Recently one of our longtime supporters, Renetta DeBlase, had a home emergency and called the fire department for help. Firefighters helped her stop the water leak, but the visit to her house set in motion an unfortunate series of events where nearly two dozen of her cats were seized by animal control officers; all but one were euthanized.
The Washington Post published a story (link) about the incident, but it unfortunately left out some important details and repeated unfounded negative stereotypes of cat caretakers. So, we wrote a letter to the Post's editor expressing our concerns. Read our letter below to learn more about what happened.
We wish to draw your attention to the article and accompanying Post TV segment, “Nearly two dozen cats seized from a Md. home, then euthanized touches off a furor.” Alley Cat Rescue (ACR) wants to make it very clear that Ms. DeBlase is in no way a “cat hoarder”. She brought these cats into the ACR vet clinic to be spayed and neutered, and vaccinated and treated. Cat hoarders are often mentally ill and do NOT provide any veterinary care for any animals they have.
It is also very clear that Ms. DeBlase was at the very least inadequately informed by animal control about the ramifications of allowing them to remove her cats. Her surprise and anger, which we share, over the euthanizing of all but one of them is clear evidence of that.
By law the shelter is required to contact ACR if it receives any cat that has been part of a trap-neuter-return program; these cats are distinguishable on sight by their clipped left ears and easily identified by implanted microchip. You mention this in your story, but fail to include that many of the cats taken from Ms. DeBlase were ear-tipped and easily recognizable.
Sadly this latest attack on cat caretakers and animal rescue groups just reinforces the decades-long struggle of trying to bring this agency into the twenty-first century. The animal agencies in the surrounding areas of Washington D.C., Montgomery County, Laurel, and many agencies in Virginia all are working alongside rescue groups to stop the unnecessary killing of animals in their shelters, and especially the killing and total disregard for the lives of feral cats.
Your story needlessly reinforced negative perceptions of the cat rescue and caretaker community. Those, like Renetta DeBlase, who choose to devote their time, resources, and living space to caring for healthy animals of any kind should not be labeled hoarders. When the actions of local government agencies are called into question by residents it is a reporter’s job to push officials for detailed and substantive answers.
We also wish to point out that over the last two decades Alley Cat Rescue has spayed and neutered 30,000 cats, and saved the County hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not to mention saving thousands of cats’ lives, which should be an important part of any animal control’s mission.
Alley Cat Rescue