The plight of the homeless pet

We need to give some equal time to cats in this space so here’s the story of Nighty, the black cat owned by Corey Jacob, who lives out of a van, the Rochester Post Bulletin writes today.

Nighty was a service animal who alerted Jacob whenever he was about to have an episode. Then the federal rules changed and ruled that a cat can’t be a service animal, a rule that was imposed without any discussion with cats who know better.

“He still has his uses. I can’t get rid of him for my own well-being,” Jacob tells the PB. “He’s not a pet. He doesn’t behave like one either.”

And why would he get rid of him? The cat once realized Jacob had stopped breathing a time or two and brought him around. Good cat.

Jacob is homeless and there are enough people who just want him to shoo, so they make his life miserable by whatever means necessary. If he parks his van too long in one place, they call the cops. If he leaves Nighty in the van (there are fans to cool the van when it’s not running), they call the cops.

The cat has become the excuse the various neighbors need to roust Jacob.

The police seem sympathetic. But they’re still regular visitors because of the law about animals in vehicles.

The Post Bulletin reviewed seven police reports related to Jacob and his van dating from April 4 to July 30 — all but one were in July and four are related to his cat, Nighty. According to the reports, no parking violations or tickets were issued in that time.

Sgt. Chad Blanchette said enforcing the state statute is left to the officer’s discretion.

“The temperature has to be appropriate to the animal. The animal can’t be in distress,” Blanchette said. “Even if they live in their vehicle, it is still a motor vehicle so the statute applies still, in my opinion.”

Blanchette said animal control officers take into account several factors including the temperature outside and how the animal looks when observed.

“We don’t want to take anyone’s animal away, as long as they are able to take care of their animal, we want to leave it with them as long as they can adequately care for them,” he said.

Blanchette was familiar with Jacob’s interaction with animal control, as well as parking enforcement, and said when calls come in they have to investigate.

Jacob tells the PB he’s doing the best he can for Nighty. But he’s homeless.

Michele Quandt, the director of Camp Companion, a pet adoption group, said the organization doesn’t have a lot of resources to help homeless pet owners. One thing they’ve done in the past is place animals whose owners are homeless or deployed overseas into foster homes, but Quandt acknowledges that organization doesn’t have a ton of open foster homes.

“If there is no forward movement to get themselves into appropriate housing, then that animal is being put in a difficult situation,” Quandt said. “For us, it’s a two-way thing. We are really an animal advocacy group. We will try to assist human beings in whatever way we an but our program is here for animals. It’s a tough one.”

  • Jacob’s plight is living proof that small-town Babbitts are alive and well in Rochester as they are most everywhere else, passing judgement and tut-tutting about neighborhood standards and how awful it is that some people aren’t virtuous and industrious enough to rise above their poverty.

    • lindblomeagles

      More to your point Patrick, the Babbitts don’t live far from Farm Country, where (wait for it) lots of stray cats show up to chase mice out of barns and feedlots. Instead of focusing on Jacob’s cat, how bout finding a way to elevate Jacob and his cat from homelessness.

      • Exactly right. Focusing on moving the “problem” out of sight is really the same as doing nothing.

  • AmiSchwab

    worry about the cat but not the man. the cat will be be distressed if you bother his can opener.

  • RBHolb

    Under the Fair Housing Act, Mr. Jacob probably would have the right to have his cat live with him even if a landlord or association had a “no pets” policy. Nighty is an assistance animal (not a service animal), and under the laws against housing discrimination based on disability, Mr. Jacob should be allowed to have Nighty live with him.

    Of course, Mr. Jacob is a homeless guy living in a van. How dare he violate the neighbors’ aesthetic sensibilities?