Disabled cat lover braced for possible eviction from Bradenton mobile home park

vmannix@bradenton.comOctober 16, 2013 

Cathy Warner has lived in her mobile home since 1989. Vin Mannix/Bradenton Herald

MANATEE -- Ziggy the cat hadn't appeared that evening to eat and it concerned Cathy Warner, a longtime resident at Kozy Mobile Home Park on Cortez Road.

Furtive by nature, the feral feline usually showed up like clockwork when it came to breakfast and dinner.

"He's old, but he's smart," Warner said. "He probably knows something's up."

The Gulf Shore Animal League, a nonprofit devoted to the welfare of stray and feral cats, has been trying to trap Ziggy but to no avail.

But Warner could've been talking about herself, too.

A Kozy Mobile Home Park resident since 1989, she is facing possible eviction for feeding Ziggy and other stray cats, according to a certified letter from park management dated Oct. 4.

Warner is vexed by the predicament.

"They own the land, but I own the trailer. How can they kick me out of my own home?" the 54-year-old animal lover said. "I've tried to work with them, but I think it's just a (matter of) time thing now."

Warner said she was initially warned in February and a second time in the spring. The recent letter stated it was a final and "formal notice of rules violation," and included a deadline of Oct. 22 to correct the violation, spelled out in bold letters: You must not feed stray cats.

"I don't want a war. I don't," she said. "I just want to be understood."

What exacerbates the situation is her health.

Warner is disabled, suffers from a lung disorder and has been on oxygen since 1992. She had to be hospitalized Tuesday. She supports herself on food stamps, Social Security and disability checks.

"She feeds this stray that doesn't bother anybody," said Howard Phipps, a Gulf Shore Animal League volunteer. "They know she's handicapped, but they don't seem to care."

That Wednesday is National Feral Cat Day doesn't make a difference to Kathleen Johnson, the property manager.

Rules are rules, she said.

"If somebody is feeding a wild animal, it is a rule violation," she said. "The issue is, are you following the agreement you made? People can choose to follow the rules or violate them. If you choose to violate them, you are choosing to suffer the consequences. It is a black-and-white situation."

Johnson wouldn't comment on whether Warner's eviction is in the works.

"I'm not allowed to share those details," she said.

As for the public outcry evicting a handicapped person would generate?

"I understand," Johnson said. "There are a lot of different views on the rules, whether they're justified or heartless or whatever. I get bashed day in and day out for doing my job. It's part of life. My job is to make sure the rents are paid and the rules are being followed."

Health notwithstanding, Warner is not going to take the matter lying down.

"I've outlived a few death sentences," she said. "It's my pioneer spirit."

Warner's roots in Manatee County are deep, indeed.

• Her great-great-grandfather, James Warner, invented the Civil War carbine rifle in Springfield, Mass., before moving his loved ones here in 1868, one of the earliest northern families to settle in Manatee County.

• His son, Warburton, founded Palma Sola in 1884.

• Warner's Bayou is named after her family.

That legacy is the roof over Warner's head.

"This house is Warner property," she said, proudly. "I don't want a war, but I will fight."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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