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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pssst, Buddy -- Wanna Buy a Used Cat? SPCA's $10 Kitty Ploy Divides S.F. Animal Activists.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 3, 2009 at 6:30 AM

An automotive-themed SPCA promotion promising "certified pre-owned cats" -- no money down, zero percent APR, you can meow it away today -- has split the city's animal activist community. But, then, this may be progress -- when SPCA policies are brought up, the city's kitty and puppy people usually begin spitting fire.

While some animal activists feel the SPCA is endangering its cats' lives, others think this kind of heavy-handed marketing campaign is the wave of the future.

With the SPCA is currently offering "vintage" cats aged six years or more for a mere 10 bucks, some members of the group Fix San Francisco have already sent letters to management expressing certainty that this will lead to, at best, irresponsible owners stocking up on cats, or, at worst, horrible people buying lab animals or pit bull bait.

FixSF co-founder Julene Johnson isn't so sure of that, however. "I'm not aware of any studies showing that the less you pay for an animal, the higher at risk it is for abuse," she said. "I think a lot of shelters are grappling with this issue. A lot of people think prices should be reasonable." While it's easy to see the logic of a prohibitive price of, say, $100 per cat to weed out those with evil intentions or a lack of commitment -- it also comes off as more than a bit elitist. 

While Johnson isn't thrilled with the notion of a cute campaign comparing cats to cars, she points out that the highly respected Nevada Humane Society in Reno is doing the exact same thing. And the nationally renowned Best Friends sanctuary in Kanab, Utah -- which received mainstream ink after it rehabilitated some of football player Michael Vick's pit bulls -- is also using gimmicky promotions.


The crux of the matter appears to be whether you think the SPCA's screening process for potential pet owners is stringent enough. Naturally, the organization thinks its doing good work. SPCA spokeswoman Tina Ahn says the process involves "confirming the client has landlord permission, can provide a home that is safe for the animal, will meet the animal's social and enrichment needs, and will ensure the animal will receive necessary medical care. We also conduct post-adoption follow ups at three weeks and three months."

Others, however, feel that standards have fallen. Former volunteers reticent to go on the record told us about ominous "gimme two cats -- any two cats" types of adoptions that were approved. FixSF co-founder Kathleen McGarr said "I know for a fact people have walked out of there with animals without providing proof" of a landlord's permission. This, McGarr noted, helps the SPCA's adoption statistics; such an animal can be adopted out "successfully" multiple times.

Johnson, too, said she is "not confident" with the screening process. But she's not ready to turn up her nose at the aggressive marketing of SPCA cats. "I think we don't market homeless animals enough," she says.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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