Commentary Forum, 12/6/11

Feed people, not squirrels

By  Rana Odeh

Rana Odeh

Rana Odeh

A Kettering woman is facing jail time for selling Hydrocodone, OxyContin and other prescription drugs to children in her neighborhood, on which a 14-year-old overdosed … OK, not really. Annick Richardson is, instead, facing up to 60 days in jail and a “hefty” fine for committing the crime of spreading peanuts on her neighbors’ yards.

While this may be extremely annoying, and I’d have a thing or two to say to her, 61-year-old Richardson does not belong in jail for keeping squirrels comfy. It might be different if she were a delinquent teenager attempting to sabotage people’s lives, but Richardson is just a sweet lady who has an awkward, and yes, annoying habit. If I were the judge reviewing her case, I would redirect her feeding efforts to needy people instead of squirrels by sentencing her to community service at the local homeless shelters. According to the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, more than 960 people on any given day were considered homeless in Dayton and Montgomery County in 2010-2011. There are several homeless shelters in Dayton that would warmly welcome Richardson’s generosity and desire to feed the needy.

As a devout squirrel supporter, Richardson should know that Ohio squirrels are not in way in danger of starvation thanks to the plentiful supply of nuts in Ohio. Squirrels have no problem even eating poisonous mushrooms thanks to their short digestive tract. What Richardson probably does not realize is that she is attracting her adorable little friends to a high traffic residential area where they face a higher risk of being crushed under a vehicle than starving to death anywhere else in the Buckeye State.

One of her neighbors claims that because of Richardson’s outrageous love and care for squirrels, his beloved Kettering neighborhood now has “more squirrels per capita […] than […] anywhere in the world.” Had this gentleman consulted one of the World Wide Web authorities on squirrel business, namely, he would have known that the honor goes to Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. right across from the White House, not Kettering.

On a more serious note, however, Richardson did cross the line when her compulsive squirrel feeding behavior forced one of her neighbors to move for the safety of her grandson who has a severe allergy against peanuts. Richardson could have easily accommodated her neighbor by offering her furry little friends a wide variety of healthy treats like corn, as the boy’s grandma suggested. Richardson did, however, admit having crossed the line, and expressed remorse for this particular situation.

Until she develops the ability to train her miniature Tasmanian devil friends to learn how to safely cross the roads, not to chew on car wires, clog gutters with their nut shells, and ruin gardens (now that would be impressive), she should refrain from mass-feeding Kettering squirrels. If she can successfully teach the squirrels, then I wouldn’t care if she filled their drinking bowls with Red Bull or Monster energy drinks, and I am sure that Fox News would move this “very important” news story from their “U.S. Crime” section to their “Education” section.

All jokes aside, it is telling that out of all the major media outlets, it is only Fox News that managed to see the need to cover Richardson’s story. This is exactly the kind of entertaining news that Fox News loves to cover as part of its plethora of smokescreens to divert the public’s attention from the serious issues facing the nation. While, Richardson’s story made it into the “Crime” section on, dozens of cases of corporate fraud, political corruption, police brutality and other crimes against democracy go unreported.

How about the 46.2 million people including 16.4 million children, living in poverty in the wealthiest country on the face of the earth — isn’t that a crime? How about unlawful and deceptive foreclosure practices by major Wall Street banks? How about more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loans? How about the estimated 3.5 million homeless people in the U.S.? How about all the unemployment-related domestic violence, family breakups, child abuse, malnutrition, and suicide cases — isn’t involuntary unemployment a crime?

To Richardson, I say please put your efforts to good use for your community, and find useful and productive activities to improve the quality of life for people around you. Don’t worry about the squirrels; they know how to take care of themselves. It is us humans, though, who are still struggling to find a way to take care of ourselves as a community, and who could more greatly benefit from your desire to feed the needy.

Rana Odeh is a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in English and Philosophy.  Her research and writings focus on issues of race, class and gender.  She can be reached at

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