"There were four shootings this week," Janet Joy Mattice told me during her criminal arraignment on Halloween, shaking her gray head disgustedly. "And they are on me about feeding cats."
And Then They Were Upon Her
But "on her" they were. Janet (who goes by her middle name, Joy) had a perfect record except for one minor traffic violation. She is the widow of a retired Minneapolis police officer and, during the administration of Governor Rudy Perpich, Mattice received a proclamation in her honor for years of work in the area of animal welfare including changes made in state law as a result of her efforts. In the photo above, Mattice holds a copy of the proclamation in question.
If you talk to Mattice for any length of time she will soon tell you about her rescues of dogs and cats that have been hung, doused with fuel, and all manner of terrible things that happen to the animals she loves and to which she has virtually devoted her whole life. Mattice was born in 1936, so that's a lot of life.
Though Mattice had been helping strays for a long time it appears the mortgage crisis in North Minneapolis has, in the last few years, produced a "perfect storm" of animal overpopulation versus Janet Joy Mattice's energetic and admittedly stubborn attempts to help stray animals. Mattice uses traps to catch cats, has the cats spayed or neutered, and then releases the cats again. Mattice points out (with the paper documentation to prove it) that...
...a number of programs across the country have local government sponsorship or at least tolerance for a trap, sterilize and release policy toward stray cats which is more humane than killing hundreds, well, actually millions of cats per year when you add them all up. By Joy's count, there are 200 official programs doing something similar to her own unofficial volunteer efforts.
But there's no such program in Minneapolis and Mattice's efforts have run afoul of a number of property owners, one of which (click here for previous blog post) could be fairly described as the "anti-Joy," apparently as devoted to euthanasia of all manner of stray animals as Joy is devoted to saving these animals.
War Of Opposing Philosophies
Like the lead elements of two opposing armies engaged in a great war of philosophies, Joy and her opposition had a conflict in some random alley over, it appears, use and/or ownership of a cage.
Thus the legal conflagration was sparked. Let us pause a moment to contemplate this and enjoy an embedded version of the song O Fortuna.
Joy and a woman named "Susan" (I don't know Susan's last name but, to be perfectly candid, when I met Susan I made a point of NOT asking her) were both charged in association with their volunteer animal rescue efforts. I had not followed up after watching proceedings on October 31, but based on information from MNCIS is appears that as of November 19, Mattice was convicted on a single count of disorderly conduct.
For this conviction, Mattice will be on probation for one year and have a sentence of 30 days hanging over her head. She will also have to comply with geographic restrictions stated in the judge's order. I do not have the order but it's fair to assume the restrictions involve some or all of North Minneapolis, though geographic restrictions are usually quite narrow for constitutional reasons and might involve no more than a few blocks.
Other conditions include no theft, no disorderly conduct, no contact with the victims. Part of me wants to say "alleged" victims but due to the legal conviction it is true that, legally, there are victims here.
Morally, are these people victims?
Huh. Kind of doubt it.
Mattice will also have to pay the princely sum of $178. Ouch. Better cash in all the aluminum cans so you don't have to dip into the ashtray fund, Joy. It's nice to see that at least once (in my opinion) the notorious leniency of our legal system can cut a break to a well-meaning and decent person instead of just the usual class of thugs.
Animal Hangings In North Minneapolis?
Based upon information provided by Mattice, it appears there is somebody going around hanging dogs in North Minneapolis. In October, Joy told me about a pit bull hanging by a belt off a telephone pole on 26th Ave. N. Also, a white poodle was rescued with a plastic phone cord around its neck, hanging on a bush. Joy talked about a cat she rescued just before our last conversation in October. The cat had been doused with kerosene or gasoline. Somebody passing through the neighborhood made a call but NOT to animal control. Instead, they called Joy.
Joy doesn't believe in calling city Animal Control and urges citizens NOT to call animal control because the animal is likely to be killed. Better, she says, to call her if an animal needs help.
Besides, Joy says she shows up a lot faster. And, she points out, her efforts don't cost the taxpayers anything, unlike Animal Control.
Joy claims she's been harassed in a number of ways. She states she filed a complaint with Minneapolis internal affairs because a police officer called Joy a "disgrace to the memory of (her) dead husband." Joy says Animal Control knows her distinctive vehicle and will make u-turns in the middle of the street to follow her.
Similar to other public policy wonks that I know, Joy is capable of picking apart the legalistic nitty gritty of the laws being cited against her. For example, there is a law against ground feeding. Yes, it's true. You're not supposed to be giving peanuts to squirrels, or tossing out leftover chicken for stray cats that might come along or (god forbid) giving stale bread to ducks. That's all ground feeding, and ground feeding is a crime.
Ouch. That's the pain from me rolling my eyes so far upward it hurts.
But, Joy points out, what about people who compost? They're throwing all sorts of food waste on the ground, aren't they? And yet the city is encouraging composting, isn't it? So how is the law consistent in that regard? Joy believes she's not really ground feeding because of her intent. She is, she says, merely feeding the animals to lure them so she can trap them and sterilize them.
"I can't just go into an alley and say, 'Here, kitty, kitty,'" Joy told me. "You have to gain their trust. That's the point of ground feeding."
Chased With A Rake, Allegedly
Joy's version of events in regard to the "misunderstanding" involving an animal trap (which led to the charges against her) is that the whole thing was a mistake. Joy thought the trap belonged to Susan, who is an ally of Joy's in rescuing animals. (Susan's charges ended up in mental health court, but Joy refused to go that route, telling Susan, "We are NOT crazy cat ladies.") Joy said something was in the trap. What exactly it was, she wasn't sure. Something small and furry, some kind of baby. Maybe a bunny, maybe a squirrel. Joy fetched the trap to perform a release and (so Joy states) was chased by a guy named "Dale" who had a rake and (Joy says) thought Joy was stealing the trap. There was a lot of yelling and tugging.
Misunderstanding or malice, what did it matter? Joy ended up in court. She was adamant that if she pled guilty (which she was contemplating as of October 31) she would only plead "guilty with an explanation." The MNCIS record doesn't show a plea but a conviction. If there was a Great Ground Feeding Trial Of The Century, I missed it, but knowing Joy, well, um, there's no way a guilty conviction happened and she didn't get some kind of "explanation" into the record.
And, by "explanation," I really mean "justification."
And, by "justification," I actually mean some kind of statement that translates as follows.
Call me guilty all you like, but I believe I'm the one in the right, here.
To use Joy's own actual words instead of putting words in her mouth, she says, "I'm doing the city a service, I don't care if people like me or not."
Happy Joy Donovan Day
Joy's maiden name was Joy Donovan, and she still sometimes goes by Joy Mattice-Donovan. Her contributions to animal welfare caused Governor Rudy Perpich to declare "Joy Donovan Day" during his second administration. Joy says she made contributions to about seven different statutes involving animal welfare. When asked to come up with three examples, Joy listed the following.
1.) Animals in homes for the handicapped and elderly. Minnesota was the first state in the country to pass legislation to make it possible for individuals in care facilities to have pets. Joy was involved in getting that legislation passed.
2.) Getting rid of decompression chambers as a means of animal euthanasia. Joy says large dogs came out of the chamber half alive and were thrown on piles of dead dogs.
3.) When a dog or cat is in a car in hot or cold weather and in danger, police may break a window without being responsible for property damage. Joy says she got that one passed.
Even as of the day of her hearing, Joy was plotting new animal welfare strategies. She has been trying to get support for a catch, sterilize and release program but having difficulty getting political leaders to meet with her "due to the pending matter in court."
"Instead Of Hands, She's Got Cat Paws"
On the day of her October 31 court hearing, Joy wore a very distinctive set of boots, pictured below.
"Have you MET her?" the city attorney asked, laughing breathlessly and shaking his head.
"Yeah," Fink nodded. "Instead of hands she's got cat paws."
Joy was also wearing a gold-colored cat pin that day. The pin was a gift from Susan, the other defendant in the Great Ground Feeding Conspiracy.
I couldn't hear everything the city attorney was saying, but at one point I clearly heard "Johnny Northside." The two lawyers tried to hammer something out. Word was the judge saw this matter as a "neighborhood dispute" more than a criminal matter and wanted to see if the parties could work things out.
"Andrew Turnipseed," the clerk called, and a criminal defendant came forward. Just for the heck of it, I looked the name up later. He's been previously convicted of theft of movable property and giving a police officer a false name. But no ground feeding.
In a meeting with her attorney outside in the hallway, Joy kept trying to offer papers to her attorney. These were documents she wanted the city attorney to see: The proclamation by Governor Perpich. A newspaper article about programs similar to her own which trap cats, sterilize, and release.
Leaving the court, Joy refused to get in an elevator with Dale and stated Dale had actually stuck out his tongue as he stepped into the elevator.
Stay Tuned For Part Two
I do not know exactly what happened in court on November 19. There are a lot of people being murdered and I had other articles to write. Ground feeding isn't as pressing as murder, as Joy herself would point out.
But with the Great Ground Feeding Trial Of The Century wrapped up (will there be an appeal?) I decided to air these facts and, as quickly as I can, follow up to obtain more details.
Many of my readers are not supportive of what Joy is doing. And I understand that. I certainly do not write things with an intention of spiting my readership. Most of the time I feel like I am on the same page as my readership, at least my intended readership and not my scary anti-Johnny following of white collar fraudsters, sicko sex offenders and thugs with nonexistent grammar skills which my blogging seems to pick up as an incidental side audience.
And so, to my loyal and intended readers, I offer this semi-apologetic explanation.
If you have been inside animal shelters and seen what really goes on there, it changes you. It makes your conscience burn for the wrongs of our society. And if you've been in animal shelters EXTENSIVELY and seen what goes on there EXTENSIVELY, it REALLY changes you and it REALLY makes your conscience burn. It makes you willing to show support for somebody like Mattice. She may not be doing exactly the right thing, but at least her solution doesn't involve kitty cat concentration camps and doggy Dachaus.
It is one thing to understand, intellectually, that millions of animals are killed yearly. It is another thing to actually view and smell and touch the carnage.
Janet Joy Mattice is a hard headed person. She is a radical. She is not reasonable. But I find myself in ultra rare agreement with a point made by loony attorney Jill Clark. This country is what it is because of radicals and troublemakers.
Mattice is not a criminal. She is an idealist with a vision of a society that does not dispose of unwanted animals as though they were broken Chinese clocks or bags that once contained Happy Meals. She works every day toward that vision. And as far as she is concerned (for that matter, as far as I am concerned) this criminal conviction is not a matter of shame.
It is a star in her celestial crown.
Hang in there Janet Joy Mattice. You are not without supporters, and this blogger is one of them.