Back in 1993 I was working for the St. Petersburg TIMES, and I recall spending one October day looking around for a Halloween story. I finally called Rick Chaboudy, who was the director of the Humane Society of North Pinellas. Rick was a very media-savvy guy who could usually be counted on to come up with a good story. I was thinking about whether black cats were more in demand for adoption around Halloween, but he had a much better idea — a story about people who wanted to rent black cats for Halloween parties. So that’s how this story came to be.
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
Pet adoptions have been a little slow at the Humane Society of North Pinellas, but the phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from people who want to rent cats for Halloween parties.
But even though the Humane Society has about 50 cats, none of them are for rent, not now and not ever, according to Rick Chaboudy, the Humane Society’s director.
“I think people are getting into more elaborate Halloween parties and they try to think of everything,” Chaboudy said. “We try to explain we don’t do things like that – it would be a tremendous amount of stress on the cat, plus we don’t want to give the impression we approve of activities like that.
“We are here to find permanent homes for our cats, not to rent them out as decorations.”
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of St. Petersburg in Largo has not received any requests for renting cats.
“But we do put restrictions on the adoption of black cats during that week,” said shelter director Beth Lockwood. “We don’t let black cats out the week before Halloween.”
The interest in using the Humane Society of North Pinellas in Clearwater as a sort of Rent-A-Cat agency is a fairly new twist, Chaboudy said.
But calls inquiring about renting cats have been steadily increasing during the past few Octobers. About a half-dozen such calls have come into the Humane Society during the past week, he said.
“It has to be black, and they seem to think if they call early enough they can reserve one,” he said. “And it’s funny – some people feel a little foolish after we turn them down, but others act put out that we won’t accommodate them. They say things like, `Well, we aren’t going to hurt it’ or `We’ll bring it back afterward’ – like we’re wrong in not letting this happen.”
Even if the Humane Society did rent cats, Halloween party-givers probably would be a little disappointed at the present selection. Chaboudy said of the 50 or so cats, none are completely black.
“We do have a few black-and-white cats, but that’s as close as they come,” he said. “If we did have black cats right now, we might not put them out for adoption until Halloween was over.”
Actually, there is a single black cat at the Humane Society, 3040 State Road 590, but she isn’t available for adoption.
“That’s Bonnie, the office cat,” Chaboudy said. “We couldn’t allow her to be adopted. She’s one of our public relations people. Bonnie works for a living.”