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Reagan of London
Fang of Texas
Undercover Fred of New York
Rusik the sniffer cat from Russia
Last police station cat of London
In mid-October 2008 an era ended when London's last remaining police station cat, called Reagan, took his retirement after 11 years of catching rodents at Snow Hill station in London. He was taken on by the City of London Police in 1997 when just eight months old, along with companion cat Carter, to deal with an infestation of rats and mice at the divisional headquarters. (The cats' names came from a British TV police drama series called The Sweeney, not from US presidents.)
Both cats had come from the Battersea rescue home, and both were white and deaf, which probably heightened their other senses. Certainly the police officers who kept a tally noted that they did their best work at night. Unfortunately Carter died after just 18 months, so Reagan was left to work alone, but he did a fine job. He has been featured in a documentary on TV, was short-listed for an 'Arthur's' lifetime achievement award (below left), and even has his own Facebook page under the name 'Reagan Snow'.
His human colleagues at Snow Hill were keen to see him suitably decorated before he left, so he received a framed service certificate (below right), complete with City of London crest, from the Chief Superintendent. It honours his 'purrfessionalism and commitment' and notes his 100 per cent arrest rate of mice and rats. The full text is: This certificate in recognition of achievement is awarded to Reagan for his purrfessionalism, commitment and dedication to duty over the past 11 years and his outstanding achievement of a 100% arrest rate of mice and rats at Snow Hill Division.
Reagan has retired to Essex, east of London, to live with the parents of one of Snow Hill's serving officers. I was very fortunate in being able to contact the officer, who in turn put me in touch with her parents, and they most kindly sent the photographs of Reagan in his retirement. He seems to be thoroughly enjoying his new 'civilian' life, and instead of the run of the police station, he now has his own cat flap and can come and go as he pleases to enjoy the garden, the sunshine and the outdoor world. When indoors he has become very affectionate, loves company and having a fuss made of him, and enjoys having his photo taken! That's a real silk cushion he's lying on his well-earned retirement clearly suits him, and we wish him many more years to enjoy it.
Fang of Texas
We have very little information about Fang, other than that he was an official police cat in Grand Prairie, Texas in the United States. He was a heavyweight cat, white, long-haired, and had his own ID complete with photo.
Fred, the undercover cat
Fred's life was all too brief, but it brought him fame. Born in spring 2005 in Brooklyn, he was rescued from the streets by an animal care organisation and was found to be suffering from pneumonia, as well as having one lung collapsed and the other partly filled with fluid. Although given treatment, he failed to respond, and was not expected to live. However, enter Carol Moran, an assistant district attorney who oversees cases of animal cruelty. She saw Fred in the shelter and adopted him, together with a female cat, one of his litter mates. She named them Fred and George, after the prankster Weasley twins in the Harry Potter books. With the aid of antibiotics, steam showers, intensive treatment and plenty of 'tlc', Fred recovered and became quite rambunctious, delighting in chasing Carol's two other cats and even her dogs.
Fred's assistance was enlisted by the DA's office in February 2006 to act as an undercover secret agent, posing as a potential patient for a man suspected of carrying out surgery on animals while being completely unqualified, then charging high fees for botched work. Working with a human undercover detective, Fred was used as bait in a sting operation to catch the offender. Stephen Vassall turned out to be a 28-year-old college student with no training or qualifications in veterinary care; as a result he was charged with several offences and pleaded guilty when later tried.
A few days after the successful operation Fred, wearing a tiny police badge on his collar, posed for photos with his owner Carol. Then on 18 May 2006 he attended a news conference and small ceremony, when he was presented by Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes with a Law Enforcement Appreciation Award. He shared this moment of fame with Burt, a Boston terrier who had barely survived one of Vassall's botched operations and whose owner it was who had alerted police.
Fred was honoured again in July 2006 when he appeared at an 'adopt-a-thon' benefit event for cats and dogs, hosted by Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters. On that occasion he received a Mayor's Alliance Award, which is presented to remarkable animals.
After all this excitement Fred retired to his home in Queens, to continue chasing his sister and generally enjoy life as a youngster should. He was scheduled to perhaps become a 'teaching animal' one that would be taken into city schools to help teach children about the treatment and care of animals; there were also offers from animal talent agencies with a view to possible work on TV commercials.
Sadly, though, none of it was to come about. On 10 August, when Carol opened the door to take the dogs out, the cats chased one another out, as they often did, but for some reason Fred ran around outside the house and into the street, where he was hit by a car and died instantly. 'I donít know what he saw, what struck him or what possessed him,' said Carol. Fred's promising career had come to an untimely and premature end.
Rusik, the sniffer cat
Stavropol is a city in the south-western corner of Russia, not far from the Caspian Sea. On the outskirts of the city, on the road leading to Moscow, is a police checkpoint where vehicles were stopped to check for smugglers in the battle against the illegal trade in caviar, and also salmon. The Caspian provides 90 per cent of the world's caviar, but sturgeon are seriously threatened by the illegal poaching of their eggs, with prime caviar fetching high prices in Moscow and other large cities, and up to 2000 US dollars a kilogram (2.2 pounds) in the United States.
During 2002 a stray male kitten wandered into the checkpoint, and was adopted by the policemen, who fed him on scraps from the material they confiscated. They named him Rusik, and found that he had an extraordinary sense of smell and could detect the location of fish or fish products with great accuracy. So they spent a considerable amount of time training him to become their 'sniffer cat', replacing the former employee, a dog. After about a year, Rusik duly went on duty performing spot checks on vehicles and travellers, meeting with considerable success and finding caviar no matter how ingeniously it was hidden. 'He finds the caviar in any hiding place,' a spokesman said.
However, in so doing he clearly upset the smugglers, and it is possible that led to his downfall. On 12 July 2003, after only a few days' work, he was run over by a car and killed. Some Russian media suggested it was a deliberate act, a 'revenge killing', saying that the car moved forward over him as he was about to detect some hidden salmon and that the car responsible had been stopped on a previous occasion and its owners found to be smuggling. However, a St Petersburg Times report said that after ensuring that a bus was free of illegally harvested seafood, Rusik had jumped lightly to the ground, only to be hit by a car. 'It was a sad accident,' said a police spokesman.
Thus ended Rusik's short career. His colleagues in the police had come to regard him as a valuable member of their team and were deeply saddened by his death. They said he had not died in vain, though, as he had shown the valuable contribution that cats could bring to law enforcement. They were talking of training another cat or cats to take over, but if they ever did we have not heard about it. There was also talk of a plaque to honour the cat who died in the line of duty, but again we do not know whether that came to fruition.
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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is now no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.
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