Missouri Mother of Two Goes to Jail Over Family Cat
This is the story of a Missouri mother who recently went to jail over the family cat. Andrea Boenker, a resident of Wentzville, was arrested recently, all because her then 2-year-old daughter let the new family cat out of the house. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Wentzville is a city located in western St. Charles County and has a population of around 30,000.
Andrea is the mother of two daughters and a nurse. Her story began last summer when the family got a new cat. Thriller, a black and white beauty, was let out of the house by Andrea’s daughter Morgan , who was only two at the time. Thriller ended up at the local shelter. Andrea went down to the shelter, where she paid the fines to the shelter and the city to bail Thriller out of kitty jail. She thought that was the end of things.
Andrea recently got the shock of her life when she came home from work and her husband told her two police officer’s had come to their home with a warrant for her arrest. There was an outstanding animal at large ticket, which is given when someone violates a leash law. Many areas now consider cats running free illegal, and not only pertaining to dogs. So Andrea went down to the local police station to clear things up about their cat. The doors locked behind her when she went inside the station, and Andrea was informed she was under arrest.
The problem started when Andrea says a clerk and an alderman told her she wouldn’t have to go to court if she paid the fines. Apparently the information given Andrea was unreliable, and Andrea missed the court date because she was told she didn’t have to show up. She admits receiving the notice to appear, but disregarded it. The warrant the officer’s had come to serve was a “failure to appear,” meaning she had failed to show up for court, which automatically puts you on the bench warrant roster. Sometimes it takes awhile to be served, due to there being so many people out there committing small crimes that police don’t have the manpower to deliver warrants in a timely manner for minor offenses.
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Andrea was in jail for less than three hours, but she wants to warn others out there of how little it takes to get locked up these days. KSDK5 News spoke with the mayor of Wentzville, who admitted there are problems with cats being on the animal ordinance. He said the board of alderman will be discussing kinks in the system in the near future.
Meanwhile, Andrea now has a criminal record. If she’s never been in trouble with the law before, she can likely get it expunged by a circuit court judge. I wanted to do this article because so many cat lovers who reside outside the United States don’t realize some of the lame laws we have to put up with. It’s illegal to allow a cat outside unsupervised in many areas. Cat owners who live within city limits usually have more strict rules than those living in a country environment. I wanted to share Andrea’s story so no more cat ladies have to spend time in jail over an escaped cat. If you ever get a citation for animal at large, be sure you know what you’re required to do, and be sure that information comes from a dependable source.
I’m curious what the readers here think of this, especially those living outside the U.S.
This is a broken system. That lady was treated harshly by an unjust and arbitrary law. Her city should be ashamed. It’s another example showing that people should not trust that their animal services department is being run properly. Poor leadership has been demonstrated in that community; residents there should be outraged and get involved.
Enforcement of this law actually discourage people from being responsible and reclaiming lost pets, let alone visiting the shelter to volunteer or adopt. If this is happening, what else is going on there? So glad it made the news.
I study up on animal laws and animal services/sheltering. I’m involved in trying to create a community where are all necessary life-saving programs and services are in place. There are a growing number of communities we can look to as examples now. Many people are not even aware that they exist.
I believe domestic animals in our communities and in our care have limited rights, and do have the right to proper treatment. To me, good animal laws and not killing cats and dogs for population control is more about cities showing good leadership where they demonstrate animals are not disposible. I am an advocate for shelter reform, pet owners, taxpayers, and animals. All stakeholders bear some responsibility to help change things. Citizens deserve to be treated fairly and should receive excellent customer service when dealing with animal services or any agency.
Local animal control laws (ordinances in the USA and by-laws in Canada) vary widely. Many are based on recommendations from groups where public safety is supposedly the first priority. Many laws and practices are still based on the old dog catcher model which does not serve citizens or animals all that well.
An ineffective law is one that is not enforceable, or is not universally enforceable/enforced, and frequently does not accomplish what it intends. Some laws are designed more to generate revenue than to be effective, with some cities even agreeing publicly with that statement, using it as a reason why they won’t do away with certain laws. As mentioned elsewhere, bad laws make criminals out of ordinary law abiding citizens. Some animal laws exist for arbitrary reasons, where no one knows the true purpose or them or if they cause more harm than good.
The anti roaming laws were designed to help protect people and livestock from dogs at large. This type of law still makes sense for dogs. Implementation can be ineffective though.
Taking that law and applying it to cats is supposed to try and curb nuisance complaints, but it is really deadly for cats and costly for taxpayers. Some cities round up stray cats and take them to the pounds where the huge majority are killed. Some pounds do not follow their stray hold law and kill animals before it has expired. Common reclaim rates are 55 percent for dogs and only 4 percent for cats. Cats can end up dead before their owners even know they’re missing. There are many barriers that reduce reclaim rates and lead to more killing. (It’s not euthanasia unless an animal is irredeemably suffering.)
Many cities now also require cats to be licensed and wear tags, but compliance is usually very low. While the idea of putting ID on all owned cats and dogs is admirable, costs are usually too high in relation to benefits and services that license fees pay for*; it’s questionable and usually seen as a tax grab, another way to fine pet owners. It often leads to more shelter animals being killed and is proven ineffective for controlling the free-roaming unowned cat population.
Fixing the broken model.
I believe the solution is already proven many times over.
Those concerned need to get involved and join or create their local animal welfare committee, educate yourself about the progressive life-saving programs and services in these communities, get your city and shelter to commit to this mission to try copying the success of others.
Surveys show the public is already on board, ready to support you. They are taxpayers who expect and deserve modern and progressive services as well as good laws and good, accountable leadership to help put things in place.
I agree that “shelters absolutely could adopt their way out of killing, IF they really tried.” And, as this blog illustrates, many already are
Increasing adoptions is only one part of the comprehensive solution. Separating myth from fact allows people to focus on solutions, not rely on excuses that maintain the status quo,
*Calgary, Alberta is often pointed to as a model due to their much higher than average return to owner rate for stray pets. Their funding model has some very good parts and they have some progressive laws, but is not complete or comprehensive on it’s own.
Thank you, Christine for a very comprehensive and excellent comment. I agree with you. To an outsider like me, looking in, it seems that what is happening is reactive. The ad hoc creation of a mishmash of regulations and laws is ultimately down to a reaction to careless cat ownership. And it is almost impossible to enforce these laws accurately and fairly across-the-board so the better course of action is to put much more by way of resources into proactive measures to improve cat ownership. This would be long-term thinking. In fact every aspect of cat ownership all the way down to the euthanasia of unwanted cats should be looked at in a proactive sense. As you say it’s about a broken model and the model needs to be totally revamped root and branch starting at the grassroots namely highly irresponsible cat ownership. Nothing but highly responsible cat ownership should be acceptable and this includes respect for the cat, any type of cat while long-term changes are being made and then into the future indefinitely.
Michael, for someone to have “rights”, he or she needs to know the difference between right and wrong as a moral choice. Animals make intuitive or instinctive choices, not moral choices. What an animal does have is the right to be treated humanely in keeping with its species. That is what animal WELFARE is about. If your treatment of animals is deficient in some way (e.g., not enough shelter, food, veterinary care, even just personal attention), then you can and should improve that deficient treatment, but the animal’s right to humane treatment remains the same–that one right. You are trying to find degrees of animal rightism. All you need is to understand that animal rightism is a cult religion, whereas animal welfare is treating animals humanely.
Harvey Harrison is right. Animal rights cultists are not interested in animal welfare. What they ARE interested in is mind control–control of everyone’s mind, just like any other cult religion. Think Kool-Aid. Michael, what you see as the benevolent and caring end of animal rights is animal welfare. Most of us who are genuinely interested in animals do indeed promote respect and caring in species-specific ways for all animals. The animals lose out when animal rightists use them to promote their brand of Kool-Aid.
I think there are different types of animal rights people and the ones you talk about, the ones at the extreme end are difficult to deal with but a person who loves cats and animals and respects them could be called an animal rights activist in a very mild way because in this world where there’s lots of animal abuse. It depends what sort of animal rights person you are really. After all, a person concerned with animal rights simply want animals to have more rights and there’s nothing bad about that because they deserve and need them.
Hi Michael. You are missing the point. Just because some people and organizationals claim to be concerned with animal rights doesn’t mean they are truthfully concerned. You might as well say that Communist parties world-wide are concerned with equality and individual freedom just because that is what they spout as a means of garnering the support of millions of fools. These animal rights activists are not interested in animal welfare. You just have to examine their deeds and track record to see that they do anything but improve the lot of animals wild or domesticated. They ride on the backs of true animal lovers, use the same vocabulary, but have a mid-boggling array of stratagems to impose a quite different agenda. Far from what you suggested, they do not want to turn the clock back to before Homo Sapiens emerged. They want the opposite. they want to submerge us and animals in a morass of legislation which they supervise and get rich by. None of this would be possible except for the great mass of brainless naive citizens who provide these evil characters with a non-stop flow of donations. Without that money they could not influence lawmakers or run deceitful advertising campaigns, or operate facilities which are nothing better than slaughter houses. The one’s ultimately responsive are the average Joes and Janes.
Michael Broad: Animal rights is just a sobriquet for a cult movement whose objective is to destroy all relationships between humans and animals. If achieving that objective takes destroying many animals, that is acceptable to the so-called animal rights activists. The reason for wrecking all human/animal bonds is that humans are so mean to animals, they don’t deserve to have animals, not even to look at at a distance. If it is not possible to destroy all animals, then the next best thing is to spay or castrate all of them, so they will at least die out in one generation. Alternatively, it would accomplish the same worthy objective if all humans were spayed or castrated.
…..No, I’m not making this up. I am not kidding. This is the boilerplate distributed and promoted by Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA, that I first heard at least 35 years ago. IOW, animals really don’t have any rights, except one–to be left alone by humans.
Hi Roberta, Thanks for commenting. I see what you mean. What you mean is that hard-core animal-rights activists want to let animals, all animals live naturally and to be distanced from humans. In other words to turn the clock back to the way the world was before or immediately after homo sapiens stepped foot on the planet. I understand that. However, there is a wide range of animal rights people and philosophies. At one end you have the extreme, the sort of people you are referring to and at the other end you have people like myself who simply want everybody to respect animals and treat them properly and decently. So, animal rights includes people who simply want better welfare for all animals and for me in particular the domestic cat. Any decent person should want that.
Accordingly, I do not think you can quote the extreme end of animal rights activism as an example of animal rights as a whole. It is not representative of the whole.
The problem in America is the animal rights movement which has hundreds of millions of dollars and uses our legislative process to get their bills passed and laws passed that attack our use of animals on every level. What is not fully understood is that the REAL agenda of the animals rights activists is to abolish the human/animal interaction completely. The mindset is so sick that they believe it is better for animals to die than be in the captivity of man. Groups like the Humane Society of the United States have even infiltrated our schools, and are indoctrinating our children into a VEGAN way of life. They attack our agriculture, driving the price of food up. They attack the pet owner and breeder with laws and regulations, illegal seizure…oh it is quite despicable the tactics they use. They are laying a legal framework and a psychological belief system that can only end up with the extinction of untold numbers of species and breeds. If you doubt me, look at ALL the ISSUES AGAINST Horses, from wild horses in the west being rounded up and sent to slaughter, to carriage horses in NYC, to yes, even horse racing….go on, put those strings into your search engine, find out the real problems in america are that the people are being eaten alive by special interests that are ONLY in it for money!! They care very little about what is best for animals. If every domestic animal was spayed or neutered… how long till there are no more pets? And eventually it will affect the whole world.
Lauri, what you appear to be saying is that animal rights people are working against animal rights. I don’t understand that. You say that horses were rounded up and slaughtered. How can that benefit animal rights? Could you could explain to me why the abolishment of the human/animal interaction is on the agenda of animal rights activists? Sorry if I sound stupid but all these things seem to work against animal rights not for them. Thankfully, by the way-much appreciated.
Absolutely crazy, the law gone mad. Maybe I can just about understand the “leash law” being applied to dogs, that makes sense but as Harvey pointed out it’s madness to expect anyone to never, ever, ever let their cat out by mistake and hardly a serious crime. I feel so sorry for cats in situations like that, never to feel the sun on their backs or the grass under their paws.
I wonder how a person is supposed to be able to keep a cat indoors whilst going about all the normal house-hold chores which entail going in and out the house numerous times a day, often carrying things, It means freedom of movement is restricted and controlled virtually turning your house into a prison. Cats can escape given only half a second of an opportunity and will not come back until they are ready. These laws are imposing conditions that are impossible to comply with. For the people who pass this legislation that doesn’t matter. The important thing for them is to harass and intimidate the general population.
It’s miserable for cats and people both.
Too many people messing up. If the human population of America was halved there’d be no problem with cats. 😉 The trouble is the world would have to do the same thing. The world works on economic growth and captitalism which works against all animals wild and domestic and it works against the average man and woman but supports people with money.
Our cats nap on the cat trees during the day and play at night. So most of them are off the floor for cleaning and that’s a job in itself. The ones who enjoy the floor are placed in the feeding cages and eat during sweeping and mopping.
Many shelter have the adopter sign an agreement the cat must live inside. They have the right to visit and take the cat if its outside.
This shelter condition (to keep adopted cats inside) indicates the different culture between Americans and Brits. We have the same language but we are quite different.
In the Middle East, Cyprus, Turkey, and most countries of the world 99% of cats live full time outside. They have lived that way since long before villages , towns, and houses were built, the same as birds, wild animals, trees, and butterflies. To enforce indoors living on these creatures is hardly something to be protected by laws, but rather a case for the opposite can be made. This just another example of how the USA is rapidly becoming a lunatic asylum.
The actions of the authorities could be seen as detrimental to the health and well being of Andrea’s children as well as the cat involved since she was thus prevented from protecting and caring for them whilst undergoing this highly questionable arbitrary arrest based on crass insane laws. I suggest the authorities and police should be prosecuted for child and animal cruelty.
I like the point that you make about cats in Cyprus and Turkey etc. live as community cats. That is the natural way for the domestic cat to live. It is the way the domestic cat lived when it was first domesticated. It is probably the best way for a domestic cat to live. The gradual increase on pressure in America to keep cats inside is a gradual drift away from naturalness and you wonder where it is going to lead to. Ultimately, it is about attitude: the differences in attitude of the people of America compared to the people of Europe and in the area where you live. There almost seems to be a sliding scale.
Wentzville’s on I-70?
Yes, the main road from St. Louis! I am an Englishman.
This is really a classic case of the failure of leash laws or laws concerning animals and shows how indiscriminate they can be because the person arrested is clearly not a criminal. She is the last person who should be arrested and while they are arresting her dozens of genuine criminals are walking around the neighbourhood.
It’s a bit of a cock up really and a series of mistakes built upon a rather indiscriminately applied bit of legislation. Is it true that in America there is a very gradual tightening up of the freedoms of cat owners? It seems to me that at a local level there are more and more laws which prevent cats going outside. I might be wrong but that’s the impression I get.
I wonder whether it is actually possible to effectively enforce laws which prevent cats going outside the home unsupervised. It seems very complicated to do this.
However, I can understand the reasoning behind the introduction of these new laws that prevent cats going outside unsupervised. It is just that cats tend to escape from the home for all kinds of reasons and if that happens the police have to do something about it but do they have the time and the motivation to do it because this is such a low-level crime.
It couldn’t be more low-level and innocuous. In fact a domestic cat being outside unsupervised, logically, is not a crime whereas by contrast a person hitting another person without justification is obviously a crime, at a commonsense level.
I think this is the underlying problem with animal laws that require people to supervise their cat outside. Failure to do so is not an obvious crime because nobody is being hurt and nobody is suffering loss just because the cat is outside unsupervised. I wonder whether these laws will survive.
I so agree!!
Pleased that you agree.