Monday, August 28, 2006

Bad Neighbors

A 14 year-old boy in Pennsylvania is being charged with misdemeanor harrassment of his neighbor. Apparently the neighbor, who is a 78 year-old woman, had complained to the family about their cat. The cat was apparently using her flower bed as a littlerbox. (I am a little torn here. On the one hand I can see that I wouldn't want poop in my yard. On the other hand - fertilizer. Also, wouldn't the cat be burying it's stuff. So is it really an issue?) As a result, the family eventually sent the cat in question to live with relatives. So, all better. Except that the boy, meowed at his neighbor. There appears to be a dispute as to the number of times that he meowed at her - he says he did it twice and the neighbor contends this has been going on for three years.

Perhaps I am underestimating the annoyance of being meowed at, but I am wondering - even if the boy has in fact been doing it for three years - so what? It does not appear that he is seeking her out to meow at her or meowing loudly or at inconvenient times (although I guess there is not a convenient time to be meowed at). Of course this article does't provide all the facts. Certainly I would love to know if the neighbor ever - for example - asked the boy to not meow at her? Does she have a traumatic experience that causes her to find the meow offensive? Were the police officers able to take the complaint without laughing? (I'm a little bit sorry to be flip here, but still, I cannot see the deal here). Is there legal precedent for animal noises being considered harassment?

I can see that if - for example - my boss oinked at me every time I walked by - that would be problematic. Harassment even. If a teacher meowed or chirped at a student - there are scenarios where that would be inappropriate. And don't get me wrong, I'm not going to start suggesting that animal noises are an appopriate form of communication or conflict resolution. But a teenager meowing at a neighbor is not the end of the world. I certainly don't think the legal or justice systems should be involved. But maybe, as a cat person, I can't appreciate the horror of being meowed at.

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