Council boss King does U-turn on feline rage

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014
Richard King
FAIRFAX NZ
Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King

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He was king of the cats, but now he's retracting his claws.

Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King has issued a public apology for catty comments he made last month which he said were misleading and misunderstood by the public.

He had pounced on the issue of neighbours being fed up with a city woman who has 37 cats. He suggested the neighbours get rid of some of the cats by trapping them in council-provided traps and disposing of them.

"We don't make inquiries about what has happened , as long as it is returned," King said at the time.

Yesterday he changed his tune. "I certainly apologise for any misleading comments made, certainly in relation to no questions being asked which made the impression people could do what they like with them."

The apology comes a day after the council was presented with a 19,000-strong petition calling for a public retraction of his comments.

The cat-lovers got exactly what they wanted, even though King failed to show at the meeting where the petition was presented.

He is regretting the comments and is no longer pussy-footing around the issue. "I think it was an error of judgment at the time. I was absolutely stunned by the reaction we got."

Petition organiser Paula Jones said she was pleased to see an apology and, despite questioning how genuine it was, would take King at face value. "I'm not about to argue with the man and say you don't mean it. It probably is a PR stunt, it's probably damage control and not a genuine ‘I didn't mean it'."

But Jones said it was better than nothing.

King said he had been inundated with emails and messages from people in all corners of the world disgusted with his suggestions.

Despite the apology, King, who does not own a cat, would not be adopting one any time soon, he said. "I certainly accept that for a domestic cat, it's a loved family member."

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt knows how much a family cat is loved and said King's comments were "inappropriate".

The comments had initiated a fight between the city council and the cat-loving world, and it was time King backed down on his comments, he said.

"I don't think we have had petitions of that size come into council before."

He understood how distressing it could be to have a cat go missing, let alone trapped, when his family pet Monty went missing for days.

Shadbolt said he canvassed his neighbourhood and did a leaflet drop in the suburb looking for his loved cat, and finally found him in a nearby garage.

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"I have always had a cat in the house, I love cats."

Southland SPCA operations manager Richard Hay said he was pleased an apology had been made, but said it was more of a clarification. "It [his statement] was just far too open ended."

The SPCA had never believed he issued the statement with vicious intent, he said. "We thought it was very unfortunate the way that he phrased it. Unfortunately it did suggest that there was malice in the statement."

 

- The Southland Times

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