I thought online petitions were no more effective than peeing on a forest fire. I was wrong. At least in this case. The online petition has proved to be a powerful tool to overturn the declaration of the Chief Executive of Invercargill City Council to trap and kill cats.
Residents of Invercargill, New Zealand, are only allowed to keep 3 cats each under a bylaw. A woman living in the city had almost 40 cats. The chief executive of the city council, Richard King, promoted and encouraged the public to trap neighbourhood cats and kill them on the understanding that some of these 40 or so cats living with this woman (and other similar people) might swarm over the city and cause a nuisance.
The council even went so far as to agree to provide the traps. Well, the cat lovers and the sensible people of Invercargill got together and led by Paula Jones set up a petition on the Care2.com website.
The intention of the petition was to stop the city council suggesting that people can trap and kill cats willy-nilly and reverse their decision. Clearly a very sensible suggestion compared to an idiotic suggestion by the City Council.
After all, the city council was recommending that people trap any cat. Many of them would be outdoor domestic cats. These cats have owners. Killing a cat belonging to a person is criminal damage and a crime.
Anyway, the point of this your post is this: Paula Jones’s petition achieved almost 20,000 signatures. It was presented to the city council as I understand it on April 1, 2014.
A day after the petition was delivered to the council, the chief executive and the city council retracted their initial statement about trapping and killing cats and also made an apology. The chief executive admitted that he had made an error of judgement. I don’t think he meant it but at least he said it.
The council had never seen a petition of that size before. There must have been quite taken aback by the outrage demonstrated by the city’s citizens.
In addition to the highly effective petition organised by Paula Jones social media played its part as well and many people rallied around to try and help the woman who had the 37 cats.
Not only does this story indicate to me that an online petition can be effective, it also indicates to me that people in power, the politicians, can often have an opinion that is divorced not only from reality but also from the opinion of the general population of people who they should be serving as public servants.
The story also tells me that there’s a lot of good in the people of Invercargill New Zealand and that there are many decent people who like cats in that city.