Monday 30 October 2023

77-year-old Florida man arrested for feeding stray cats

NEWS AND COMMENT: The headline from an American online news media outlet, 21WFMJ, attracted my attention. Whenever I read about anybody, never mind an elderly bloke, being arrested for doing something apparently decent and sensitive, it makes me sit up and think a little bit.

We are told that the elderly bloke had empty tuna cans and cups of dry food together with food bowls; all evidence of feeding stray cats. The elderly man's name is Walter Comanitz and he was arrested on Thursday for committing a nuisance. Yes, he was arrested and charged with a nuisance violation under an ordinance which applies to Sebring, Florida, a city in south-central Florida. 

Clearly, they have a local law which states that people cannot feed stray cats. That's pretty clear and it can be a crime for doing so. That, to me, seems like employing a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

We are further told that a couple of local business owners had complained about the stray cat feeder and written statements against him and his cat feeding on their properties.

The business owners' complaints concern their belief that the stray cats cause a nuisance and in feeding them you attract the nuisance to their properties. I completely get that. I understand it. This sort of problem between people who are sensitive to stray cats and who want to help them versus other people, often businesses, who are insensitive to the cats and see them as a pest of vermin is not uncommon. That's because businesses are concerned about profit and they don't want anything to get in the way of making profit. Also, entirely understandable.

The root cause of the problem is careless cat ownership which puts the cats there in the first place. That is what needs to be tackled. The fallout is an argument between these groups of people: the cat lovers and the cat haters. The way to deal with this is in taking proactive measures in improving cat ownership through education. It sounds easy but it is incredibly difficult because you will always have a tiny minority of cat owners who are irresponsible and it doesn't just apply to America but everywhere else.

In fact, America is one of the best countries in terms of cat ownership. Places in Asia can be horrendous in this respect.

These business owners say that the cats are defecating and urinating on their business properties and lounging around on their vehicles.

Once arrested Walter became agitated according to the arresting officer. He claims to be an attorney and that he was going to get rich because of he's been arrested. I suspect that he was hinting at claiming compensation of some sort but that won't happen because there is an ordinance in this city. It appears to be a black and white law without wriggle room.

Walter was handcuffed and taken into custody. He was released on his own recognizance and will return to court on Friday morning.

As you might expect, this isn't the first time that Walter has been arrested for feeding cats. This is another phenomenon with respect to people who feed stray cats and those you don't like it. Some people are compelled to feed starving stray and feral cats which is part of the reason why they become a nuisance to some residents and most business owners.

We are told that Walter was arrested in February on a littering charge for leaving the feeding bowls on the ground. He was fined $20 and he had to pay court costs of $71.

Comment: I am highly sympathetic towards people like Walter but understand the issues. There have been some terrible incidents in respect of people like him been confronted by those that strongly dislike people who feed stray cats. On one occasion a stray cat feeder was shot dead by a resident after an argument. There can be a lot of background animosity between these two groups of people which boils over into violence on occasions.

It's quite unusual for a city to enact a local ordinance making it a crime to feed stray and feral cats. It happens in the US but never in the UK for instance. This, too, is an area of contention by residents in a municipality. The problem is that some people see feeding stray cats as kind and decent while at a more commercial level and on an amenity level it can come a nuisance.

P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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