Harlem was a cat rescued by Empty Cages Collective from Animal Care & Control. He was positive for Feline Leukemia. Normally these cats are killed even though they may not be ill at that time. Harlem (and several other Felv+ cats) lived at the ECC space waiting for adoptions, one of the only places in the city to take these cats in. Harlem died recently of cancer; he never did get his forever home.
Some would argue he should have been killed as originally scheduled; he suffered for years at the shelter space, never knowing the love of a real family. But anyone who ever met him in person saw a remarkably upbeat cat for all his supposed suffering. He had room to live and play, got attention from a lot of people, and in general lived like a happy cat. That he never got that story-book ending is moot; I think he lived pretty well while he could.
After one of our ferals died of old age, we took Gray Boy in to assimilate into our colony. He had been living in a cage for over 2 years, with no place to go. He couldn't go back to the Bronx and he was having no luck getting adopted as he was completely unsocialized. After acclimating in a cage in the yard we let him out, not sure if he would know how to act on the outside. To our surprise, he took right to his new life, bonding with the other cats and basically becoming one of the gang overnight.
Some might say Gray Boy should have been killed when he first faced the prospect of life in a cage; admittedly, 2 years is a long time. But ultimately it was temporary. He now has a group of feline friends, room to run around, sunshine to bask in; so you tell me. Did his time in a cage render him unfit to live?
Some might argue that as an unsocialized cat who never lived outside, he's a Frankenstein-like creation of human intervention, not a housecat nor a street-wise feral. True, he probably doesn't have the kind of survival skills a cat born in the alley has, and when winter rolls around he will have to learn to sleep in an insulated outdoor shelter. Should he have been terminated before having to deal with these issues? Is the fact that he might have to deal with inclement weather the sort of 'dealbreaker' that makes groups like PETA trigger-happy? He seems to be making the best of his situation now; I venture to guess he enjoys his life.
And isn't that what this should be about? Like TNR, this system isn't perfect. And I know my examples are fairly simple and not really fraught with complexities of other cases. But because we can't see the future, I'm not sure we should be acting like every situation has the same forgone conclusion.
Since the failure of Oreo’s Law, there has been a lot of speculation on the opposition’s reasoning. They claim their issues stem from a lack of oversight and their fear that, as in the ASPCA’s justification for killing Oreo, "Her quality of life would have been reduced to virtually nothing." Whose quality of life is adequate? Who determines this? Are any of my cats meeting the kind of stringent criteria that would have spared a dog like Oreo?
There is a sense of an all-or-nothing proposition that might sound wise and Solomon-like in theory but rings false in practice. Maybe I don’t know enough about the politics or legal implications, but I think there is room for wider definition. Oreo’s Law would have provided this; at least it could begin to solidify work that is already being done by rescue groups all over the country every day. So what’s the real problem?