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Feral Cat News

Alley Cat Allies Challenges FWC Decision on Feral Cats

 Alley Cat Allies announced that it has filed a petition to challenge the FWC’s Feral Cat Policy adopted on May 30, 2003.

Allies Condemns  Vote by the FWC as “Policymaking at its Worst”

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 30, 2003

— The following is a statement by Becky Robinson, national director of Alley Cat Allies:

As the national advocacy group promoting Trap-Neuter-Return policies, Alley Cat Allies and concerned citizens throughout Florida have worked non-stop over the past month to educate the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that TNR is not only good public policy but is the right decision for Florida taxpayers.

The Commission’s short-sighted approval of an ineffective policy and refusal to take the time to conduct an unbiased and scientific study on how to best control feral cats demonstrates public policymaking at its worst. Not only is the Commission’s policy inhumane but implementing this policy could cost Florida taxpayers millions of dollars. Alley Cat Allies urges all Floridians to write to their lawmakers and let them know that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s decision must not stand. In the meantime, Alley Cat Allies and PAW will work with Floridians and organizations across the country to assess what options are available to overturn the Commission’s decision.”
Florida  moves to exterminate feral cats; opponents say it’s `feline genocide’

KISSIMMEE-Florida’s wildlife managers on Friday unanimously endorsed a policy that could lead to the removal or, as a last resort, killing of colonies of feral cats that threaten birds, mice and other native creatures throughout the state.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the policy, which puts a priority on public education, was necessary to prevent the free-roaming cats from preying on endangered species like the Key Largo Wood Rat, Key Largo Cotton Mouse and scrub jays in Central Florida.

”It is not anti-cat; it is pro-wildlife,” said Frank Montalbano, director of wildlife for the agency.
Cat Advocates, many who manage colonies in programs that trap, neuter and release them back into the wild, showed up dozens strong to accuse the seven-member commission of ignoring their successes and pursuing what Orlando attorney Robert Petree labeled “feline genocide.”

“The State of Florida will be recognized and known as the Bloodshine State, not Sunshine State,” said Brenda Beck, president of Pets & Animals in Distress (PAW).

They did not even take into consideration the many local, state and national organizations, rescue groups and volunteers that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and dedicated many hours themselves to this cause to help save them from being killed through a proven and cost-effective TNR program that does work. They already had their minds made up.

Bypassing this bill will only give the State of Florida and all the public officials involved a permanent black eye in negative publicity in the local, state and the national media spotlight that they will now be under, along with sending a negative message to many thousands of young children that will see the State of Florida as a modern-day executioner of animals and most important wasting the precious tax-dollars of Florida residents to have the ferals killed, when an already implemented cost-effective TNR  program does work. I ask if it’s not broken then why fix it.

”I’m furious,” said Silvia Vales, one of several people who made the trek from the Miami area to Kissimmee for the commission meeting. Some waited more than 20 minutes to get through metal detectors and into the meeting. Eighty-nine speakers, most of them against the proposed policy, were limited to one minute each.

”We spend money fixing cats and now they want to kill them,” Vales said.

But commissioners insist the problem has become so big — the state estimates some 5.3 million feral and free-roaming cats live in Florida — that they are compelled by law to do something.

The specifics have not been fully developed, but commissioners emphasized that the plan will rely more on cooperation than enforcement.

Battles over cats have occurred for years in communities, but this is the first time the state has adopted a formal policy. It explicitly rejects an approach embraced by hundreds of volunteers from Miami-Dade to Jacksonville and advocated by national groups like Alley Cat Allies: Trap, neuter and release. The commission received nearly 8,000 e-mails, letters and messages about the policy, 5,355 of them opposed and 2,533 support, officials said.

The commission’s policy calls for a heavy dose of public education that abandoning cats in the wild is both inhumane and potentially illegal. It also requires commission staffers to work closely with local governments and volunteer programs that have jurisdiction over or responsibility for colonies of feral cats
Its most controversial steps would ban managed cat colonies in areas where cats pose a threat to wildlife in parks, refuges or any other lands managed by the state and urge the elimination of TNR programs ”whenever they potentially and significantly impact local wildlife populations.” Suburban or urban feeding programs where cats pose little threat to wildlife would likely face little impact.

Commission staffers insist the aim is not to kill cats. Cats could be placed in pens or sanctuaries or adopted. But when all else fails, the state could trap and put the animal to sleep.

”We have the legal tools to do whatever it takes to solve the problem,” said commission attorney Jim Antista.
Several environmental and bird groups support the policy. They say studies have shown the cats are predators and spreaders of disease and that the colonies don’t shrink as much as advocates claim and often grow.
‘Our problem with `trap, neuter and release’ is the ‘release’ part,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. He praised the policy saying it will help protect several endangered or threatened species.

But cat advocates told commissioners of programs that have seriously reduced feral cat populations and don’t cost taxpayers anything.

The state’s largest colony, managed by the Ocean Reef Yacht Club on Key Largo, for instance, has cut a population estimated at 2,000 in 1995 to about 500, said community manager David Ritz. Homeowners pick up the annual tab of nearly $100,000.

”They made up their minds before today and this was nothing but a farce and a waste of our time,” said Cindy Hewitt, executive director of The Cat Network, a Miami-Dade County organization that manages a number of colonies.
Kerry Fay of Alley Cat Allies said cats are being blamed while the state fails to address far more devastating threats to wildlife like habitat destruction from overdevelopment.

”A bulldozer in a single day can do more damage to wildlife” than a feral cat can do in a lifetime, Fay said.

The biggest test of the policy may come from a broader public reaction if the state actually starts to kill cats.

On Key Biscayne, Scott McKenna, a 77-year-old sailor whose 32-foot sailboat Sara is docked there, considers the feral colony that lives in woods nearby somewhat of a nuisance: ”They do smell,” he said.

Still, though he’s not one of the Cat Network feeders the county authorizes to take care of the cats, he sometimes gives them a tidbit or two, despite signs that read: “Feeding feral or nuisance animals . . . is prohibited and subject to a civil penalty.”

He’s no big cat fancier but he’s seen the colony shrink from 100-plus before Hurricane Andrew to a couple dozen and the idea of just wiping them out doesn’t sit well with him. ”I don’t want to see that happen. If they have good reasons for killing them, then I guess it’s OK,” he said. “But I just don’t like to see them killed.”

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