Letters for the week of August 7-13, 2002 

The pros and cons of feeding and fixing ferals; the rationale behind Metro's suit against The Wave.

Feeding and neutering feral cats is better than letting them die
Your article on the ongoing controversy surrounding cats on Fairview Street ("The Catfields and the McCoys," July 17) cites the smells and the poop as a smelly nuisance resulting from Berkeley's animal-control policies. I can assure you that the neighborhood smelled far worse and harbored far more poop when I moved in and the feral cats were breeding unchecked year after year. My property as well as others on the block not only stank when I moved in, it was overrun with sick, fighting, and, on more than one occasion, dead cats of all sizes and ages. The Kaufers and my former neighbors have no idea how bad it was and are in no position to assign blame; both parties moved in after efforts to spay/neuter and adopt out all eligible cats and kittens were well under way or completed.

What Pat Lewis neglected to mention is that she has been feeding the neighborhood cats on her front porch for years and years. She even stated openly at a neighborhood meeting in 1999 that she saw nothing wrong with the fact that several of the neighborhood cats had been born and raised in her yard -- and had had many litters over the years. I can recall a neighbor across the street removing a whole litter of dead kittens from Ms. Lewis' backyard to discard. And this woman is quoted as saying "Watch your step" and claims I haven't done enough to keep the ferals from turning adjacent yards into litterboxes? Unbelievable.

Feeding is not something I dreamed up to annoy the neighbors -- regular feeding of a sterilized feral colony is a recognized key component of humane colony management. In contrast, feeding ferals without getting them fixed and allowing them to breed explosively (as Ms. Lewis has done for years) is the height of irresponsibility.

If your reporter had done his homework on the former neighbors, he would have learned that they were the perpetrators -- not the victims -- of numerous verbal threats against me, their immediate neighbor on the other side, and several guests of the neighborhood. This is part of the record of court proceedings in which their restraining order was thrown out. These neighbors also smeared excrement on my vehicles.

The Kaufers insist that Home at Last (HAL) is spending city money to import and house unwanted shelter animals in a de facto animal shelter on Fairview Street. Yet an examination of the foster and financial records of HAL clearly indicates that this simply is not the case. The mid-1999 advisory report stating I was running an "active adoption service" is not mysterious or contradictory. This predates the existence of HAL (formed in August 1999). In 1998-1999, I made a lot of mistakes (acknowledged many times). I took in many shelter animals and had a lot of traffic in and out of the house. It has, however, been a number of years since I discontinued these practices, apologized to the neighborhood, and went out of my way to contain my own personal cats so as not to impact the neighborhood negatively. HAL, as well as the Berkeley Shelter itself, has confirmed the fact that I have not rescued any cats from the shelter in nearly two years. Yet the article states that no one "can agree" on whether I am running a shelter or not. Simply not true.

In the end, it is incredibly sad to me that though the article's author told me he was "writing an article on animal rescue in Berkeley," he chose to focus exclusively on a much-publicized neighborhood squabble worthy of a tabloid rag and never once even mentioned the overwhelming need for community involvement to provide loving foster or adoptive homes for our impounded dogs and cats in order to literally save their lives, or contact information for the municipal animal shelter, located at 2nd and Addison (510-981-6600).

Likewise, I have yet to see the Kaufers or Ms. Lewis lift a finger to help create solutions to a problem that existed long before I arrived in the neighborhood and which I have done much to ameliorate.
Judy Brock, Berkeley

A purrfect solution
Judy Brock, the Cat Lady of Fairview Street, would be well advised to seek a dose of reality. First, she appears to deem it normal to live with forty or fifty cats in a house that is not surrounded by acreage.

Second, her misguided statement that, although she cares for the feral cats, they do not belong to her, is naive as well as ignorant. Common sense alone would dictate that feeding a group of hungry animals regularly creates a dependence that, by default, demands that the feeder be responsible for those animals.

Since I live on a block where there are a total of six cats, including my own two, within four adjacent houses, I have enough firsthand experience to know without doubt that Ms. Brock's cat sanctuary is a huge infringement on her neighbors. What with the nightly catfight fracas on my street, as well as the feces in my garden, and territorial spraying on and around my home, I can only imagine the nightmare on Fairview Street.

While Brock's predilection to live with forty or fifty cats may in fact be her business alone, these animals are also imposing themselves and contaminating other people's property as well. If Ms. Brock is not in control of these animals enough to contain them, she is certainly not running an independent branch of the local humane society, regardless of what group has been funding her enterprise, and in fact is encouraging a public nuisance. Feral cats are often diseased or infected, by virtue of their living as wild animals, and they often fight one another for territorial rights. They frequently have abscessed wounds and can carry communicable disease. If Ms. Brock can't take responsibility for the ferals, which would entail yearly vaccinations and emergency and routine veterinary care, then she has no business even feeding them, which only entices the cats to remain in the area. Even if she does get them regular care, the amount of cat feces in her and her neighbors' yards must be astronomical. That feces carries a disease threat to pregnant women, children, and people who are immuno-compromised should give the Berkeley powers that be pause for serious thought.

It seems to me that the city of Berkeley should implement laws controlling cat ownership just as it has with dogs. Frankly, I don't think that Berkeley's pre-leash-law, front-porch-dwelling dogs were nearly as insidious a problem as today's free-ranging cats.
Heather Wood, Berkeley

She deserves our respect
I read your article about Judy Brock and the issue of feral cats, neighbor squabbles, etc. You might mention that she has single-handedly changed the way cat adoptions and cat deaths at the Berkeley Animal Shelter are handled. She has worked to make many more cats available for adoption at a time when healthy cats were put down at the whim of the shelter's staff. She took hundreds of sick cats that were deemed unadoptable, paid for their health care, nursed them back to health, and found them loving homes. She is out every week with her volunteers, trying to find homes for "unadoptable" cats and dogs.

Judy didn't just talk about creating change at the shelter in Berkeley. She made it happen using her unbounded energy, intelligence, and persistence. She deserves our thanks and respect.
Ronnie Polonsky, Oakland

Behind the Metro lawsuit
Thanks for covering Metro's court victory against "SurfMetro" (7 Days, July 17). I need to set the record straight, however, on some reporting contained in the item.

First, Metro has held a trademark on its name in California for a decade, and the federal matter you described was simply an initial office response to our application, not a final action or decision. It was not binding, and in a court has very little value -- as evident from the judge's ruling. Second, you opined that SurfMetro's publication was "fat-and-growing-fatter," had "lots of" ads, and that it "keeps growing," while giving currency to the claim by SurfMetro's Brafford that the real Metro's "ads are down." That's nothing but wishful thinking on his part, when our ad count is at a record high despite the current newspaper industry malaise. And you might want to spend some more time with a calculator and telephone before you draw conclusions about SM's cholesterol count.

Finally, you correctly mentioned Judge Claudia Wilken's decisive 24-page decision prohibiting SurfMetro from using our well-established name to brand a competitive publication, but where in the heck did you ever get the idea that "the victory was short-lived"? Rather than overturn the injunction, as you suggested, Judge Lowell Jensen not only denied their effort to stay the injunction, he refused to even grant them a hearing on the matter. He ruled against them on the merits, finding no likelihood of success on appeal, not even serious questions to be raised on appeal. He did give them a standard and perfunctory seven-day stay to let the Ninth Circuit consider another application for a stay, to which we did not object.

So far, SurfMetro has lost three times in federal court as part of its campaign to continue confusing the marketplace by incorporating our brand in its name. We're very pleased that the court saw fit to quash this very obvious trespass on our trademark rights, and we expect Judge Wilken's well-reasoned, common-sense ruling to withstand whatever legal machinations SurfMetro's lawyers wish to spend their client's money pursuing.

If not, you'll soon see "SurfCocaCola" on your local grocer's shelves.
Dan Pulcrano, San Jose

Editor's note:
Since we wrote our article, the court's order has taken force and The Wave has stopped using the SurfMetro Web site address and logo.

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