By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Editor's note: Matt Weitz responds to Benji's fans in this week's Street Beat column.
Happy New Year to all the folks at the Observer. This is the first time I have ever written to a periodical or magazine. I just got the latest issue and read a disturbing article, "The little punk that could." I hate to say it, but you guys lost credibility in my friends and my book.
We are in the Dallas punk scene and know Benji Bollox (fake name). He is not in U.K. Subs, a well-known punk band. He was also kicked out of Riot Squad, not fed up with playing in a non-serious band. Why are you writing about this guy who is leaving Dallas for overseas because he thinks the music scene here sucks?
Maybe it was an attempt to be witty on your behalf, but I doubt that. There are many lies written there; you should check the facts and the people you hire to write articles. Can you guys write an article about me? I'm going to be George Clooney's co-star in Batman & Robin because Chris O'Donnell couldn't handle the pressure, yeah, that's the ticket.
Can you also get that brilliant young writer who wrote "The punk that could" to write my article? That kid's got quite a bright future, as you guys know! Anyway, I pick the Observer up every week and use it as a guide. I also work for a company that advertises in your paper on a weekly basis. Hmmm, I hope I don't voice my disgust in your reporting to him. Keep up this work and I will use my managerial position for something other than customer services.
Regarding your story on the Texas Exotic Feline Foundation ["Cat fight," January 2]. In spring 1996, I had the chance to visit TEFF with a science club from Nicols Junior High. I met Gene Reitnauer. After thinking it over, I believe that David Cook, Louis Dorfman, and Robert Reitnauer are crazy, sue-happy people.
Mrs. Reitnauer has made those cats her one and only mission in life. She would rather starve than have those cats starve. She does not deserve the grief she is getting. Those men should be the ones standing trial.
Mrs. Reitnauer knows what is best for the cats and keeps that in mind with every decision she makes. If Mrs. Reitnauer does not get TEFF, they are making a huge mistake. They are not only hurting her. They are hurting the cats that live there now, the cats that will be killed because they have no place to go, and the public. No longer will TEFF be a sanctuary for cats that have nowhere else to turn. It will be a zoo.
We would like to compliment Ann Zimmerman on the incredibly insightful article she wrote about the legal battles of the Texas Exotic Feline Foundation. As former volunteers and current friends of the foundation, we were struck by the fairness and accuracy of the story. We found that her poignant tale lacked emphasis on only one major aspect of the story--yet one so critical to the severity and cruelty of the situation--the relationship of the cats with Gene Reitnauer and the volunteers.
Gene has been separated from the cats, with the exception of one-and-one-half hours each Monday through Friday, and the volunteers have been banned from the property. Though these cats are a wild species retaining much of their inherent instincts, they are individuals with very distinct and sociable personalities. They have formed bonds with Gene and with particular individuals, much as people would.
The cats are much like small children in that changes in their routine are distressing for them. People that visited the sanctuary prior to the time during which the legal battles began could confirm that TEFF's cats were happy. They were comfortable, relaxed, and outwardly sociable, unlike zoo cats.
Just as inconsistency in parenting creates difficulties for children, inconsistency in handling of the cats results in a breakdown of their relationships with humans. Those relationships have now been compromised, as has the mental health and well being of the cats, by the decisions to limit their interaction with Gene and to totally eliminate their interaction with volunteers. We understand that some of the cats have become more aggressive at feeding time and are not receptive to their new keepers.
It is important to establish relationships to socialize the animals so that they find some enjoyment in human companionship. We are deeply saddened by the impact the visitation restrictions have had on these relationships. The damage may be irreparable.