2011 News Roundup: Top 5 Hiss-Worthy Humans
#5: The British tabloid press, who won't give Larry the cat a break. After 14 cat-free years, British Prime Minister David Cameron adopted Larry from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and put him to work as the official Downing Street mouser after a series of news videos showed rats scurrying around the PM's residence. Larry took some time to start doing his job, as you might expect, but this prompted the scandal rags to scream about using the Taxpayers' Money to pay for a good-for-nothing layabout. (In fact, the Downing Street staff has been paying for Larry's kibble and care.) Then he got himself a girlfriend (oh, the scandal!) and was spotted sleeping near a steam grate while government officials visited 10 Downing Street. A cat sleeping? I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you!
#4: The Washington, D.C., Department of Public Works. The DPW has fined Patricia White thousands of dollars for shredding newspaper and junk mail flyers to use as cat litter and then disposing of the contaminated paper in her trash can rather than the recycling bin. Oh, horrors! It's great that the District of Columbia has a strict recycling law on the books, but it's clearly not so great that the "trash police" are wasting their time and resources to punish someone because they're using a legitimate but unorthodox method to recycle their junk mail. Even a judge, after seeing White's detailed explanation of what she was doing, and a book of photos of the process from start to finish, upheld the DPW's citations against her. I'm willing to bet that if she'd thrown the contaminated paper into the recycling bin, they would have fined her for that, too.
#3: The New York City Department of Health. Inspectors from this vigilant organization have attempted to evict not just one, but two, feline fixtures at New York establishments. Pressured by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it seems the department has taken on a campaign of slapping major fines on minor violators. In April, they banned Minnie from her long-time home at McSorley's Old Ale House in the East Village. Cats have been living at the pub since it opened in 1854, and nobody's died yet. Then in November, the health department informed the Algonquin Hotel that its most famous staff member, Matilda the cat, is no longer allowed to serve as a guest greeter. Again, cats have graced the Algonquin's lobby for 80 years, and nobody's died yet. Will you guys please go and shut down some rat-infested salmonella factories and leave the clean and friendly cats alone?
#2: American Airlines. The saga of Jack the Cat began when Karen Pascoe got a job in California and took her cats with her on a cross-country flight to her new home. American Airlines baggage handlers loaded her cats' crates carelessly and Jack's kennel fell off and broke. The poor cat fled in terror, leading to a seven-week search and a saga that unfortunately ended with Jack's death.
But although the baggage handlers' error was pretty bad, the way American handled — or didn't handle — the problem was even worse. In the days just after Jacks story hit the social media world, it took Pascoe three days just to get a human being on the phone to explain what was going on with Jack. Before they knew it, American Airlines had a PR crisis on their hands — and they did everything wrong: slow and underwhelming responses to Jacks situation, a seeming inability or unwillingness to try and locate the missing cat, trying to hide the issue by moving dialog about Jack away from its main Facebook page and into a special notes page and then not responding to any posts after September 9. Bad airline! Bad!
And the #1 most hiss-worthy human of the year is none other than Nico Dauphin, the cat-hating bird researcher who tried to poison feral cats in her neighborhood. Dauphin, who at the time was a researcher at the Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., was arrested on May 11 after authorities conducted an investigation spawned by complaints from area residents. Video surveillance showed that she had put antifreeze and rat poison in the food of community cats.
After months of delays, Dauphin had her day in court, and was found guilty of attempted animal cruelty. Even high-powered defense attorney Billy Martin couldn't save her from her own idiocy and irresponsibility. Her inability and unwillingness to own up to her own professional writings as her own undermined her credibility, Judge Truman Morrison said as he read the verdict.
And finally, after even more delays, Dauphin received a one-year suspended sentence, including a year of supervised probation, for attempted animal cruelty. She also got a fine of $100 and was ordered to perform 120 hours of community service. It was barely more than a slap on the wrist, but it's pretty clear that the trial and her later shenanigans in an attempt to appeal her sentence had pretty much torpedoed her career.