Monday, October 22, 2018
News Roundup

For ornery shelter cats, a job chasing mice

Gary wasn’t used to being around people. He didn’t like being touched or even looked at. If anyone came too close, he’d lash out.

He was perfect for the job. Because at the Working Cats program, no manners is no problem.

Philadelphia’s Animal Care and Control Team established the program about four years ago to place unadoptable cats — the biters and the skittish, the swatters and the ones that won’t use a litter box — into jobs as mousers at barns or stables.

The shelter recently expanded the program to move cats that were less-than-ideal pets into urban jobs at places like factories and warehouses as a sort of green pest control. The animals are microchipped, vaccinated and free of charge.

"Part of the reason cats became domesticated was to get rid of the rodent population," said Ame Dorminy, ACCT’s spokeswoman. "We took advantage of their natural propensity to hunt and made an official program out of it."

Cats identified as good matches for the program are kept in a separate aisle at the shelter in a row called TTA, time to adjust. On a recent visit, a low growl could be heard from a cage housing a male named Spike, whose intake sheet listed his qualifications: hissing, swatting, spitting, can’t be picked up. A few doors down, Prince was standoffish at the rear of his cage.

Just because cats don’t want to be petted or snuggle on a lap doesn’t mean they can’t have good lives, Dorminy said.

"A lot of these cats feel more comfortable when they can be themselves and use natural behaviors," she said. "Then they’re more open to human interaction because they feel more confident."

At Bella Vista Beer Distributors, mice were gnawing on bags of chips overnight, leaving a mess and forcing staffers to throw out about 15 bags a day, owner Jordan Fetfatzes said.

They tried exterminators, but nothing worked. An employee found ACCT’s program online, and Fetfatzes eventually decided on Gary, a white male with one blue eye and one green that had "behavioral issues." Gary wasn’t accustomed to people and would hiss from the crate. At first, Gary would stay in the office and would only go into the warehouse after hours.

As the weeks passed, he warmed up to workers and customers, and has transformed into a sweet, playful mascot with free rein of the store.

"My only complaint is sometimes he gets in the way of a transaction," said Fetfatzes, who describes himself as a "dog guy" who’s turned in to a cat lover thanks to Gary.

Neighborhood kids come in just to say hi to him, and he loves to play soccer with a worker who balls up cash register tape and kicks it around as Gary bats at it.

As for the mice, they vanished, seemingly repelled by Gary’s scent, Fetfatzes said.

"You’re not only saving your business money, you are helping save the life of an unwanted pet," he said. "And in this case, we made a friend."

A number of shelters around the country have working cat programs. One of the first, in Los Angeles, launched in 1999. Many focus on placing feral cats into barns and stables. Chicago’s Tree House Humane Society places feral cats at condos and suburban backyards. Pennsylvania’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals puts its feral cats to work in all kinds of jobs, from barns to breweries.

Todd Curry wasn’t exactly sure what was inside the dumpster next door to the Emerald Windows showroom, but it seemed like a free buffet for rats.

"It was almost comical," he said, comparing it to a scene in the animated film Ratatouille with seemingly hundreds of rats streaming out of the dumpster.

Traps didn’t work, said Curry, the company’s vice president of sales, so they brought in Shelley from ACCT’s program.

Soon, dismembered rat carcasses started appearing. Now the rodents just stay away.

And Shelley, who was given to the shelter after biting her family’s kids, has come out of her shell, craving petting and attention, Curry said.

"The only reason she was here was for the rats, but it has turned into a lot more than that," he said, adding she functions as a workplace stress reliever.

"It’s nice to see these cats put to use, not put down."

   
Comments
World Series: Red Sox will give Dodgers early dose of lefties

World Series: Red Sox will give Dodgers early dose of lefties

BOSTON — The Red Sox feel going with two lefties to start the World Series against the Dodgers is the right move.With LHP Chris Sale over the stomach issues he still, smirkingly, says were caused by a belly button ring and set to start Tuesday ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Romano: Cops should get body cameras before cell phones get them

Romano: Cops should get body cameras before cell phones get them

It’s happened again. Another snippet of video. Another Florida cop being questioned.This time, it’s in Coral Springs, and the cop is punching the midsection of a 14-year-old girl who is pinned on the ground with two cops above her, and her hands unde...
Updated: 3 hours ago
World Series: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts remains a Red Sox hero

World Series: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts remains a Red Sox hero

BOSTON — The Dodgers already had plenty to yell about, and to toast, when they gathered in the bar of Milwaukee's Pfister Hotel late Saturday to continue the celebration of their National League championship.But as a quick clip from the ALCS 14...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Buccaneers AfterMath: Dirk Koetter chooses his inconsistent kicker over his inconsistent quarterback

Buccaneers AfterMath: Dirk Koetter chooses his inconsistent kicker over his inconsistent quarterback

TAMPA — By beating the Browns 26-23 Sunday, the Buccaneers snapped a three-game losing streak and Tampa Bay breathed a collective sigh of relief.It wasn’t pretty, a misadventure full of interceptions, fumbles, penalties and missed kicks. ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
For killing his mother and niece, a half-century in prison for Pasco man

For killing his mother and niece, a half-century in prison for Pasco man

NEW PORT RICHEY — Jason Rios will spend up to half a century in prison for the 2015 murders of his mother and niece and the attempted murder of another niece.Rios, 28, could be eligible to be released in 39 years. By then, he will be 67 — and still s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bloomingdale video voyeur teacher: 353 new charges, $2 million bail

Bloomingdale video voyeur teacher: 353 new charges, $2 million bail

Investigators say they have uncovered an extensive amount of videos and images of under-age students secretly filmed while undressing by a Bloomingdale High School teacher who was arrested last month on a video voyeurism charge.Mark Ackett, 50, who r...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Tampa man charged with manslaughter for failing to call 911 after Plant High student’s fatal overdose

Tampa man charged with manslaughter for failing to call 911 after Plant High student’s fatal overdose

TAMPAFailures to call 911 leads to chargesA 19-year-old Tampa man is under arrest for his role in the death of a Plant High School senior who overdosed on heroin last year just weeks before graduation. Titan Goodson, of Harbour Island, was still in t...
Updated: 6 hours ago
East Lake, Steinbrenner girls move on to state golf tourney

East Lake, Steinbrenner girls move on to state golf tourney

VALRICO — East Lake and Steinbrenner advanced to the girls Class 3A state tournament on Nov. 6-7 at the Mission Inn and Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills.The Eagles shot a team total 340 on Monday afternoon at Buckhorn Springs Golf and Country Club....
Updated: 6 hours ago
Scenes from the Democratic rally in Tampa, featuring Joe Biden (w/video)

Scenes from the Democratic rally in Tampa, featuring Joe Biden (w/video)

"I think there's something different about this election," Biden told the crowd. "I really mean this. Let me get to the point. This election is bigger than politics. For real. This goes well beyond. You will never have voted in an election that's mor...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Trump threatens to cut aid to nations over migrant caravan

Trump threatens to cut aid to nations over migrant caravan

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump vowed Monday to cut off or "substantially" reduce aid to three Latin American nations, voicing fresh frustration as a growing caravan of migrants that originated in Honduras continued to make its way toward the U.S...
Updated: 6 hours ago