Cat Group Slams RI Cops After Pet Convention Clash

An international cat fancier organization threatened to move next year's convention out of Rhode Island on Monday following a dispute with police over missing feline health certificates.

Vickie Fisher, president of The International Cat Association, said state environmental police frightened several pet owners Saturday when they asked to see their animals' health and rabies certifications at the Rhode Island Pet Show. She said some owners left the event at the Rhode Island Convention Center because they feared the armed officers would seize their animals.

"If people show up with Tasers and guns ... and are making threats, people are going to protect their family and their cats," said Fisher, who did not attend the Providence show. "We have some members now that are saying 'I'm not going back to Rhode Island.'"

Fisher said the incident will prompt her organization to reconsider plans for next year's annual convention, which happens to be scheduled in Providence.

The officers from the state's Department of Environmental Management were checking to make sure the animals had up-to-date rabies and health certifications, according to state veterinarian Scott Marshall. Marshall said there have been problems with compliance at earlier pet shows and the event's organizer was warned last week that police would be checking the paperwork. State law requires animals imported into the state for display to have current health and rabies certifications.

While most of the dog owners at the show provided the paperwork, Marshall said, several cat owners did not. The police had the authority to seize the animals or issue citations but chose not to, Marshall said.

"Very few were compliant, very few were cooperative," he said. "They immediately threatened to lawyer up... I thought we showed great restraint."

Fisher said members of her group would never exhibit a sick cat and that the state law requiring health certificates of cats on display is "misguided." Her organization released a statement over the weekend that the incident "has made it apparent to many of our members that Rhode Island is not a pet friendly state."

Marshall, however, said the laws are meant to protect animals as well as people.

"We're animal lovers," he said. "But we're also lovers of public health."

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