What is the matter with people?
Several weeks ago four kittens — covered in fleas and maggots — were found in a Lewiston Dumpster. The animals, just days old, were weak and three of them have since died.
The animals were so young that their umbilical cords were still attached, which means they were taken from their mother before she had a chance to tend to them. Which, then, means that human intervention to grab and then dump the kittens was watchful and immediate.
A 43-year-old woman has been charged with cruelty to animals in connection with the dumping; the surviving kitten has been adopted by an Auburn family.
In a separate incident in Belfast last weekend, Amber Springer and Misti Blair were driving along the Back Belmont Road, they told the Bangor Daily News, and noticed a burlap sack rolling into a ditch.
They stopped to investigate and inside the sack found two skinny black kittens, infested with fleas.
Dumping kittens is not a new thing. Dropping kittens over a bridge rail is frequently animated in knee-slapping cartoons, and there have been cases of cats disposed of in Lewiston's canals.
But, truly, with so many animal shelters and humane societies in our towns there is just no reason that a person’s only recourse to get rid of unwanted kittens is to bag them and dump them.
The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society maintains a list of regular foster homes to place orphaned kittens until they’re old enough to be adopted, and volunteers there are eager to help.
It’s ironic, really, that dumped kittens — when found and fostered — often become darlings of adoption because we feel so sorry for them.
Laurie Nichols, who adopted the surviving Lewiston kitten (now named Scamper) said dumping animals and leaving them to suffer and die is inexcusable under any circumstances.
"Anyone with an adult thought process," she said, "should be able to understand that there are better options."
In Saco, the feral cat population has become so dense (and dirty), particularly around the piers and lawns in the Camp Ellis area, that the town is under an Aug. 21 court order to remove any cats found without collars. The cats will be taken to the Animal Welfare Society in West Kennebunk, where they will be housed with dozens of other cats until adopted.
Eleanor Saboski, a volunteer with Friends of Feral Felines which has orchestrated a catch-spay/neuter-and-release program for the past two years, isn’t overjoyed by the removal order because it targets all cats, not just problem feral cats.
Then, there’s the rat population that the feral cats keep under control, resident Kellie Perrault Mueller told the Portland Press Herald, and eliminating cats may invite return of the rats.
That’s a different problem, certainly, than the problem of mean people simply dropping cats into Dumpsters or disposing of them along the side of the road. Those acts are of someone trying to solve the minor problem of personal inconvenience.
While the Kennebunk shelter, the Humane Society in Lewiston and several other local animal shelters may be willing to take cats and keep them until adopted, that willingness is not shared by all shelters simply because Maine’s cat population is booming and there's only so much room to house these animals.
In the Belfast area, where Springer and Blair found the roadside kittens, the P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center in Rockport is overflowing, something that routinely happens at this time of year.
P.A.W.S. is over capacity, but will still take cats from animal control officers and police officers, which limits options for citizens to drop off — rather than dispose of — unwanted cats.
Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden told the Bangor Daily News that the cat overpopulation is a big issue here and elsewhere across the country.
“The numbers of cats are increasing at such a rate there’s just no way municipalities can afford to do what some people think should be done, which is to bring every cat to a shelter.”
He may be right, but is the solution dumping, drowning and otherwise disposing of live animals?
The real solution is responsible pet ownership, which includes spaying and neutering cats — particularly outdoor cats — to control the population. Not having money enough to do that is no excuse since there are plenty of free and low-cost spay-neuter programs doing this work.
If you own a cat — or any pet — you are its caretaker and responsible for its reproduction. When that personal responsibility is ignored, our communities are left to clean up the mess.