arrangement with MGH, the town’s marketing agency.
However, in recent months, there has been a pronounced disconnect between the town and Meadows and her company for a variety of issues, largely her use of a modified Ocean City logo replacing the familiar marlin jumping over the sun with Pip the Cat. Another issue has been the town’s unwillingness to bend the rules regarding pets on the beach to accommodate Pip the Cat’s public safety videos.
Meadows appeared before the Mayor and Council on Monday with a detailed timeline of how the relationship started, how it began to unravel and where it stands now, including a cease and desist order over the town logo issue. Meadows asserts she was given tacit permission to use the modified town logo, but she was presented with a cease and desist order last spring after a failed offer of a user agreement presented to her from the town and its attorney.
Meadows also presented practically every email she has exchanged with town staff and MGH officials regarding the conflicting issues of the logo and the abrupt end to her working relationship with the town and its marketing agency.
“I want to talk about the relationship the town has with my company and how we went from an organic partnership full of joy and happiness to one of a tumultuous cease and desist order,” she said. “The two things that are really important to me are the logo in question and the cease and desist order, as well as the organic marketing relationship I had with MGH. I provided content to the town and its marketing agency for free, but the relationship ended abruptly.”
Meadows also shared an email she sent to Mayor Rick Meehan last month hoping to rectify the eroding relationship.
“I hope at the end of this we can come together to see that Pip the Beach Cat is an amazingly family-friendly asset to our town, and whether we can agree on it or not,” she wrote, “I believe it is beneficial for the image of Ocean City to appear to have amended this conflict.”
In the email to the mayor, Meadows enumerated the many things Pip the Beach Cat does to promote Ocean City and its family-friendly image.
“If there was ever a time that Ocean City needed to modernize the way it does things, while making sure that the forefront of all town news is family-friendly, it’s now,” she wrote. And nothing is more family-friendly than a beach cat that high-fives kids, reads stories, visits nursing homes, works daily with the disabled and actually cares about Ocean City. How can we fix this conflict?”
Following Meadows’ presentation, it appears not all on the council were versed in the various aspects of the apparent rift between the town and Pip the Beach Cat.
“I like Pip the Beach Cat,” said Councilman Mark Paddack. “I like your site and your discussion here tonight is the first I’ve heard of any of this.”
From the town’s perspective, while Ocean City supported Meadows and Pip the Beach Cat, there was never any formal agreement with the company or its relationship with MGH, according to Communications Manager/Acting Tourism Director Jessica Waters.
“As far as the town goes, and MGH for that matter, we work with people all the time for various events or promotions to highlight Ocean City,” she said. “We had a similar relationship with Emily and her cat Pip, who is a fun, family-friendly figure for Ocean City. Although we were not able to support all of her public relations desires, we have always wished her and Pip well.”
Meadows contends she had informal permission to use the logo from various public and private sources. However, Waters said the disconnect between the company and the town widened when Meadows did not sign a license agreement allowing her to continue to use the modified logo while protecting the town’s intellectual property.
“The discussion of having Pip on the beach in the summer was a completely separate issue than the use of the logo,” she said. “I believe the town did everything we could to resolve the issue with the logo, but Emily didn’t cooperate with signing the license agreement.”