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Poster of Elderly Woman About to Eat Cat Food Stirs Controversy

October 22, 1987

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) _ A United Way poster of an old woman about to eat cat food is being criticized as misleading and praised for dramatizing the plight of the elderly.

The poster was produced by the Ventura County chapter of United Way for its 1987 fund drive, under way this week. Twelve thousand have been printed in English and Spanish.

The black-and-white poster shows a woman opening a can of cat food. The caption reads: ″She has no cat.″

″It’s graphic, but it’s a little misleading,″ said Colleen House, executive director of the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging. ″I think it would frighten people.″

Ms. House said the poster creates the mistaken impression that the county’s low-income senior citizens often eat pet food.

Barbara Mizuno, advertising director for Western States Imports of Newbury Park and designer of the poster, said she contacted United Way agencies and was told there are elderly people who eat pet food to save money.

Thousand Oaks Councilman Tony Lamb said he likes the poster because it is focusing attention on the elderly.

United Way welcomed the controversy, saying the poster is a powerful force in its drive, which last year fell $1 million short of its goal.

″I think it’s making people stop and really read the poster,″ said Sylvia Schnopp, United Way director of communications. ″It’s meant to make people feel uncomfortable and that’s good.″

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