Letter to the Editor: No second chances for owner with too many cats

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Dear Editor:

On Wednesday the 19th, as we were scurrying about getting ready to catch a train to spend Christmas with family, there was a firm knock on our door. There was the Animal Control officer, saying there had been neighbor complaints about our cats. We have too many, and we need to get rid of some, and get licenses for the rest. And we have little time to do so.

Once the initial shock wore off, and we started in on frantic calls and emails to friends and family, came the hurt, the anger. How were we supposed to decide which members of our family we ‘got rid of’? If there were neighborhood concerns, why had no one talked to us? Our cats have been with us for years, are non-breeding (all our cats are fixed) and non-aggressive (except for the occasional hissy fit, or unless you’re a opossum. There’d never been any sign or reports of injury to people or other pets), why the sudden appearance of enforcement? We were already in the process of dealing with some issues we had seen crop up this season, didn’t that count for something?

There is, indeed, a law on the books limiting the number of cats one household can own. But deeper research shows that most cities that have such laws, also have provisions that allow for addressing issues and making allowances; Brier has provisional permits. Shoreline has no limits on indoor cats. Other cities will only enforce if nuisance laws have been repeatedly broken and not resolved. And King County has “Hobby Cattery” licensing, that allow for multiple non-breeding cats, with limitations on outdoor access. All very reasonable, realistic ways of handling cat nuisance problems.

Not so Mountlake Terrace. No quarter was given, no chance to resolve any issues the neighbors were having, no recourse — just make them go, before the end of the year.

We would have been more than happy, more than willing, to work with our neighbors to resolve any issues, from repairing any damage, to creating outdoor runs so that the cats couldn’t access other yards. Our yard has the space, it could have easily been done. If only they had come and spoken to us first. Do they even realize that filing a formal complaint meant not that issues would be addressed, but that animals would be torn from their family? Does the city consider that when they leave no flexibility or options?

As for the licensing, I can count on one hand the number of happily owned (not by us) cats in the neighborhood that actually have collars and licenses; and I am afraid for those cats. Will the city, as part of ensuring that we have re-homed the appropriate number of cats, start rounding up uncollared cats in the neighborhood? Does the city contract with a no-kill shelter like PAWS or NOAH, or will these cats be on borrowed time, their only crime being that they lived near us? Would any attempt be made to inform the neighborhood of the enforcement, or will families be left to wonder where their beloved pets have gone?

Or will those cats be given a free pass, allowed to roam the neighborhood in a state of unlicensed lawlessness, because they aren’t all “owned’”by one household?

Most of Mountlake Terrace is anticipating Christmas. My family, on the other hand, is now spending the Christmas season sick of shock and in tears. Instead of celebrating with friends and family, our time is spent trying to decide which of our furry family will have to go, trying to decide how we’ll explain this to our developmentally disabled daughter who adores them, dreading which of us will get to keep ‘their’ cat, and who’ll have to let go. How do you decide which loved ones are ‘worth’ keeping?

More importantly, how will we assure that these cats, who have been intertwined members of our family, who have been comforts to us in times of sorrow and boon companions, will have families who will love them and cherish them as much as we have.

Merry Christmas, from the heartbroken Hamilton family.

Charlene Hamilton
Mountlake Terrace

12 COMMENTS

  1. My heart goes out to you, Ms. Hamilton. We care for (at least) two formerly homeless cats ourselves; the spayed female sleeps in my room now, and the little guy snuggles up in the heated bed we’ve provided for him in his cushioned shelter outdoors.
    I think the City’s lack of compassion for your daughter and her cats is disgusting. It is also disgraceful in the way the police have come down on you in jack-booted fashion, with no regard for your tender-heartedness or the welfare of those poor animals.
    The best advice I can give you at this point is to send an email to the City Manager, formally requesting him to put this matter on the agenda for the next council meeting, 7pm, December 30th. Your concerns are serious enough to warrant an airing in the public arena.
    God bless you and your family during these trying times, Ms. Hamilton. Inasmuch as you are able, Have a Merry Christmas.
    Julius Waldkirch

  2. Seems silly to take action against this family, but we don’t know both sides of the story. Sad to ever have to give away a pet.

  3. Julius, thank you. I have mailed a copy of this letter to the city council. Because we had established holiday travel plans, I have been trying to coordinate arrangements from my family’s home in Oregon, and my husband will be joining me (and traveling with at least one of the evicted cats) the weekend after Christmas, so we would not be available on the 30th for the council meeting. 

    I do find it amusing that the ordinance as stated on the city’s website includes ‘fish’ in the limit of four domestic animals. Woe betide anyone in Mountlake Terrace with an aquarium.

  4. I wish I did know the other side of the story- we’ve always had cordial relations with the majority of our neighbors, so the fact that no one approached us is bewildering. We fully admit there were some issues we had not been able to address yet, but most of our neighbors were also aware of the incredible difficulties our family has been through the past few years, and have been understanding and compasionate. We also hold no ill will to the officer who came to the door, our dealings with the officers of the police force in the past have been, for the most part incredibly helpful and kind.

  5. A neighbor
    notified me of this letter to the Editor. 
    I must admit, I am stunned.  You see,
    I am the next door neighbor of the Hamiltons. 
    I am the one who called MLT Animal Control.  I finally called after years and years of
    dealing with their many cats.  The
    clincher came when on Monday, December 17th, I came home from Costco
    and was taking groceries into my house. 
    I looked down and realized that I had stepped into a big pile of sick
    cat crap, once again, and drug it into my house….all over my carpet.  This happens at least twice a week…I kid you
    not.  That was my last straw.  The cat crap in my yard has become a health
    hazard.
    The
    Hamiltons have been my neighbors for about 8 years.  During those years they have had many
    cats.  Over the years, I have fed and taken
    care of the majority of these cats at one time or another.  I continually feed at least six of them
    because they are hungry, cold and lonesome: 
    TayTay, Dum, Yeesha, Creamsickle, Bagashi and Barrow.  I also occasionally feed “Momma Kitty”.   In fact, Dum was on my window sill begging
    for food AND attention at 4 a.m. this morning and at 8 am, again, this morning along
    with Creamsicle.  Yeesha is asleep in a
    box on my front porch, as we speak.  I
    put an old fleece jacket of mine in the box along with a warm water bottle for
    her.  I started this a few weeks ago when
    it was in the 20s at night.  Even though
    it was well below freezing, she did not want to go home.  She was on my front window sill at 8 am when
    I woke up.  I fed and gave a little bit
    of love to each of the cats.   And, then there is Tay.  She is always out and about because she is at
    the bottom of the totem pole in their cat family.  My other neighbor feeds her.  She has setup a chair in her carport with a
    heating pad for Tay. 
    In the past,
    I have talked with Charlene about finding another home for Yeesha, as Yeesha
    did not seem happy with each additional cat that they have brought home.  I have friends that have made observations
    about how these cats seem neglected and they were interested in adopting them.  Charlene’s response stunned me.  She said she could not give Yeesha away….she
    loves her.  Well, mature love is not just
    a feeling, it is an action.  It means
    taking care of your responsibilities.  It
    means NOT leaving for vacation with your cats NOT being taken care of. Except that
    you know I am a sucker and I will take care of your responsibilities.   This happens again and again.
    I cannot
    tell you how many times I lie awake at night wondering whether their cats are safe
    and fed and warm.  The cats know that I
    will take care of them.  The Hamiltons must
    know this, also.  I have struggled with
    the thought of calling animal control many, many times over many, many years.  I did not want to cause problems with the
    neighbors.  You see, they are not bad
    people but obviously their cats need care. 

    Unfortunately,
    the last straw for me is the copious amounts of piles of sick cat crap in my
    yard.  I have a 7500 square foot mine
    field of cat crap.  You see, their cats
    will not crap in their yard because they do not cut their lawn and the yard is
    filled with debris.  So, the cats poop in
    my yard.   The worst part is that some of
    the cats are unhealthy.  You can guess
    what their poop is like.  That is what I
    track into my house.  My son and I step
    in it EVERYTIME we mow our lawn or rake leaves, multiple times.   I have stepped in it walking to my car which
    is about 6 feet from my front door.
    I am sure
    that the situation has caused sorrow for Charlene and the family.    That
    is one of the reasons that I have not called Animal Control, until now.  However, if their cats had been cared for, I
    would not have had to call.  I have
    talked with Charlene and Scott over the years about the other problems we have had
    as neighbors prior to their disabled daughter being placed in state care.  Although they have always been sorry, there
    is always a reason it is not their fault.  Sigh. The real victims here are the neglected
    cats and the neighbors whom have to deal with 9 cats.  Just too many.
    Charlene
    states in her letter to the Editor that she would have been more than happy to
    work with the neighbors on this.  If I
    thought that was a remote possibility, I would have pursued that.  In fact, why didn’t Charlene talk with me
    after Animal Control spoke with them? 
    Really, a Letter to the Editor with only some of the facts? 
    Charlene
    also states that Brier has provisional limits on how many cats that one can
    have and that Shoreline has no limits. 
    Great, please move to Brier or Shoreline, then.  I never realized why MLT had a law limiting
    homes to 4 pets, total.  It is because it
    creates a health hazard.  I have
    experienced this first hand.  The disgusting
    sickly cat crap is out of control.
    Charlene
    states in the letter that she has no idea where these cats are going to go? If
    she came to me she’d find I have many friends who are willing to adopt these
    adorable cats whom need love and attention. 
    There is no reason that they would have to be taken to a shelter.   I doubt very much that they will resolve
    this in that manner, though.  This is
    simply my opinion.

  6. This isn’t even worth getting into in the comments section of a website. Obviously there has been significant miscommunication. Arrangements are being made, and that’s that.

  7. There are no lies here, Christie.   I did not want to cause problems with my neighbors, but after 8 years of being nice, and suffering the ramifications, I realized that I was not the one causing the problems.   The real problem is that the Hamiltons have too many cats and this has caused an ongoing  health hazard for me, my family and friends. I simply refuse to live in conditions where I pay my mortgage but I am not able to use my beautiful yard,  any longer.  Mountlake Terrace has animal control laws for a reason.   I made a conscious decision to involve the authorities because going to the Hamiltons in the past has resolved nothing.

    In fact, I am a kind person.  I just went out yesterday and bought a bag of food for their cats, once again.  Five cats of their cats (Tay, Dum, Creamsicle, Barrow and Bagashi) were outside my kitchen window anxiously pacing back and forth waiting for me to feed them.   They are on vacation, right now, and I am once again taking care of their cats! These cats need love and care and I will continue to take care of them until they are placed somewhere else.

    It is easy to sit back and judge my actions, Christie.  However, you are not walking in my shoes.  If you were, you’d be stepping into big time cat crap.  There is no good time to deal with this mess.  If the Hamiltons had followed the rules, there would be no issue, here.   You echo the Hamiltons response when you blame me.  They are never responsible for their actions.  It is always someone else’s fault.

  8. For 8 years, Ms Lampkin never just went over and asked the Hamiltons to clean up? Never said “Your cats are leaving messes in my yard, come and fix it, or else?”, but then calls the authorities? That doesn’t seem like being a nice, uncomplicated neighbor to me. You don’t call the cops on someone unless you don’t know them, the situation is dangerous, or you’ve talked to them (directly, not subtle hints or fishing for information) and they refuse to do anything.  And doing it right before Christmas? That’s just malicious. 

    And some of what she describes as ‘proof of neglect’ really sounds like normal cat behavior- if you put food out for kitties, they’ll come and eat it, *even if* they are being fed adequately at another home.  If you pay attention to kitties, and give them spots to be, they’ll come get that attention and hang out in those spots, *even if* they’re getting love and attention and shelter somewhere else. 

    We had a neighbor once, who’s cat decided one of our patio chairs was Her Spot. She had a cat flap at her house, and food whenever she wanted it, but it could be pouring rain outside, and that cat wanted to be on our porch chair under the canopy. We never thought her owner was neglecting her or refusing her shelter, we knew that’s just a thing that cats do.  

    The cats might not really be ‘sick’ either, if all you have to go on are thin poops- changes in diet can cause digestive upset in cats- so if the Hamiltons and Ms Lampkin are feeding two different foods, that could make even a healthy cat have an upset stomach. 

    Ms. Lampkin also says there are friends and neighbors who would be willing to help out adopting kitties. Then those neighbors need to make the first move, and go to the Hamiltons offering to take a kitty. The Hamiltons shouldn’t have to go knocking on random doors begging. 

    Those neighbors also need to be aware that, if the Hamilton’s house is within kitty range, that the adopted kitty will still go over there, and it would be *cruel* to both the kitty and the Hamiltons to expect them to act like that kitty didn’t exist. 

    But if the neighbor is willing to accept that, I think that sort of ‘co parenting plan’ would be an ideal solution. Although Ms. Lampkin might not see it that way, because the adopted cat might still poop in her yard- then she’d have to decide if she was going to actually ask that it be cleaned up, or call the cops on the *other* neighbor. 

    And if the Hamiltons can’t find homes for all the kitties, they can’t just drop them off at PAWS or someplace in an afternoon- PAWS has an intake procedure that can take weeks, and it costs $75 per cat. PAWS can refuse to take them, if they don’t think they are adoptable. And if Animal Control siezes the kitties, yeah PAWS or another shelter will take them, but if any of them are deemed ‘unadoptable’, they’ll be euthanized. So rather than saving these kitties from the Evil Neglectful Hamiltons, Ms. Lampkin might be costing them lives.

  9. It sounds like the cat messes were a real problem, BUT the law should allow the Hamiltons to get things cleaned up before punishing them and their pets.

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