Floyd Bishop, 79, a widower who lives alone in a small trailer house on the south edge of Salt Lake County, is opposed to proposals by government officials and veterinarians to license cats.
Bishop and his late wife, Beulah, loved cats, and since she died in 1984, Bishop's only companions most of the time have been the stray cats he takes in and cares for.If you visit Bishop, you won't find any cats in his neat, clean trailer or even outside. The cats are so shy that they hide when people drive by or walk up to his trailer. He keeps the cats outside most of the time and leaves food for them near his front door.
Bishop, who will be 80 on March 17, has emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is on oxygen 20 hours of each 24. His monthly income is $309 plus $25 worth of food stamps and, he says, new federal rules will cut his income in 1989 to about $277. He is not sure what amount of food stamps he will get.
He underwent surgery in 1963 and again in 1964 for cancer of the larynx and in 1981 suffered a heart attack. He wears a pacemaker and breaths through a hole in his throat called a stoma. He cannot speak normally, because his vocal cords were removed during his cancer surgery, and he uses an electronic device called an artificial larynx to communicate.
For a lonely, tired, sick man, the cats mean a great deal. Speaking in his vibrating, electronic voice, he said: "Nobody can own a cat. They are very independent. I don't see how a government can set up a licensing program for cats.
"How are they going to enforce such a law? If cats were licensed, would animal control officers come out in the middle of the night to settle or stop a cat fight and quiet the neighborhood?"
Bishop sees the issue as ridiculous in many ways. "Cats come and go. They pretty well do as they please. They are not like dogs. They are very independent. And as far as cat diseases are concerned, I understand a case of a cat with rabies is very rare."
Cats, Bishop says, are great animals, good companions and fun to have around and are champion rat killers. "If you have cats around, you are not likely to have mice or rats."
The bottom line for Bishop is that he can't afford to pay to license one cat or half a dozen cats. He feels many other people are in the same financial position.
"Having to license cats would give governments more money and veterinarians would make money on the deal, too. But would cities and counties be better off, would people be better off if cats had to be licensed? I don't think so," he said.