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Bag the cat? Uh, promo might not be good idea

It might be a felony, animal advocates say.

By BILL VARIAN
Published February 20, 2007


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[Times photos: Justin Cook]
Checkers asks people to send in bagged-cat shots and video.

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TAMPA - Participating in the latest marketing campaign from the folks at Checkers could get you charged with animal cruelty in the company's home county.

As part of its "Rap Cat" campaign, the Tampa operators of drive-through restaurants is asking its patrons to do just that - wrap their cats in one of their to-go bags. The company is providing paper bags fashioned after a basketball jersey, with a No. 15, a mock gold dollar-sign necklace and slots to cut out for the legs and tail of the cat. The head would stick out of the bag's opening.

"Instruxions" on the bag encourage customers to submit "pics/vids of your cat keepin' it real" to a promotional Web site.

"Caution" the bag reads. "Not all cats will be down with wearing this bag. Do not harm or endanger any cat."

The disclaimer is hardly good enough, say the folks at Hillsborough County Animal Services.

"We just don't think that's an advisable thing," said Marti Ryan, a spokeswoman for the department that polices for such things as animal cruelty. "Cat scratches can be very injurious. Not to mention having cats perform tricks that they are not prone to do by nature.

"Are they only trying to sell their products to people who don't like cats?"

Beyond that, Ryan said, forcing a cat into a paper bag could be considered "torment," meaning it could open people who participate to a felon animal cruelty charge.

"This is not advisable for humans or the animals," Ryan said. "It's just not a good thing to do."

A Checkers executive responded to a news release from the county with a written statement.

"When our Rap Cat commercials began airing last fall, they were an overnight success," said Richard Turer, senior vice president of marketing for Checkers. "We received dozens of letters from our guests requesting Rap Cat merchandise. Our new Rap Cat Web site, cups and carry out bags are all in response to Rap Cat's popularity and are intended only as a creative extension of our television campaign."

Bill Varian can be reached at 813 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com

 

[Last modified February 20, 2007, 06:27:03]


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