Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 29, 2013

Cats, pit bulls, cicadas and a roaming bear highlight animal headlines

Animals are a lot smarter than we often give them credit for. I’ll admit the cat is finding creative new ways to get my attention when he decides it is time to eat.

I have to get up early each morning to prepare for work, and the cat is keenly aware of this fact. So he expects his breakfast — bright and early — each morning, and normally before I can eat, shower or fight with putting on a necktie. Sometimes I think he is stalking me. Because the minute I pull the shades open on the door downstairs, or click the lock open, he comes running. He must have good hearing. Or it could simply be the fact that he is sleeping on the deck right next to the bedroom upstairs.

But weekends are a different story. I don’t have to get up bright and early for work on most Saturdays or Sundays, so the alarm clock is often adjusted accordingly. The cat doesn’t understand this — as I am supposed to be up and feeding him by 7 a.m. each morning in his mind. So he sits and stairs at me through the bedroom window when I’m sleeping past 7 a.m. When I do finally open my eyes, and look toward the window, he’s the first thing I see peering back at me. He’s a big, relatively fat cat, so it’s hard not to miss him. He doesn’t understand why I’m still in bed. So I’m left with two options — get out of bed and feed him or try to sleep with him sitting right in front of the window staring at me.

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Animals have certainly been in the news a lot as of late. A giant black bear roaming through neighborhoods in Bluefield, Va. A controversial ban on pit bulls in Bluefield. And now a garbage collector bitten by a dog in Bluefield — and this coming on the heels of an animal control officer also being bitten by a dog. And, of course, you also have the whole looming East Coast cicada invasion to consider as well — even though West Virginia may be spared this summer from those noisy suckers.

The whole pit bull situation in Bluefield was handled pretty poorly. But it certainly got people talking. Oddly enough, I was waiting in line at a store in Bluefield, Va., last week when the woman in front of me asked the store cashier what he thought of Bluefield’s ban on pit bulls. I refrained from engaging in the discussion myself, and wondered if the woman thought the ban also included Bluefield, Va., since we were both shopping at a store on the Virginia side of the state line.

Most people seem to agree that what city leaders in Bluefield needed to do was simply enforce their existing 2008 ordinance. It, too, required a registration of pit bulls with an associated penalty for those who failed to register their animals. The original 2008 ordinance also required pit bulls and wolf hybrids to be kept indoors or in a locked, enclosed pen or kennel with a secured top attached to all sides. And it stated that these dogs had to be muzzled, or placed and on a secure leash, when taken out of their home. Sadly, it was never enforced — or at least not until the city started talking about the controversial ban. At that point, more than 100 pit bulls were registered, and the old 2008 ordinance was suddenly working. Why the city board members felt they still needed to pass the controversial ban after so many dogs were properly registered is perplexing. Will this controversy come back to bite the incumbent board members during the June 4 election?

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Also perplexing is the refusal — at least to date — of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to send a bear specialist to Bluefield, Va., to assist with the capture of that big black bear that continues to make unwanted visits to neighborhoods in the town.

We were told last week by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries that the agency would not come in and take action until the bear is ranked as a category one threat. And a category one bear is apparently a bear that is already in a house, or has wandered into a place of business with revolving doors. But at that point, wouldn’t it be a little too late to catch the bear before someone get hurts? A bear is a bear. Using a classification system that sounds more like a hurricane is kind of odd.

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So far cats don’t seem to be causing a lot of trouble in the region — or at least no new ordinances have been proposed as of late to keep the free-spirited, and free-roaming, felines in check. But in light of the breed-specific ban in Bluefield, I guess anything is possible. The cat back home isn’t really that big of a problem — despite the whole window stalking thing. He just wants to eat, and then he’s happy and content until it is time for the next meal.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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