Friday, October 27, 2006

LA Animal Services Changes Black Cat Adoption Policy

Black cats awaiting adoptions from local shelters are in luck this Halloween.

For the first time in over 10 years, LA Animal Services is adopting out black and white cats this month. Animal Services reversed a previous policy in hopes of placing more animals in homes.

Some shelters do not adopt out black or white cats in October, for fear they will be tortured or used as a Halloween decoration or part of a costume.

Each year, LA Animal Services is faced with either holding the cats until after the holiday or euthanizing them. Because there is little documentation of animal tortures and a growing number of cats, Animal Services decided to adopt them out.

This policy shift is consistent with LA’s no-kill goal. Typically, Animal Services rescues over 100 lost and homeless dogs and cats each day and is almost always at capacity.

In the entire history of humane work, no one has ever documented or demonstrated any relationship between adopting out either black or white cats, or cats of any other color, and cats being killed or injured. There are no studies of the matter, and no relevant data.

According to ANIMAL PEOPLE the belief that adopting out black or white cats to "witches" will result in ill consequences for the cat may be traced to three sources:

"1) Ignorance of the actual beliefs and practices of paganism. Witches do not harm their ‘familiars,’ who are supposed to be their eyes and ears in the spirit world. To harm a familiar would be to blind and deafen oneself, regardless of whether one is a ‘white’ witch, a ‘black’ witch, a purple witch, or any other kind of witch.

2) Misunderstanding predator behavior. Alleged sadists and Satanists were sought for purportedly stealing, killing and dismembering cats and dogs in at least nine states as Halloween 1998 approached. The supposed crimes drew sensational media coverage, lent emphasis to humane society warnings against letting pets run at large, and rewards of up to $10,000 were posted in some cases for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers.

An accurate description of the suspects, however, in all but a handful of the animal deaths and disappearances, would include either four legs and a tail, or wings, and none would be either werewolves or griffons.

Similar panics have developed each summer since. They coincide with the emergence of young foxes and coyotes from their mothers' dens and with the first hunting by newly fledged raptors. The panics gain momentum approaching Halloween as public attention to witches, ghouls, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night rises toward a crescendo.

The panics virtually stop each year after Halloween distinctly unlike cases involving actual human sadism.

Trained to investigate human-inflicted cruelty, police detectives and humane officers typically have little background in predator behavior. Veterinarians tend to expect --wrongly--that injuries done by coyotes, the most frequent wild predator of pets will resemble those done by domestic dogs.

Forensic evidence is thus misread by sincere people, acting in good faith, who incite witch-hunts at possible expense to professional credibility.

Predators, in contrast to human sadists, are astonishingly quick and efficient. Except in instances when predators take disabled but still living prey back to a den or nest to teach young how to kill their own food, predation victims tend to make little sound, if any, rarely even having time to know what hit them. Predators try to avoid wasting time and energy inflicting unnecessary injuries.

Their teeth and claws usually cut more cleanly than any knife. Predators don't leave much blood behind: that's food. If interrupted in mid-attack, they run or take flight with the parts they most want to eat. If able to eat at their leisure, they consume the richest organs, such as the heart, and leave what they don't want.

Coyotes and foxes typically attack small prey such as cats and rabbits from behind and to one side, with a scissors-like jaw snap to the backbone and midsection that frequently cuts the victim in half. If startled, they tend to flee with the larger back half and whatever internal organs come along, leaving the head and forepaws. These are among the cases most often misread by investigators, who mistake the discovery of the head as an indication of ritualistic crime.

Coyotes have an entirely different attack pattern against prey larger than themselves, such as sheep and deer. Against these animals, they go for the throat and belly. They then consume the viscera first.

Cats, both wild and domestic, tend to leave inedible organs in a neat pile. Cats also have the habit of depositing carcasses, or parts thereof, at the doorsteps of other cats or humans they are courting. When cats kill much smaller animals, such as mice, they consume the whole remains, but when they kill animals of almost their own size, such as rabbits, they may leave behind heads, ears, limbs, and even much of the fur.

Tomcats, especially interlopers in another tom's territory, often kill kittens. Instead of eating them, however, kitten-killing toms sometimes play with the carcasses as they would with a mouse, and then abandon the remains in an obvious place, possibly as a sign to both the mother and the dominant tom.

Coyotes, foxes, and both wild and domestic felines often dispatch prey who survives a first strike with a quick skull-crunching bite to the head. ANIMAL PEOPLE actually resolved several panics over alleged sadists supposedly drilling mysterious parallel holes in the skulls of pets by suggesting that the investigators borrow some skulls of wild predators from a museum, to see how the mystery holes align with incisors.

Any common predator, but especially coyotes and raptors, may be involved in alleged ‘skinned alive’ cases. The usual victims are dogs who--perhaps because parts of their bodies were hidden in tall grass--are mistaken for smaller prey. The predator holds on with teeth and/or claws while the wounded victim runs. The result is a set of sharp, typically straight cuts that investigators often describe as "filets." The editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE once saw a cat pounce and nearly skin a rabbit in such a case, and unable to intervene in time to prevent the incident, euthanized the victim. The attack occurred and ended within less than 30 seconds.

Raptors tend to be involved in cases where viscera are draped over cars, porches, trees, signs, and mailboxes: they take flight with their prey, or with a road kill they find, and parts fall out. They return to retrieve what they lose only if it seems safe to do so.

Birds, especially crows, account for many cases in which eyes, lips, anuses, and female genitals are removed from fallen livestock. Sometimes the animals have been killed and partially butchered by rustlers. Others are victims of coyotes or eagles. The combined effects of predation and scavenging produce ‘mutilations’ which may be attributed to Satanists or visitors from outer space, but except where rustlers are involved, there is rarely anything more sinister going on than natural predators making a living in their normal way.

3) Fan behavior during some of the first World Series games ever played. Early 20th century New York Giants manager John McGraw was notoriously superstitious, so fans (especially gamblers) would sometimes pitch black cats in front of the Giants' dugout to jinx him. In response to this, some early humane societies suspended adopting out black cats during the World Series, which was and is played just before Halloween.

An informal baseball rule was adopted during this time against continuing a game if an animal is on the field. Major League Baseball, Inc., made this rule official in 1984, after then-Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield threw a ball that killed a seagull during a game in Toronto. The rule has multiple purposes, one of them being to keep expensive ballplayers from getting hurt.”