If you've turned on the TV news or glanced at the front page of the Miami Herald in the past week, you're familiar with the plight of South Beach's most famous cock. Newsrooms across South Florida have been stricken with Mr. Clucky fever. Its dominant symptom: the uncontrollable urge to publicize the City of Miami Beach's efforts to evict a rooster that New Times made famous for riding on the handlebars of his owner's bicycle.
But let's put this in its proper perspective, folks. Everything slows down in a South Florida summer, including the news. That results in some very trivial happenings getting major, season-long coverage. And for some deeply ingrained reason, nothing says "human interest" like "animal controversy." Want proof? Here are the stories that dominated local news cycles in the past few summers. Once the weather cooled, these sagas were forgotten faster than you can say "cat killer" or, for that matter, "homeless chicken."
Cat lovers and bookish types alike -- admittedly, there tends to be some overlap there -- were up in arms over this one. The United States Department of Agriculture tried to force the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West to get an exhibitor's license for the 46 cats, descendents of the late author's pets, that roam its grounds. Anti-USDA columnists fumed, and activists gathered thousands of signatures on petitions. The clamor reached a climax just before the cats were licensed that September. They now -- gasp -- are subject to mandatory vet visits every year.
Summer 2007: The Coral Gables Goat Sacrifice
The only thing that can set off a summer media squall quicker than the accusation of animal cruelty is the unmistakable tinge of prejudice, and this story had both. A Santeria practitioner sacrificed some goats in his Coral Gables back yard. Neighboring yuppies freaked out and called the cops, who launched an animal-cruelty investigation. Naturally, a debate raged all summer.
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Summer 2006: The Kitty Kevorkian
When Pembroke Pines resident Michael Stueve's 13-year-old cat, Mama Kitty, began acting "antisocial" and possibly sick, he did the only reasonable thing: blew its head off with a shotgun. The slaying garnered more media coverage than your average human killing, including front-page placement announcing Stueve's animal-cruelty acquittal that June.
[Hemingway cat photo via Secret Forts]