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Cat Scratch Fever

Whilst I’m researching for my next article on why, even if we can’t revive the Fourth Amendment, we shouldn’t put the last few syllables of it through the shredder, I thought I’d write about something a little lighter.

Since I have a preliminary hearing tomorrow and need to finish prepping, I wanted to find something I could claw my way through in less than 15 minutes.

Okay, not really. I mean, on the one hand, it’s lighter: I don’t have to do any significant research. And it’s true it shouldn’t take me much longer to write this than 15 minutes. On the other hand, it’s another story that shows just how much of a mess we’re really in.

I could go all Perry Mason with this one and use the title, “The Case of the Felonious Feline,” but people in Perry Mason’s day seldom concerned themselves with such trivialities. Besides, when Professor Hill’s cat was accused of chasing neighbor Elizabeth Eisenbach’s cat down the street during a game of Kick the Kitty while the Professor was on vacation, it only resulted in misdemeanor charges against the Professor.

Or I could have titled it “The Case of the Fat Cat,” since the Professor’s cat — who answers to the name of “Cameron” when it’s not playing Spank the Kitty — is apparently an overweight, 8-year-old house cat. A little young for “The Case of the Spinster Sphinx” and, besides, I don’t know Cameron’s gender. “The Case of the Crazy Caterwauler” doesn’t work, either, since there was no accusation of caterwauling, although I’ve yet to see a cat fight that didn’t include some.

As much fun as it was trying to come up with a title, the truth is that the case further demonstrates why there’s a need to put limits on the government. As you all know, that’s a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

The City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, apparently has some fairly weird laws on the books regarding animals. For example, it is apparently a misdemeanor — not an infraction, but a misdemeanor with a real criminal record and a real jail sentence as a potential punishment — not that a simple thing like a criminal record could ever impact anyone’s ability to get a job or a professional license — a misdemeanor to own a cat that fights with other cats. In addition to making it apparently illegal to have a cat that fights with other cats, Kalamazoo also charges owning a dog that barks as a misdemeanor.

It’s not entirely clear, but I believe to be a legislator in Kalamazoo, you first have to prove you flunked biology. Or maybe you just have to swear you’ve never seen a cat or a dog and once in awhile you have to press a case that proves it.

Come to think of it, I live next to a neighbor whose dog used to bark 24/7. Maybe this isn’t such a bad idea after all….

Seriously, though — no, I really mean it this time — the crime goes like this: Apparently, Cameron the cat was chasing another cat, William. William got scratched up, as sometimes happens when two cats fight one another. Just how badly William was hurt isn’t totally clear to me, but badly enough to involve a vet. Someone called animal control. It might have been William’s owner; it might have been the vet. That also isn’t clear.

What is clear is that a little less than a month later, Cameron’s owner, an associate professor of anthropology and environmental studies (so you see what an evil person she is!), was charged with harboring a dangerous animal.

The uproar over the charges — or maybe over the attack — got pretty silly. As one person writing to the editor of the paper put it:

Okay, here are the facts so far as we know it: William was outside and minding his own business, when attacked by another cat who may, or may not be, Cameron. Cameron was then charged through his owner, Ms Hill, by Williams’ owner, Ms Eisenbach. William was again outside minding his own business, and was then run over by a car, two weeks later. Ms Eisenbach then asserted that Camaron was also the perpertrator of that crime, until Ms Hill pointed out that a) Camaron had been inside since the first incident, and b) Camaron does not drive. NOW it’s been asserted that Ms Hill waited patiently in her car for two weeks for William to be let outside again, so that she could then run him over in the street in a vicious circle of revenge. It has also been pointed out that the former city attorney lives next to the dearly departed William, and that HE ALSO DRIVES. What started out as a simple case of a cat who likes to pee outside, has now turned into a case of ANIMAL CRUELTY and MURDER. Stay tuned to this story, it may go to CNN at any moment.

As this comment states, some of the comments were quite silly. It’s amazing to see that some people had no problem at all with the fact that owning a cat that got into a fight with another cat could result in misdemeanor charges. In this midst of a national recession with numerous governments arguing that they can barely sustain the most basic of services (including jails), these noble citizens saw nothing untoward with their prosecutors preparing for a trial over a cat fight.

After all, one cat fighting with another is such a rare event.

There’s just so much that’s wrong with this case, I don’t really know where to start. So I’ll just let another of the comments from one of the stories do it for me:

Okay, so the MLive jury has spoken, the majority don’t believe cats should go outside! Let’s step back from this for a minute. Is this law reasonable as written? How many cat fights does it take for the city attorney to deem one’s feline as a repeat offender and worthy of prosecution? Hello, this law was intended for animals with the propensity to attack humans and cause great bodily harm- not for felines who tend to have hissing matches and cause fur to fly with a neighbor cat. It seems to me that it’s not what you know, but who you know that can make the difference here. If your neighbor is the former city attorney and makes a call for you down to his former workplace, your neighbor and her cat can be threatened with prosecution.

Abuse of discretion, abuse of discretion, abuse of discretion. And a little arbitrary misuse of power.

Oh, well. As long as the owner’s cat doesn’t get into any more fights this summer, her case will be dismissed.

So I guess all’s well that ends well.

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