1894: THE BROOKLYN CAT PROBLEM
Collated 2014, Sarah Hartwell
A prelude to this can be found at 1893 - The Midnight Band of Mercy Vs The New York SPCA which describes events of the previous few years leading up to the need for legislation and, ultimately, a cat and dog pound for lost animals.
CATS COSTLY AND DANGEROUS; BROOKLYNITES HAVE GRIEVANCE AGAINST LEGISLATURE.
Resent Failure to Pass "Cat-Tagging" Law Like New-York's -- 18,097 Felines in Seven Wards and 100, 000 in Greater Brooklyn -- $1,095,000 Per Year for Food, Which Would Keep 5,475,000 Persons -- Mr. Desmond's Interesting Figures.
The New York Times, April 29, 1894
Thousands of citizens in Brooklyn are indignant at the failure of the State Legislature, which adjourned on Friday, to pass a "cat-tagging" law such as was passed for New-York City. In many quarters it is alleged that this discrimination against Brooklyn was due to certain people in Brooklyn itself, people who did not scruple to use all the influences at their command to prevent the application of the law which New-Yorkers enjoy. This law is in effect as follows:
Any cat found within the corporate limits of the City of New-York without a collar about its neck bearing the name and residence of the owner stamped thereon will be seized.
The power to seize and destroy these cats is vested in the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which will dispose of the cats in an effectual, though painless, manner.
Cornelius Desmond, a widely-known citizen of Brooklyn, who lives in the First Ward, in a conversation with a reporter for The New-York Times yesterday, voiced the general sentiment of the people in the city whose lives have been most seriously disturbed by the cat nuisance.
" It is a much more serious matter than a great many people suppose - the failure of the Legislature to apply the New-York cat law to Brooklyn." said Mr. Desmond. "I had prepared facts and figures to submit to the Legislature in order to secure just such relief as has been vouchsafed New-York. Thinking that the Legislature would not adjourn until next week, I put oft going to Albany with Port Warden John McGroarty until my facts should be all in Shape. Among other things, I had a careful cat census prepared by wards. This involved considerable expense to myself, but I consider the money well spent, as it has enabled me to arrive at a pretty fair estimate of the great burden Imposed on the community by the feline population of the city.
" So far only seven wards have been completed by my enumerators, and now that the Legislature has adjourned, I do not think I will prosecute the task any further, The figures already obtained will prove quite sufficient, I think, to receive some measure of relief for us next year. In the wards that they canvassed, my enumeraturs found the following results:
First Ward: Homeless Cats 1,1012; Sheltered Cats 1,876
Second Ward: Homeless Cats 2,114; Sheltered Cats 1,116
Third Ward: Homeless Cats 1,526; Sheltered Cats 809
Fourth Ward: Homeless Cats 1,721; Sheltered Cats 1,502
Fifth Ward: Homeless Cats 1,210; Sheltered Cats 614
Sixth Ward: Homeless Cats 946; Sheltered Cats 1,004
Seventh Ward: Homeless Cats 1,045; Sheltered Cats 1,202
Total: Homeless Cats 10,474; Sheltered Cats 7623
" This," continued Mr. Desmond, " makes a grand total of 18,097 cats in only seven wards. And, mind you, the sheltered cats are as great a factor in the economic consideration of the question as the homeless cats. Both in the matter of vital energy, of which they cause a. tremendous consumption, and in the matter of food supplies consumed without any adequate return, they present a most serious problem, which sooner or later will have to be met, and met heroically, no matter what the heartburnings of the cat lovers may be.
“ Apply the proportion of cats ascertained In the seven wards enumerated to the entire city, now that Coney Island, Flatbush, and the other country -towns are to be taken in; it is by no means an extravagant statement to say that there are 100,000 cats within the limits of the Greater Brooklyn.
" Do you know what that means? " asked Mr. Desmond earnestly, " Do you realize the useless weight which the people are called on to carry because of *the presence of all these cats? No, of course you don't. Nobody who has not made this subject a special study, as I have, can realize this.
Putting the food consumption of these 100,000 cats at three cents apiece per day - and this is a most moderate estimate – you have an expenditure of $3,000 per day. That is $1,005,000 in round numbers per year. This means the interest on $36,500,000 at 8 per cent, per year, or more than one-fifth of the entire permanent city debt."
“Cutting off all the cats and applying the cost of their sustenance to the payment of interest on 3 per cent bonds would mean that Brooklyn would have a fund that would provide fine pavements, fine parks, and a host of other things which in time would improve the values of property, the revenue from rentals, bring about increased population, and secure advantages generally that can only be vaguely estimated, but which would in the end run up into the hundreds of millions. `
“ But look at it in another light. A fund of $3,000 per day would feed and house more than 3,000 poor families. Estimating the average number of persons to a family at five, you find that these cats, which now afflict us by day and drive us half-crazy by night, are eating up every day the food of 15,000 of our deserving poor, which in a year means the feeding of 5,475,000 persons. Can any city afford to waste its supplies at this rate, receiving nothing in return but a wilderness of howls on every moonlight night?”
Mr. Desmond paused in order to give the reporter an opportunity to digest these tremendous figures. Then he resumed:
“ Nor is this the end of the matter. There is one item of expenditure, of cost, of waste, that cannot even be estimated. That is the loss of the vital energy I have already referred to. The Greater Brooklyn will have about 1,000,000 population.
" Of this number, it is a. most conservative estimate to say that 10 per cent are kept awake at night more or less by the howling of the 100,000 cats. That is only one person for each cat, (you see, and any one who knows anything at all about the subject can tell from personal experience that one cat, with most ordinary lung power, is equal to keeping an entire neighborhood awake for hours at a time.
" But let us put it conservatively at 100,000 persons who are kept awake for various periods, for there are, strange to say, a great many people who can sleep right through the most terrible cat concert. Figuring, then, on 100,000 persons, we will say that each of these 100,000 loses, on an average, only two hours of sleep a night. That means an actual loss of five hours each, for the sleep that remains after the nervous excitement produced by the howling of a cat has certainly not over half the value of undisturbed rest.
“ Take five hours, then, out of the night’s rest of 100.000 people, and what is the inevitable result? "
" I don’t know, I am sure," answered the reporter, replying to this pointed question.
" Nor do I,” said Mr. Desmond, “ but any one who has spent sleepless nights regularly can form some sort of an estimate. It impairs the mental and physical health, and it is certainly not too much to say that the earning capacity of any one so afflicted is cut down one-fifth. Now then, putting the earning capacity of the 100,000 people affected by the cats, roughly, at 2 apiece per day, you have $200,000 ordinary capacity. If you take one-fifth of this, you get the total loss, roughly estimated, at $40,000 per day, traceable directly to the existence of the cats in Brooklyn. In a year this foots up the very respectable sum of $14,600,000. A pretty good sum to pay for the luxury of having cats in our city isn‘t it? And to secure this loss, we pay out each year $1,095,000 to keep the causes alive, a grand total burden of $15,695,000 per annum. Is it any wonder that we find life hard, that we see the struggling thousands who cross the bridge and ferries every morning go creeping along weary and heavy-eyed?
" I tell you," concluded Mr. Desmond, with emphasis, ," the Legislature' did us a terrible injustice when it failed to curb the cat nuisance, to some extent at least. The body deceived me outrageously in adjourning before I was able to submit my facts. But there may be a terrible object lesson offered some day that even the most obtuse person may understand. We all know that cats have an uncontrollable desire to congregate in squads.
“ Up to the present time this desire has been confined to gatherings in comparatively small numbers. But supposing something were to arise some day to attract all the cats in Greater Brooklyn to one spot - to Prospect Park for instance. Supposing the army of 100,000 cats was to invade the park in a body some night. 'The place would be devastated. The people would be absolutely helpless. United, the cats, could hold the entire population at defiance.
“ You have heard of the devastation caused by the ant armies in Africa. Think how much more powerful would be a cat army, if the beasts should ever take it their heads to unite for concerted action.”
These are busy days at the office of the New-York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. About 3,000 dog owners have already hastened to comply with the provisions of the act, approved by the Governor on March 8, which vests the licensing and general supervision of the dogs of the city in the society.
The haste of the dog owners is attributable to the fact that licenses date from May 1, and that it is announced by the society that all dogs not licensed prior to that date will be seized and disposed of.
There seems to have been some misapprehension as to the provisions of the act relating to cats, and as a consequence many cat owners have applied for licenses for their pets. In each case they have been informed that cats are not entitled to licenses under the act, but that they will bask in the countenance and protection of the law when provided with collars bearing the names and addresses of their owners. Cats not so adorned will be killed.
DOGS AND CATS IN POUND
The New Shelter in Brooklyn and Its Variety of Animal Prisoners.
YOU MAY TAKE YOUR PICK FOR $3
A Staghound, A Collie, and a Bull Terrier Among the Collection of the Bergh Society -The Cats.
The New York Times, September 14, 1895
If any of the returning residents of Brooklyn desire to add to their ménages for the coming Winter a cat or a. dog, they will have a large and varied collection to choose from by applying at the Shelter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Nostrand Avenue and Malbone Street. The society opened the doors of the shelter to representatives of the press yesterday afternoon. The control of the dog pound has been transferred from the Mayor to the society, which has also the authority to capture stray cats. The society has not been in the exercise of these functions for a month yet, but, with the previous experience in the same kind of work in New-York, this in Brooklyn has been quickly and most satisfactorily arranged.
The shelter, which is in the geographical centre of Brooklyn, though not in the centre of the population, is clean, convenient, airy, and spacious, although it is only a temporary wooden structure, which, it is hoped, will soon be replaced with a larger, better-constructed building worthy of the city. The present building was formerly a car stable, used by the Brooklyn Heights Railroad Company, when its cars were drawn by horses. The society expresses its gratitude to the President of the company, Clinton L. Rossiter, and the Treasurer, Col, T. T. Williams, for their assistance in making arrangements for the shelter.
Inside the building is, first of all, a large, pleasant office, whose most conspicuous feature is a large map of Brooklyn. The sounds that greet the ears of the visitor leave no manner of doubt as to the majority of its inhabitants. There are prolonged howls and barks running up and down the scale and graduating from the shrill falsetto of the smaller dogs to the deep bass of the larger ones, drowning entirely the weaker cries of the feline guests. From the office the door opens directly into the guest room, with the kennels on either side of the main corridor. The room is light, sunny, and well ventilated. At the right of the door is the heating and cooking apparatus, and the bins containing the
" The animals in my own kennels do not eat anything better than this,” said John P. Haines, the President of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In one division is cornmeal: in another oatmeal, and in a third dog biscuits. The heating apparatus and two big boilers are opposite the bins. In one of the boilers is what appears to be a clean-looking mass of porridge,
" We take the bones and scraps and stew them half an hour," Mr. Haines goes on, “ then take half oatmeal and half corn or Indian meal, and strain it all together from one to one and a half hours. The people in our public institutions do not get anything better than that."
On one side of the main corridor are the large apartments for the dogs, and on the other the small, square kennels, with wire fronts and backs for the cats. The latter are arranged in tiers, two sets facing each other, the kennels in one alcove standing back to back with those in the next. The wire meshes allow conversation from kennel to kennel, if the many-voiced felines enjoy such amusement, while the air space between prevents too great familiarity should any of the guests happen to be in a vicious temper, All the kennels are zinc-lined.
The death chamber is the last room to be visited. Here the unclaimed animals are put to sleep. Illuminating gas is used, and in five seconds the subject in the air-tight compartment is under the influence, and in about thirty seconds unconscious. The time varies according to the vitality and size of the animals. Large animals with large lungs and great vitality are more quickly put to sleep than cats or puppies.
There were yesterday 168 dogs and 52 cats at the shelter, not counting the last arrivals in an ambulance. These ambulances are fine-looking wagons, ventilated on all sides and at top and bottom, zinc-lined and supplied with water. The cats are put into baskets. The ambulance men have trim brown bedford cord uniforms with nickel society buttons, badge, and emblem on the caps. One large and three small ambulances are kept with the six horses at 114 Lawrence Street.
Unlicensed dogs and cats without collars, and having the appearance of waifs, are taken to the shelter, where they may be reclaimed within forty-eight hours, after which time they are put to sleep. The former dog-catchers took 3,300 dogs last year. In less than a month’s work the society has taken half that number. A little leeway has been given to people so far, to allow them to take out their licenses, now that the law is to be rigidly enforced.
There is a handsome staghound at the shelter, a fine collie, a bull terrier and any number of dogs of all breeds and varieties, and cats galore. There are two families of kittens, so small that their eyes are not open yet, and black cats, gray cats, white cats and calico cats. Any of them not claimed may be had for the asking, andthe deposit of $3 to advance the humane work of the society.