Category Archives: Inspiration

Letter to Canton City Council on Behalf of Canton’s Cats

I have discussed in previous posts (2/28/12, 2/10/12) my advocacy on behalf of feral cats in my community. Today, I sent Canton City Council, Mayor William J. Healy, and other city officials a letter stating my concerns. The following is a reprint of my letter in its entirety:

Dear Mayor, Council Members, and other esteemed city officials:

I am writing to you with information pertinent to the concerns about the proposed contract extension for Animal Control Officer Phil Sedlacko. As you know, I have spoken three times during the Public Speaks portion of City Council meetings on this issue. As a Canton constituent, an advocate for animals, an advocate for children, and an advocate for community development, I respectfully request that you consider my concerns with attentive consideration.

I have had the opportunity to review what I believe to be every invoice submitted for payment by Mr. Sedlacko to the city for 2011. I have spent considerable time doing this and have analyzed this information with some detail. Although my conclusions are less than scientific, I have recognized some patterns that deserve more intense scrutiny from public officials. I am requesting that public officials engage in further analysis of Mr. Sedlacko’s invoices with veterinary, feral cat rescue, wildlife rescue, and other relevant professionals to develop a better understanding of the work he does on behalf of the city.

I further request that any further contracts with Mr. Sedlacko be short-term and interim in light of the numerous concerns brought up about his lack of humane and professional conduct in his role with the city and also his role with the County Dog Warden.

Some of the patterns that emerged while I examined his invoices include:

  1. Domestic animals being trapped when the nature of complaints were about wildlife. My assumption before examining the invoices was that cats were removed because people complained about cats. According to Mr. Sedlacko’s invoices, however, there were 46 cats and 2 kittens trapped and removed from locations where the complainants made no complaint about cats. They complained about raccoons and other wildlife, not cats. Were these complainants even aware that cats were removed? According to the invoices, the complainants considered the wildlife as a nuisance, not the cats.
  1. Inhumane trapping procedures. My research about trapping protocols indicates that traps should never be left unattended, particularly in rural areas. Animals become incredibly stressed in humane traps. It is protocol to cover a trap with a sheet or some material ASAP after an animal has been trapped to reduce its stress. Also, traps left in urban areas for lengthy time periods make the animals targets for abuse and torture from nefarious humans. According to Mr. Sedlacko’s invoices, however, his process is to set traps and return the next day to retrieve the animal. This is simply UNACCEPTABLE.
  1. Geographic Clusters for numerous complaints. Although complaints came from all areas of the city, there were specific areas where numerous calls originated. In many cases, the same complainant called numerous times. This suggests that: 1) Trap-remove is not correcting the problem in these areas, in fact, it could be exacerbating the problem. 2) The clustered areas tend to be problem areas of other concerns for the city (crime, foreclosed homes, excessive garbage, poverty, etc.). 3) Efforts to reduce the attractiveness of these areas to cats and wildlife would help to reduce the number of calls in these areas.

There are other patterns, as well, however, these are the most obvious at this time.

Furthermore, in response to comments from Mr. Barton in a Repository article this week, I welcome the opportunity to pilot TNR in the City of Canton as a part of a plan to develop a more thorough response to animal control in Canton. Although I applaud the effort towards TNR, the proposed method of piloting an initiative, however, is flawed. You cannot do both TNR and Trap-remove in the same area with the same colony of cats. This would lead to a waste of financial resources and other problems. There would be a strong likelihood that the same cats would be trapped and neutered and then later trapped and removed. Any area piloted for TNR would have to be off limits to Trap-remove efforts to be effective.

I appreciate the fact that all of you have brought some thought and consideration to this matter. I believe, however, that it is CRITICAL for the city to begin a process of dialog with citizens, advocates and professionals IMMEDIATELY to develop a plan of response to the animal control issues in Canton. How we address the issues affects not only the animals of our community, but also our youngest citizens. Now that there is public awareness of inhumane animal treatment on the city’s behalf, our children will be watching the manner in which we address it.

I respectfully request the following actions be initiated to address the issues:

  1. As stated before, restrict any further contracts with Mr. Sedlacko to be short-term and interim.
  2. Subject the Animal Control Officer contract to a public bidding process.
  3. Develop a committee that includes citizens, animal rescue advocates, veterinary and public health professionals, council members and other relevant individuals to study the issue IMMEDIATELY.
  4. Offer time to meet with Jeff Dorson from Alley Cat Allies during the week of March 12-16 in addition to attending the Town Hall Meeting that he will be holding on Wednesday March 14th in the McKinley Room at the Stark County District Library from 6:00 – 7:30 pm.
  5. Include animal control discussions in other efforts on behalf of city neighborhoods, such as Weed and Seed, neighborhood organizations, Community Building Partnership of Stark County, etc.
  1. Review Mr. Sedlacko’s invoices as I have done and engage in an in depth analysis of the data obtained from them.

Thank you for your consideration. I welcome feedback and response.


Vicki Boatright

Happy Gotcha Day Okey!

Today is the one year anniversary of the day that Okey, the rescue cat who inspired the Okey’s Promise movement, was rescued from the parking lot behind my building. Or the day that I was rescued from a doldrum where I felt I needed a purpose for my art.

She pulled me out of the doledrum in many ways. The video above tracks our progression in developing a very special relationship, and, in my mind, shows how sweet and special the human animal bond truly is.

Thank you for rescuing me, Okey. Happy Gotcha Day, little girl!


Profiles of Hope: Trudy’s Story


This is part of the Okey’s Profiles of Hope series, which highlights anonymous stories of courage and hope related to the issues of animal abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence. This story was sent to me from a follower of this blog.

Trudy’s Story

I remember reading a book that said that if a woman does not have a good relationship with her father, she will end up marrying a man like her father…. Well I guess that is what I did:  I married a man like my father, only worse.

I grew up in a home with an angry, critical father, and a self absorbed, distant mother.  I got out of the house as soon as I could.  I always tended to be attracted to the “bad boys”.  If a guy was nice to me, I dropped him like a hot potato.  And so I ended up marrying “Richard”.  Honestly, looking back, the warning signs were there before we got married, I just refused to see them.

Richard was angry and very critical, just like my father was.  We were married just two and a half years, but it was hell on earth.  I could not do anything right, the food wasn’t cooked correctly, the bed was made wrong, the house wasn’t clean enough.  He didn’t like me seeing my friends, kept me isolated.  Bullied me.

We bought a house in the country, contrary to my wishes.  We had 2 cats, a dog, and a pony.

The abuse started with the animals.  He kicked the dog, twisted the pony’s ear, and threw my little kitten against the wall so hard, I thought he had killed it.  I was seeing my pastor regularly to try and help me get through this, and I remember he said “If he is abusing the animals, he will abuse you.”

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised the first time he hit me.  I called the cops, and the cops talked me into staying.  The second time he tried to throw me down the basement steps, I don’t know how I hung on, but I did.  He was so angry he stormed out the back door.  I got my purse and left.  I didn’t even have a toothbrush.  I stayed with friends for about six months till I got back on my feet.

I had to leave my sweet kitty there, because I was sleeping on couches.  I still feel so bad for abandoning Dusty to that horrible situation.  If I could have taken him, I would have.

I wish I could say I met the man of my dreams and remarried, but that is not what happened.  I was never able to allow my walls to come down to be able to have a lasting relationship. My life has been full, and right now I have four rescued cats that are quite spoiled.  They are my family, and I love them dearly.  I have made some mistakes, and I have a lot of regrets, but I do NOT regret leaving Richard at all.

I admire Trudy’s courage to leave, and I appreciate her willingness to share her story. I also admire her for making the tough choice of leaving her pet behind in order to secure her own safety. Yes. I said that – I admire her for choosing her own safety over risking both hers and the animal’s safety.

Many women remain in dangerous situations because of not having a safe place for their pets to go. Although I am a STRONG advocate for the development of more safe places for survivors to take their pets, I also am an advocate for women to take charge of their own safety, too. Especially when children are involved.

Sometimes walls are good boundaries. It is not essential to be in a relationship in order to find happiness.

Thank you Trudy for being so honest. I wish you and all your pets great happiness!


Would you like to submit an Okey’s Profiles of Hope story? Contact BZTAT to learn how.

Things are hopeless except when they aren’t.

Drawing by BZTAT

The other day, I shared a story about a woman who was tending to cats in a seemingly hopeless neighborhood, where children were treated with disregard, and the cats with even less. I shared it as a story of hope.

What? Hope?

I know. It felt like a stretch even to me.

I spent 20 years working with children and families in neighborhoods like the one in the story. I have seen not only the pain of feral cats harmed by hateful human acts.

I have seen children harmed by hateful human acts.

Those children often grow up to hurt humans and animals, and the cycle continues.

Except when it doesn’t.

You see, there is hope, because sometimes the cycle breaks. Sometimes something happens, and a child’s spirit rises above the emotional carnage around them. Sometimes an emotionally wounded adult gets help and changes their actions. And sometimes a fearful victim seeks refuge and protection from an abuser, and becomes a survivor.

I was only able to stay a counselor for 20 years because of the resilience and hopeful courage that I saw in the people with whom I worked. I left the profession to pursue my art, not because I lost hope.

What happens to cause the cycle to break?

  • Someone reports an incident of child abuse to authorities and it leads to a family intervention that protects the child and gets the family the help it needs to be safe.
  • A child sees an adult acting differently than what he/she is accustomed to seeing – caring for animals or doing other random acts of kindness.
  • Schools and other community resources promote education about empathy.
  • Someone is moved to action to change things in their community because they were moved by a piece of art or other creative endeavor.

Okey’s Promise is more than an artwork. It is more than a website and blog. It is a movement to create awareness so that we can improve the lives of children, of families and of animals.

Contributing to the current Kickstarter campaign is one way that you can keep the promise, but there are other ways too.

What can you do in your community to make our world a better place for all creatures great and small?

Please check out our resources page for information about intervening with children, families and animals. You may find that there is more that you can do than you ever imagined.