Modernizing Canada’s Animal Protection Laws

Canada’s animal protection laws are horribly outdated – they were first introduced in 1892 but no significant updates to the law have been made since 1954. Many people will be surprised to learn that among developed countries, we have some of the worst animal protection laws.

Attempts to change the law have been made in the past but, they have always been met with resistance from the public, industry and even members of the government. This has resulted in the defeat of any previous Bills. Recently a new private members Bill was introduced by Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith,  called Bill C-246, the Modernizing Animal Protection Act. If it is passed it will essentially become the first ever change to Canada’s animal protection laws in over a century.

While it is no surprise that this Bill is again meeting with opposition from hunters, sport fisherman, the fur industry and agriculture, it was deeply disappointing and shocking to know that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked his cabinet to vote against Bill C-246. Yes, the Prime Minister of Canada wants to stop this bill from being passed. This cannot happen – all Canadians must speak up and tell our government that it is unacceptable to further delay passing laws that would protect animals.

Among other thing Bill C-246 would do 4 things
  • Ban the import of shark fins
  • Close loopholes and strengthen the Criminal Code’s animal protection provisions; and
  • Ban the sale of cat and dog fur within Canada and require labeling of source fur
  • Update the definition of bestiality to include all sexual acts between humans and animals (the current legal definition, as decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 9, 2016, must include penetration)

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How to help

For Canadians visit Animal Cruelty Legislation Advocates Canada

  • Please contact your MP  and ask them to support BIll C-246, you can find your MP by entering your postal code here
  • Write them a letter, or use this form letter, call, email  or ask for an in person meeting
  • Take the 1 minute survey here to ask PM Justin Trudeau that he must support Bill C-246 (Modernizing Animal Protections Act) and ask his cabinet to do so as well
  • Considering supporting Animal Alliance of Canada’s work to help pass this Bill

Petitions that anyone can sign:

For more information on Bill C-246 please visit:

Finally, please share this whether you live in Canada or elsewhere, we need to let the Canadian government know that the world is watching and that people everywhere support Modernizing Canada’s Animal Protection Act Bill C-246.

Rescue and Reunion

Animal rescue teams have been hard at work since the Fort McMurray fires broke over a week ago and some wonderful progress has been made in rescuing and reuniting pets with their owners. There were some reports that rescue groups had initially been blocked from entering the city by police causing a concern that pets would not be found in time. Fortunately the situation was rectified and soon the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo took the lead on coordinating all pet rescue in the area.

Both the RCMP and first responders were helping out by giving food and water to animals that they came across and transporting them out to animal control facilities when possible.

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A RCMP officers offers food to a cat in Fort McMurray, Alberta on Friday May 6, 2016. RCMP will do what they can to assist pets they may come across in carrying out search and rescue operations. Image calgaryherald.com

To date a multitude of officials, rescue groups, shelters, veterinarians and volunteers have worked tirelessly together to locate, health check, provide care for and return animals to their owners. Hundreds of animals are being housed by the City of Edmonton Animal Care and Control or fostered until they can be returned to their families.

One happy and tearful reunion via Rescued, Reunited, and Unclaimed Pets Of Fort Mac

 

Today the Alberta SPCA reports that the official count from the Fort McMurray People and Animal Reunion Centre in Edmonton is:

  • 955 animals checked in and health-checked
  • 486 animals reunited with their owners
  • 206 animals scheduled for reunions

One cat named Tux, christened the ‘Miracle Stove Cat’, survived in a house that burnt to the ground. Temperatures reached a thousand degrees, but Tux managed to survive by crawling into the stove. They think the glass in the stove broke from the intensity of the fire and he crawled in to hide, the stove fell over and Tux remained trapped until firefighters found him. Another cat named Sky also survived possibly by escaping from an open door, however two other cats from the same household are still reported missing.

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Firefighter Alex Jackson after saving ‘Stove Cat’ and bandaging his paws. Image Alberta SPCA

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Sky the cat rescued along with Tux the Stove Cat

One man who stayed behind in Fort McMurray is being called a hero after he took care of dogs, cats and rabbits that he came across, or that people on Facebook had asked him to check on. In an interview Lee Ellis tells CBC Radio that he visited about 20 houses per day for four days, helping about 80 pets. He went around door to door when the requests started coming in via Facebook and says that the animals were starved not just for food but also for attention. He avoided detection by riding around on a bike for the first three days, then on the fourth day while using a vehicle he was caught by the RCMP and escorted out. Lee says that he did manage to rescue a few more animals before leaving for good the following day.

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Lee Ellis with one of the many cats in Fort McMurray that he fed while remaining in the city after it had been evacuated. (Facebook.com/lee.ellis.980) via CBC.ca

Besides cats and dogs other animals like horses, chickens and even a pig named Marshall have been rescued. Michelle Coutu told CBC News that there was no advance notice of the evacuation and the sight of the flames sent her family scrambling. While she was able to cram her daughter, her grandson and her three dogs into the back of her truck, there was no room for the pig. “All I could do is let Marshall out of his pen and put some food down for him and pray for the best.”

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Marshall the “tough little” beer-loving pig – Image – CBC

Michelle reported Marshall missing and social media did the rest. The RCMP found him alive and tweeted a picture of an officer feeding the lucky pig a watermelon. The very resilient Marshall is now staying with friends and animal control until he can be reunited with his family.

While it could be weeks before residents are allowed to start returning home, for some being reunited with their animal companion is an important first step in the healing process.

Wildfires

By now Fort McMurray Alberta, and news of the massive wildfires that have swept through and consumed an entire city, has made the headlines. It is one of the most frightening and disturbing disasters with the largest displacement of people, that many including myself have ever seen in Canada.

The wildfires engulfed Fort McMurray in what can only be compared to as a hellish inferno. Images are surreal, the stuff made of nightmares and, as of today there appears no relief in sight. The fires have already ravaged more than 85,000 hectares of land, or to put it in perspective – areas large enough to consume the city of Manhattan, a few times over, and wipe out central London. It was reported that without rain and perhaps a miracle, the fire will continue to grow as it moves south. Help is coming in from all over to fight it, but fire crews are expected to have a very long, dangerous and seemingly futile battle ahead.

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A Mountie surveys the damage on a street in Fort McMurray Image – National Post

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Image taken by Sara MacKinnon of Westville as she fled Fort McMurray – MetroNews.ca

Some 80,000 plus residents have been displaced and miraculously no loss of human life has been reported to date, however these people have literally lost everything forced to leave with little to no possessions, the clothes on their backs, and, in many cases without their beloved pets. Thousands of pets have been reported to be stranded and understandably people are desperate to get them out.

These are just some of the missing pets, the majority cats, all from the Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance Facebook page. Their page is updated daily.

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I can wholeheartedly empathize with those who were forced to abandon their beloved animals. The feeling of utter helplessness of not being able to take them with you and not knowing when you will be able to get to them, wondering if they are alive or have enough food/water to last until they are rescued. While some people were fortunate and had time to get their pets, many were forced to leave while at work or, had no chance of returning for them. In any type of disaster whether it’s man-made or natural, animals are often the forgotten victims and the last to receive assistance if any. The reality in most scenarios like this is local authorities have little to no plans in place to help stranded pets and, for pet owners and rescue groups this is distressing and frustrating.

One group of small volunteers decided to ignore the evacuation order and went in to try to save as many pets as they could. Wyatt Colquhoun-Rivard and his group, members of Western Canadian Powerstrokes, a group of “truck enthusiasts who do charity work” got tired of waiting and worked as quickly as they could, rescuing about a dozen animals, before the police shut them down. In one apartment they busted down a door to retrieve two terrified cats “After we broke the door down there was hair everywhere,” he said. “You could tell the cats were scared, and they just didn’t know what to do. It was a total apocalypse area.”

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Image CBC.ca

The pets and animals who were lucky enough to make it out are getting help from the many animal rescue groups across Alberta, but there is little these groups can do right now for those left behind. “At this point there is no one who is going into the homes because it hasn’t been declared safe yet,” said R.J. Bailot with the Alberta Spay Neuter Task Force — the Calgary organization coordinating the relief effort. Many people, businesses, shelters, rescue groups and pet food companies have offered help and are doing whatever they can with those they can. Some flights evacuating people welcomed pets on board to fly with their families including Canadian North Airlines who tweeted this photo of Meow Meow the cat. After one of the Fort McMurray evacuees went into labour Canadian North said that their flight team would be looking after Meow Meow for the time being.

 

In the meantime volunteers on the ground are on standby waiting for the go ahead to go in to get the pets left behind. Evacuees forced to leave their animals behind in their homes in Fort McMurray are asked to fill out an animal assistance request form through the Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance Community on Facebook. This page was created as a resource to help those affected by the fire to place their animals in short-term care.

Alberta, Fort McMurray, Wildfires, Pet rescue, climate change, cat rescue, animal rescue, Canada, Natural disasters, Fort McMurray Animal Rescue, cats, dogs, Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance “If you are in need of assistance please call 780-762-3636 or fill out this form and we will attempt to get the information to local authorities for rescue. Those who have their animals, we are able to place animals in temporary care in numerous facilities and homes across the province and supplies in almost every major city.”

Another request form has been included for those forced to abandon a pet during the evacuation the Fort McMurray area. This form can be found HERE where you can provide Pet Rescue details to allow a field team to respond. Home entry will be facilitated by a locksmith as a last resort.

A lost and found Pet Map was also created where people can locate lost or found animals this covers the many cats, dogs, bunnies and even livestock. The majority of stranded pets are cats, which by their nature are usually difficult to rescue due to the fact that they will often hide and remain out of sight.

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How to help

If you have family or friends in or near Fort McMurray please share this information. There may be someone out there who has lost a pet or simply isn’t aware of how to connect to rescue groups or get help.

Temporary homes for displaced animals are also in desperate need at this time, if you are in a position to provide housing for cats, dogs, or livestock please let any of the these rescue groups listed here know, and they will set it up or point you in the right direction.

If you are able to help out monetarily, outside of the Red Cross, donations specifically for animals are being collected by:

As this situation continues to develop, there will no doubt be tragedy and not every animal will make it out, the though of this is literally breaks my heart for the precious lives lost and for their humans who will have lost a beloved companion. I have to hope that there are still many more amazing rescue stories waiting to be told and reunions to be made.

My thoughts are with all those animals who have already perished, those still waiting for rescue and all people devastated by the wildfires.

A good reminder is to be prepared as best we can, that includes having a pet emergency preparedness kit ready, and in cases were you can’t get to pets to evacuate them, information and pet photo’s on hand to provide to rescue groups. Ensuring your pet is also licensed, microchipped or tattooed, and your contact information is current will help get your pet home should you be separated!

Lucky Number Six

When a black and white stray cat turned up in a southwest Edmonton neighborhood, concerned residents quickly called the local cat rescue and TNR group Little Cats Lost. Pauly, as he would be later named, was a stray cat with a very unique feature.

Lucky number six

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Pauly the six-legged cat

Pauly, who was estimated to be about seven years old, was discovered to have six legs, two of which were attached to his sternum. Little Cats Lost realized that he would need them removed and ran a fundraising campaign to pay for his surgery at Oxford Animal Hospital where he would be treated. The fundraiser, which raised nearly $4,500, more than double its $2,000 goal, covered the costs of two surgeries for Pauly and was helped by a donation from Edmonton’s International Cat Festival.

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Image – Pauly’s Journey Facebook

Dr. Tamer Mahmoud, owner and veterinarian of the clinic, examined Pauly and said his condition was very rare and that there were likely two kittens in utero, and Pauly had absorbed the other one.

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The surgery  lasted about 90 minutes and was performed by veterinarian Ignacio Tan. -Image  Edmonton Journal

Besides his extra legs Pauly also had hip dysplasia and what looked to be an extra kidney. The ‘kidney’ actually turned out to be another pair of testicles. Dr. Ignacio Tan did a lot of research and consulted specialists prior to performing the straightforward procedure which was made easier due to the fact the legs weren’t connected to other organs.

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Pauly’s xray – Image Pauly’s Journey on Facebook

Video of Pauly can be seen here

Pauly underwent the surgery at the end of August and is currently in a foster home where he is reported to be making progress and taking it easy. He has gone through quit an ordeal living that long with his impairment and being abandoned on the streets. Once he is fully recovered and rehabilitated he will be ready for adoption.

For more on Pauly, and to check out his progress, be sure to head over to Pauly’s Journey on Facebook.

When Mountain Lions Come To Town

On May 6 in Omaha Nebraska, a Mountain Lion was spotted curled up beside an office complex. The big cat was seen sleeping next to an outside wall tucked in behind shrubbery, oblivious to what would come next. Even though the cat had suffered from a broken leg he showed no signs of aggression as he peacefully rested. Pictures taken from that day show a non-threatening big cat curiously looking up as people, safely locked inside the building, snapped his picture.

Omaha Police were contacted and a “public safety emergency” was called. They contacted both The Nebraska Humane Society and the Game and Parks Commission, who after assessing the situation together decided tranquilizers were not an option and that they had no alternative but to shoot and kill the sleeping cat.

“Officers placed themselves between the mountain lion and the public then attempted to humanely euthanize the mountain lion. After the first shots were fired, the mountain lion rose up and officers fired until they were certain the animal posed no further threat to public safety and to end its suffering.” 

Video from a media report surfaced and what you see is disturbing and heartbreaking and far from humane euthanasia. You never actually see the Mountain Lion who is behind the low wall, but what you do see are officers firing shots over and over. The video is about a minute long, which is the same length of time it took for them to kill the big cat. Rounds of bullets are fired, then silence as the injured and terrified cat tries in vain to stand and escape it’s torment. Then another set of bullets, followed by silence, then bullets… Witnesses report the injured cat tried to rise a few times in what could only be imagined a desperate attempt to flee it’s persecutors. By the time it was all over the Mountain Lion had been shot over 15 times.

Ultimately the shoot first ask questions later policy, stems from Nebraska’s outdated Mountain Lion Response Plan that was established after a 2003 incident in Omaha where a Mountain Lion was shot, then tranquilized and transported to a zoo. However lack of enough space on public lands and fear of them moving onto private property has prompted Nebraska to maintain a policy of not releasing Mountain Lions back into the wild.

“Decision makers must find a way to integrate time, knowledge, and heightened awareness into policy if man’s broken relationship with the wild is to be healed.” Cougar Fund – Image – Animalia-life

Responses from both The Cougar Fund and Mountain Lion Foundation (MLF) were issued condemning the killing. Fear and outdated policies clearly do not make good companions and only fuel the myth that Mountain Lions are simply nothing more than bloodthirsty killers, who are out to get humans.

Claiming that the children (who were safely inside the building) were at risk, police officers proceeded to shoot a barrage of bullets and kill the non-aggressive animal…To a gullible, trusting public it sounds as if a valiant knight, in the form of the Omaha Police Department, rode up on their white charger and rescued a crowd of children from the clutches of certain death. Too bad that scenario does not take into account any of the facts. First, the mountain lion, despite lounging next to a building full of children, showed no sign of aggression. In fact it appeared to witnesses to be sleeping when the police showed up. “ – MLF

The release from the Cougar Fund mirrored the same sentiment  “ the lion died by a cruel and unacceptable method, the videos are excruciating for us to see and hear and it is almost unbearable to imagine how much this lion suffered: not because of the protocol to kill cougars in urban areas; not because of an imminent threat to the sadly, already abused children present in Project Harmony; not because the Humane Society was unable to find a trajectory for their tranquilizers; but because fear prevented the decision makers from taking the time to carefully assess the level of threat and from their decision to use unsophisticated weaponry to kill the lion.

Susan Bass of Big Cat Rescue tells The Dodoeven injured, the mountain lion could have been saved if officials had wanted to. He could have been returned to the wild, where bones often heal on their own, she said. And while treating wild animals is difficult, BCR is currently caring for one mountain lion who had two injured legs.

So many things are wrong with what happened in Nebraska and if officials had truly exhausted all possibilities of tranquilizing and relocating the cat, why did they not bring in a trained professional to do the job quickly rather than prolonging it’s suffering by shooting the animal over a dozen times? Many people are greatly angered over this incident and rightfully so, I felt and still feel that anger when I think about it.  Sadly however this not an isolated incident. When Mountain Lions come to town, they generally do not get a warm welcome.

I recall a similar event that occurred last September in Canada when Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers shot and killed a Mountain Lion outside of the South Calgary Health campus for “public safety” reasons. Witnesses in this case had also reported that the cat was just “snoozing in the grass”.

Cougar killed in Calgary April 2014.CBC

Canada this goes on in our backyard to we are not immune, what happened in Nebraska has happened here. Mountain Lion shot in Calgary – Image – CBC News

The scenario in Calgary is disturbingly similar to that of Nebraska and differs only in that there is video of the animal being shot. It was recorded by someone inside the building that day and is truly shocking, at the time it made me cry. It is a terrible act that needs to be acknowledged if we are to address how we live with and treat wildlife like Mountain Lions. Ensuring our wildlife agencies are prepared to handle situations like this without resorting to simply killing an animal is vital.

Please be aware this video is graphic and disturbing

Like Nebraska, the killing drew criticism from city residents and animal lovers, however a review later cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. After the shooting someone marked the spot where the cat was killed with a cross, then later with flowers.

Mountain Lions everywhere face a multitude of problems including habitat loss and fragmentation; hunting by farmers protecting their livestock; sport hunting; vehicular deaths; and genetic inbreeding. Death by willful ignorance on our part, shouldn’t be on the list.

Finally I have to address the elephant in the room. It had been practically screaming at me the whole time I followed this story, how could I see it and not the officials in Nebraska? It had to do with Los Angeles and P-22. After the Mountain Lion had taken up residence in the crawl space of a house in a highly populated area, local wildlife officials worked to get him safely out without resorting to lethal methods. He wasn’t harmed and neither were any humans.

How to help mountain lions

Image - Wikipedia

“The bottom line is that some Nebraskan decision makers have let unrealistic fear guide their policies decisions. By hiding behind the excuse of public safety they can act as if they did something noble, and do not have to admit that they might be wrong. It’s time to pull the blind from the eyes of the public and for them to demand accountability – not excuses – for these so-called acts of public safety from those in authority.” – Mountain Lion Foundation

Educate yourself and others. Both MLF and The Cougar Fund offer numerous resources so you can get properly informed on the facts, these organizations are both doing great work and are willing to help you, help Mountain Lions.

Get involved where you live by finding out who the policy makers are and politely and respectfully ask them to protect these big cats by adopting up-to-date policies that will enable them to better handle situations like what happened in Nebraska.

Whenever I read about these tragic events I lose faith in my species, more and more I believe it’s the wildlife that needs protection from us and not the other way around. Changing long-held beliefs and busting myths surrounding predators like Mountain Lions is not going to be easy, but it’s something we need to do before they disappear from the landscape for good.

For more on North America’s Lion, continue to watch this space.    

Little Cat vs Big Mine

When a photograph of a lone male Ocelot was snapped south of Tucson Arizona, in the Santa Rita Mountains last year it was cause for celebration and controversy. It turns out that this protected and endangered wildcat was photographed in an area where a Canadian based mining company had planned to build the US 3rd largest open-pit copper mine.

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The male ocelot, photographed on May 14, is the fifth to be documented in Arizona over the past five years.Source Tuscon.com

The Ocelot was photographed twice in 2014 with a remote-sensor camera operated by the University of Arizona, the same camera that had also taken pictures of an adult male Jaguar near the mine site.

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The Santa Rita jaguar…the only known jaguar in the US roams the Santa Rita mountains, a large portion of which would be destroyed by the Rosemont Copper project.Source Rosemont Mine Truth

The discovery of the Ocelot in April prompted the US Fish and Wildlife Service to reexamine its 2013 biological opinion that the Rosemont Copper mine would not unduly harm habitat for endangered species in the area, including the only known Jaguar in the USsource LA Times

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Conservationists fear a proposed copper mine would destroy important habitat for this endangered ocelot, jaguar in southern Arizona. (US Fish and Wildlife Service / University of Arizona) – Source LA Times

In the article published by the LA Times conservationists led by the Center for Biological Diversity based in Tucson said they have their minds made up. “The science is clear,” said Randy Serraglio, a spokesman for the center. “The Rosemont mine cannot coexist with Jaguars, Ocelots and other endangered wildlife whose survival is on the line. Beyond that, we may be witnessing the results of the good work the USFWS has done by making it illegal to kill jaguars and Ocelots,” he said. “Why would we want to turn our backs on that?”

A final decision has not been made, but the Rosemont copper mine faces obvious opposition for the devastating impacts it would have on wildlife, the water, air and the economy. A Facebook community called Rosemont Mine Truth was established and aims to provide the facts, source documents and truth behind this project.

Only time will tell if this Ocelot will be able to help put a stop to the Rosemont mine project and in a story of little cat vs big mine, I know exactly who I’m rooting for.

Joe The Cat

Meet Joe, a very handsome and special boy.

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Joe at Christmas time source the Sarnia Observer

Joe is by definition a true survivor, some might even call him a miracle cat. In February of 2014 he was found by the side of the road in Sarnia Ontario, where he had been left for dead, he had been shot in the head 17 times with a pellet gun. A good Samaritan saw Joe, picked him up and brought him to the The Sarnia and District Humane Society where he was later transferred to the Blue Cross Animal Hospital to receive treatment.

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Joe’s x-ray after the shooting shows the pellets lodged in his head – source CBC news

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Joe got lots of love while recovering – source CTV News

Joe, who underwent multiple surgeries, lost an eye but had a good overall recovery from his wounds thanks to the animal organizations involved. People in the community and from around the world came to his support raising $33,000 for the Sarnia and District Humane Society, more than enough to cover Joe’s medical care. The remaining donations will be used to pay medical bills for other rescue animals through the shelters Wanda’s Wish fund. Joe’s case has also helped bring much-needed attention to the common and horrible crime of animal abuse. His story has galvanized a community to speak out for stronger penalties and tougher animal cruelty laws in Canada, which most can agree are currently way to lenient.

Joe went to a foster family last spring to recover and has since been reported to be doing very well, he has even been entered in Modern Cat Magazines online contest.

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Vote for Joe the cat! – Modern Cat Star Cat Contest

As of today Joe has almost 60,000 votes and if he wins he will have an editorial feature in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of the magazine, which will be a great way to tell his story and bring awareness to animal cruelty. Joe is currently in first place and you can help keep him there by voting daily, simply click on the VOTE FOR ME button.

The contest closes January 30th so please head over and show Joe your support!

You can also visit Joe the cat on Facebook

 ***UPDATE JAN. 31 2015 – Joe the Cat came in second spot and Modern Cat Magazine will still be profiling him in their next issue!***