Rita Falaguerra used to be an optimist.
It was about 17 years ago, before the Riverside resident started animal rescue work. It was before she met Dallas, a kitten thrown from a moving vehicle outside a Central Falls school. It was before she met a Himalayan cat whose previous owners attempted a do-it-yourself de-clawing. That cat lost a few digits on a couple of paws.
It was before this month, when one of her rescued cats is scheduled for an amputation after being shot in the leg.
“I used to believe in the inherent good of people,” Ms. Falaguerra said.
“But there are a lot of bad people out there.”
People, said Ms. Falaguerra, who might be inclined to harm black cats around Halloween. Ms. Falaguerra said the practice of ritual animal torture this time of year may be myth but she has seen enough to believe it is always better to err on the side on caution.
That’s why Ms. Falaguerra checks property databases to make sure applicants own their property. That’s why Ms. Falaguerra investigates applicants for any criminal history.
That’s why Ms. Falaguerra was one of several individuals that criticized Barrington Animal Control for hosting a black cat adoption event earlier this month.
Ms. Falaguerra said her belief is born of experience, something she doesn’t think Barrington Animal Control Officer Patricia Watson has much of. Officials hired Officer Watson as Barrington’s ACO after the retirement of John Duffy about four months ago. Before this time, just like Duffy, Officer Watson was a dispatcher.
Ms. Falaguerra said there are no requirements of animal control officers in Rhode Island — no classes, no certifications, no state licenses. She said that’s different from licensed adoption agencies that are regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
“We have no yardstick. We don’t have a bar at all,” Ms. Falaguerra said.“It’s not just a low bar. We have no bar and today that’s outrageous. Things have changed.”
Ms. Falaguerra said she would like to see legislation passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly detailing requirements for potential ACOs. Ms. Falaguerra said she has worked on getting animal rights initiatives passed in prior years, such as a ban on the use of has chambers for euthanization.
In a previous interview, Officer Watson said three of four cats adopted out during the drive went to Barrington families, two of which were previously known to the police department. The fourth, Officer Watson said, was a personal friend. Officer Watson said she later checked in with all of the animals and their new families.
She also said all the people adopting the cats completed an application as they would for an adoption at anytime of year, detailing information such as whether they own or rent their property, whether they own any other animals and, if they do, the vaccination status of these other pets.
Barrington Police Chief John LaCross said in a recent interview that during his tenure with the local police department there has been no evidence or proof of any ritualistic animal torture in Barrington and Officer Watson has discretion in determining if a cat should or should not be adopted to an applicant.
Outside of the event’s timing, Ms. Falaguerra criticized the waiver of adoption fees.
“People do not value what they don’t pay for. They really don’t,” Ms. Falaguerra said.
Ms. Falaguerra also said animals should not have been sent home same day.
“No one wears a sticker and says ‘Hey, I’m an a-hole. I belong to a satanic cult’,” Ms. Falaguerra said.