Anthony went missing on November 21, and he will never be coming home again. Despite his having a loving home with Marie Nasta of Bushwick, Brooklyn, NYC, he was trapped and taken to be killed at a veterinary office by a zealot who evolved from a caretaker and TNR practitioner to a self-appointed merciful angel of death who baited and then trapped and arranged for the killing of entire colonies of cats, along with beloved and well cared for pets allowed or escaped outside in what were considered safe neighborhoods.
Paul Zhang, who was until recent days still affiliated with the NYC Mayor’s Alliance TNR program that operates in partnership between the city and rescuers and advocates, caught Anthony along with several other cats from his neighborhood. We are comfortable making this statement because Paul Zhang has admitted to killing Anthony and many other cats. After making denials, he acknowledged the killing to Marie Nasta and apologized.
While Zhang has apologized for having Anthony killed, he defends his greater mission to, in his mind, or at least in his statements, save cats from the suffering and misery of a life spent on the streets. His currently avowed philosphy does not sound much different from some of PETA’s worst positions, or those evinced by cat haters involved in conservation at certain non-profit organizations, universities, and governmental agencies.
The tragic circumstance of Anthony’s disappearance and death, and the realization that he had been killed by someone known as a cat caretaker and TNR (Trap Neuter Release) practitioner played out publicly on Craigslist and Facebook in recent days. As word spread and Zhang’s own statements were read by many in a public forum, he was finally dropped by the Mayor’s Alliance, then became the subject of a feature in Gothamist published yesterday. We expect more coverage to follow.
We first learned of the story when segments of it appeared at the Where’s Bebop Facebook page on December 6. From there we followed the story to postings at an animal advocacy group page at Facebook. Then we read through postings at the New York Craigslist, where pained, stunned posts from Anthony’s petmom Marie Nasta ranged from a missing pet listing, to a request for information on someone fitting Zhang’s description, to the announcement of Anthony’s death and how he came to be killed, to Maria’s thoughts as she came to grips with what had occurred, and her message to Anthony’s killer. We also read the posts by the admitted killer, Paul Zhang, where he expressed regret for Anthony’s demise, yet defended his actions in trapping and killing dozens, at least, of community cats and strays.
This is one case with no shortage of publicly declared statement by the principles, thanks to it’s being largely played out through social media.
Part of the story we will not focus much on here is how and where the cats were killed. It is said that Zhang had cats killed at the NYC ACC until they got wise to his mass trapping and killing actions and refused to comply. At that point he turned to veterinarians. Anthony was taken to a veterinarian and killed. He did not have a microchip, but it is not known if other victims had microchips and were killed anyway. Advocates have made efforts to contact vets and ensure that they do not act as accomplices to Zhang as the story of his actions unfolded.
In response to the Mayor’s Alliance asking for their traps back, Zhang is reported to have laughed and said he had plenty of his own traps, and in response to being shut off by veterinary practices, he has threatened to drown the cats at home.
As bad as it may have been for Paul Zhang to trap and kill feral and stray community cats, he also took family pets with good homes, and whose families despaired over their missing pets; which is arguably far worse, and violates his own stated mission. We have read the phrase “god complex” in more than one comment on Zhang and his actions. He claims to have begun the killings when he needed to leave colonies of “his” cats due to a move and decided to put them out of their misery since they would no longer have him as caretaker. From there, it seems he was disinclined to stop, and is known to have actually driven to neighborhoods and baited cats with food in order to trap and eliminate them.
At this point, we return to Anthony, his story, and his petmom’s anguish, and do so through Marie Nasta’s public postings at Craigslist. The following writings are somewhat lengthy, but, in our estimation, poignant and worth reading.
Anthony is a medium sized orange tabby last seen on 11/21 on Bushwick avenue near eastern parkway.
I am looking for an Asian man who has been trapping stray cats on my block. I think he has my Anthony.
please…. my heart is broken….
December 6: To all the kind people who were helping me find Anthony (thank you so much)
On November 21st, my cat, Anthony went missing. Because a man had been seen on my block setting traps for the stray cats, I believed Anthony might have gotten caught as well. I filed a Lost Pet report, posted on here, monitored the websites and put up fliers, trying to locate this man and/or my cat. So many kind and wonderful people came forward to help me and give me information.
I am posting this to let them know that Anthony was trapped, taken to a vet in queens, and euthanized. This was confirmed today by the man who trapped him, whose name is Paul Zhang. I have been crying and sending emails and talking on the phone all day, and even so, I look at the words I just typed and can hardly believe this could have happened.Mr. Zhang believes that cats on the street live a horrible life, and that it is more humane to euthanize them than to allow them to continue to live as strays. He drives around and if he sees a cat on the street, he stops and leaves food and then comes back with traps. He takes the cats he catches in his traps to private vets and pays to have them euthanized.
I live on a short dead end off of Bushwick avenue in the Bushwick/Cypress Hills area of Brooklyn. I live in a basement apartment with access to a backyard. I have 4 cats, (well, three now that Anthony has been killed), all taken in as strays, all indoor/outdoor cats. I am well aware of the risks of letting cats go out, but please… for all of you who disapprove, at least recognize this irony: of all the many dangers which could harm my cat by letting him outside, the one that killed him was the one I never even considered: that Anthony would be deliberately killed by a person who pretends to be a lover of animals and a “rescuer.”
Even if you could agree with Mr. Zhang philosophically (and I don’t) that feral cats are better off euthanized than left to live on the streets, he still does NOTHING to distinguish between feral cats, and socialized friendly cats who might be someone’s pet, and if not, are at least adoptable. He does not post flyers to let people know he will be in the area trapping so we can keep our cats in. He does not separate friendly cats from ferals and check to see if they are lost. He does not scan for microchips, release ear-tipped cats, flag cats that are already neutered or spayed, or post “found cat” fliers. He claims he doesn’t have time for that. He is very busy “saving” cats by killing them. And he does not Return. He is not “TNR”. He is TK. Trap-kill.
He admits that he noticed that anthony “seemed friendly.” But instead of opening the trap and letting him come home, or holding on to him for the time it took me to realize he was lost and begin looking for him (36 hours), Mr. Zhang took Anthony to a vet and paid to have my sweet kitty killed. I am having a very hard time accepting this.Anthony was left behind by some people on my block who moved away, and just left him on the street. I noticed him and fed him a few times, and then one afternoon my friend Louis stopped by. He knocked, the front door was unlocked, and I shouted that he should come in.”I let the cat in,” he said. “Is that ok?” I looked at Anthony, already curled on the ottoman, and said “that’s not my cat.” But obviously he was. I named him after my father because he came into my life not too long after my father died, and I thought maybe my father had sent him to bring me comfort. I know…. it sounds crazy, but that’s what I thought at the time. Anthony was a very mellow cat, very easy going… nothing bothered him, and he really loved food, especially dairy products. Sour cream could send him into a kind of ecstasy seizure.I am beyond sad.
Mr. Zhang, I would just like you to know that it was not just another homeless cat you killed. I would like you to realize that what you do is wrong. Not only because you risk having happen exactly what did happen to anthony and to me. But because it is not up to you to decide. You can’t predict the future. You don’t know that every cat on the street is suffering, and you don’t know that some of them won’t find happy endings. The four cats (well, three, now that you’ve killed anthony) in my house came from the street and had happy endings, plus two more I’ve found wonderful homes for. You came to my block, uninvited, and made certain assumptions– that nobody cared about the cats; that nobody was doing anything; that these cats were suffering, that i live in a “bad” neighborhood filled with “bad” people who wouldn’t help stray cats– and then took all the cats away; all the strays, and anthony, and maybe somebody else’s cat or cats. But I fed those strays, some of them for years; and so did Miss Lee across the street, who is 85 and recently stopped some boys she saw hitting a turtle with a hammer. Now they are all dead.
Please look at the pictures below: Anthony on my bed (seen below here) – have you ever seen a more content looking cat? Anthony trying desperately to get every last drop of tuna and mayonaise after i finished my lunch (he’d eat the pasta too, if there was any in the bowl). Carmen, the little calico, one of the “hopeless” strays you killed. I’ve been feeding her for 4 years. I think she must have been spayed at one time, because she’s never had a litter. Dusty, the dark gray and white kitty, was born to a feral mom. But i’ve been feeding him since he was a little kitten; I had just gotten him to come inside to eat, and was very hopeful that he’d be inside comfortably before the cold weather, and adopted not too long after that. But now he’s dead.
Mr. Zhang, you really need to stop what you’re doing. I can feel compassion for you, because you are clearly a troubled man. I can even forgive you for what you did to anthony. But if you continue now that the consequences of your actions are graphically apparent; if you continue now that you’ve broken my heart….. that I would not be able to forgive.
There has been a lot of information, outrage and strong emotion bouncing around cyberspace, and I have been blessed to receive condolences and kindnesses from so many extraordinary people. When we love deeply, loss is deeply felt, and Anthony, like all the animals I’ve shared my life with, was deeply loved. I can’t look too closely at pictures of him because it’s too painful, as is the confusion and grief of Parker, Anthonys cat brother and best friend, who keeps looking for him and crying. Even if there was a way to explain to Parker what happened to his brother, I’m not sure I could. I’m not sure I understand it myself.
By now we all know the name of the man who trapped and euthanized my cat, although I’ll call him PZ in deference to CL rules. We know what he looks like, what he drives, and what he does, and hopefully, with so many people aware of him, he will stop trapping and killing street cats. By now, also, it seems like vet offices, especially in Queens, have been alerted to PZ (if they didn’t know him already) and will refuse to euthanize the cats he brings in. With no place to take them (apparently ACC won’t euthanize his cats anymore), hopefully he will stop. Nothing can bring Anthony back, but by telling his story, maybe the world is a little bit safer for cats, and that would be a good thing.
But I have to say this: I hate what PZ did, but I can’t hate him. When I think this whole thing over, two facts won’t leave my mind. One, that he cried when he told me what he had done to my cat; and two, that he told me at all. He didn’t have to. He could have continued to deny it, and there would have been no way to prove otherwise, and I would have never known, only suspected.. Granted, i created the opportunity for PZ to tell the truth, but he did. He told me, knowing that I was going to post the information as many ways as I could, and knowing that it would bring wrath down on his head, which it has. He told me so that I could stop looking, because otherwise I would have kept looking, kept posting, for as long as I had the heart to do it. He told me so I would know, and that took some courage, the kind of courage a purely evil person just doesn’t have.
I don’t think PZ is the devil. I don’t think he is a sadist. I think he is a seriously misguided man who has, perhaps, seen too much apathy, and cruelty and suffering to have retained any optimism. I think he needs to be redirected, but with compassion, not hatred. As warped and awful as his actions have been, he is motivated by a deeply held belief that he is doing the right thing and preventing suffering. He is wrong, and he has done what he does irresponsibly, which is why Anthony is dead. But I understand how it is to believe something deeply, and to stand by that belief even when you are criticized and condemned by others. I have experienced it myself, for years (and as recently as the last 12 hours) because I let my cats go outside. But I believe that cats are inquisitive and adventurous animals, and I believe that not allowing a cat to go out seriously diminishes the quality of its life, and because I see my role as their caretaker, not their owner, I let my cats go out if they want to. I don’t want to start the indoor/outdoor cat debate. I just want to say that I understand sticking to your beliefs even when you get a lot of shit for it, and that’s what PZ thinks he’s doing, and that’s why I can’t hate him.
Marie made this appeal to those who read her posts,
” If you see him, stop him. Stop vets from taking his cats. But try not to let your hearts get as hard as his, and your vision as narrow.”
“In memory of my cat, Anthony, who made me laugh all the time.”
By December 9, Marie’s experience with grief and her understanding of and communication with his killer, brought her to the point of telling the killer off, and doing it quite mildly, all things considered. The note is dripping with anger and bitter sarcasm, mixed with sadness and regret; emotions brought out by Paul Zhang.
Her message, a response to the man who killed my cat:
You know, Paul, the list of things you don’t know could fill a f****** phone book (like the fact that you didn’t know Anthony had a loving home), and the fact that you take irreversible action based on limited knowledge is what makes you so scary and dangerous.
The neutered “light colored orange tabby” at the boiler store was probably Anthony, and the only reason he would wander so far from home was because you were putting food down, you fucking jerk. Obviously you have abandoned the principles of TNR, which means you were putting food down simply to gain the trust of these innocent animals so you could come back and trap them in order to euthanize them. That is so sick. And, in typical god-like fashion, you see these places and these cats as belonging to you– “MY colonies; MY cats.” How does throwing some food down on the sidewalk equal a colony? You don’t live here, you weren’t asked to come here, and you fed those cats only so that you could later prove some warped point by killing them.
You count my block as one of your colonies (I hate that possessive pronoun– “My cats” “My colonies;” what made the cats on my block, which i and others have been feeding for years, suddenly yours?) You claim you’ve been coming here for months, but I don’t think that’s true. I first heard of you about 8 weeks ago, and you certainly were not here every day or I would have seen you. It’s a dead end, people know each other, and people know that I’m an animal person. I work at home three days a week, and at night two. So I’m here at all hours. After I first heard about you, I asked people to knock on my window if they saw you again, so I could find out who you were and what you were up to, but no one saw you.
The other orange tabby, the twin, must be the cat I’ve been seeing on my block the last few nights. It’s been freaking me out because he looks so much like Anthony, but he runs when I call him. I’m sure he’s over here because you haven’t been leaving food over there.
I went over to your other “colony” last night to feed the cats– not for you, but for them. There were no cats there. I left a bunch of dry food, but I won’t do that again. The neighbors really don’t like it. And here’s another thing you don’t know. Miss Lee feeds in her back yard, which backs up against the houses on that boiler store corner. So on those days when the cats weren’t there and you were convinced they must be starving to death and would be better off humanely killed, because nobody cares but you, and nobody does anything but you, and you know that euthanasia is the only answer; on those days, Paul, when you didn’t see the cats, they were probably in Miss Lee’s back yard eating arroz con pollo.
I’m not going to feed “your'” pseudo-colonies. I have been feeding the cats on my block for years. They come to my window when they’re hungry, and I bring them out food, and when they’re finished I throw away what they haven’t eaten. Forgive me if I’m not doing it right; forgive me if i’m not “certified.” Look at what certification did for you.
Just look at the pictures. I don’t see any of these cats anymore. It’s not just Anthony I am grieving for.
I don’t want your money. Give it to some kind and responsible TNR person to help maintain a real colony.
Paul Zhang may or may not be stopped from continuing his campaign of death in the aftermath of Anthony’s tragic end; his activities will at least be limited and constrained. We hope.
RIP, sweet Anthony and all the others who did not deserve to be killed by Paul Zhang and those he got to do his bidding.