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NYC Port Authority rounds up cats at JFK Airport

by Therese on October 29, 2007

in Animals in the News, Cats

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The feral cat colony at JFK Airport is the cause of a real a cat fight – between authorities and cat people.

A group of about 60 cat lovers gathered at the Manhattan headquarters of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey today to denounce the rounding up of feral cats that live in a colony deep in the secured cargo areas of Kennedy International Airport.

The roundup began last week. Port Authority officials said that scores of felines — some of them descended from cats that had been walked out of cargo holds or abandoned by their owners — were congregating around a parking lot next to an unused Delta Air Lines building. The roundup has generated a fierce debate.

Cat rescue groups and animal rights advocates organized today’s rally. They said that an animal control strategy known as trap, neuter and release (T.N.R.) would be far more humane and effective than trapping and hunting the cats and taking the cats away.

[…]

In a statement, Pasquale DiFulco, a Port Authority spokesman, said that no cats had been euthanized. He defended the policy of rounding up the cats. He said in the statement:
“We met with a representative group who came to the Port Authority today. We reiterated that airports that serve 50 million people are not an appropriate place for a large wild cat colony. It’s a safety hazard and a health hazard. We are treating the animals humanely. We are rounding the cats up safely and turning them over to appropriate animal experts, and from there we’ll consider options that might be explored, but returning the cats to J.F.K. isn’t one of them. If the group demonstrating today wants to adopt the animals or find another place for them, it can and the Port Authority will pay for neutering them.”

Robin Umbley, 41, an airline employee who used to feed the cats and organized with other co-workers to trap and neuter them, came down from Boston to participate in the protest. She challenged the Port Authority’s position, saying the cats “are not near the runway at all.”

“They’re basically house cats that don’t have a house,” Ms. Umbley, 41, said. “You’d never know they’re there. They’re two miles from the main terminal and they don’t attract birds. I’ve never seen a bird there.”

The New York Times has more about the cats.

Jen, over at Fuzzy Logic posted about this and has a news release from Neighborhood Cats, a group in NYC that advocates Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). You can also read the release on the Neighborhood Cats website.

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Alley Cat Allies November 2, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Alley Cat Allies Responds To Request From Local Groups to Help Save Feral Cats at J.F.K. Airport
National Organization Cites Recent Harris Survey: Americans Don’t Want Feral Cats Killed in Animal Shelters

Bethesda, MD November 2, 2007—Alley Cat Allies has responded to a request for assistance by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals and other local organizations to help save the lives of feral cats living on the grounds of J.F.K. Airport. The organization has reached out to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and has requested a moratorium on all trapping until a humane solution for the feral cat colonies can be discussed.

As the national advocates for feral cats, Alley Cat Allies has successfully intervened on behalf of threatened feral cat colonies across the country. Last year, Alley Cat Allies negotiated with representatives from the Army Navy Club in Arlington, VA when plans to trap and kill a colony of feral cats living on the property were announced. The cats were safely relocated to a remote area of the property and are vaccinated, spayed and neutered. Alley Cat Allies hopes a similar relocation plan can be implemented for the feral cats living at the 5,000 acre airport.

The Port Authority claims the cats pose a risk, because their food attracts birds that could fly into and damage aircraft engines. Becky Robinson, President and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies says removing the cats is not a solution. “Birds are an issue at every airport around the world,” says Robinson. “It is ludicrous to assume that simply removing these cats will reduce the bird population at J.F.K.” Robinson points out that the airport is situated on the waterfront next to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Alley Cat Allies has appealed to the Port Authority to consider Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) as a solution. A properly managed feral cat colony would assure that food is not available to the birds or other animals. TNR is the recognized non-lethal method of managing outdoor cat populations. With TNR, stray and feral cats already living outdoors are humanely trapped, vaccinated, and spay or neuter by veterinarians. Kittens and social cats are adopted into good homes. Healthy feral cats are returned to their outdoor habitats where an organized program of feeding and sheltering the cats is carried out by volunteers.

“Trapping feral cats and bringing them to animal control—where they will be killed—is not a humane solution and we know that Americans are not in support of this cruel practice,” said Becky Robinson. A recent national survey conducted by Harris Group for Alley Cat Allies reveals that an overwhelming majority of Americans — 81% — believes that leaving a stray cat outside to live out his life is more humane than having the cat caught and killed. These results reveal a significant disparity between the public’s humane ethic and the operating policy of most U.S. animal pounds and shelters.

“Americans need to understand that the killing of feral cats, like those at J.F.K. airport, happens every day around this nation. Contacting animal control agencies to remove outdoor cats is handing these animals an immediate death sentence,” said Robinson. Feral cats are not a threat to humans. They are not socialized to humans and cannot be adopted, so most shelters kill them. Not only is this practice cruel, it is also a waste of money and resources and is not effective in reducing the total number of cats who live outdoors.

Respondents to the Harris survey were also asked to consider the most humane outcome if they were to assume the stray cats would be hit and killed by a car in two years; 72 percent said it was still more humane to let the cat live out his natural life.

The Alley Cat Allies survey also found that more than two in five Americans have put out food or water for a stray cat, with more than one in five respondents reporting to have done so in the past year.

For a full copy of results from the Harris survey, “U.S. Public Opinion on Humane Treatment of Stray Cats” visit http://alleycat.org/PublicOpinionPoll.

About Alley Cat Allies
The mission of Alley Cat Allies is to protect the lives and promote the wellbeing of our nation’s population of stray and feral cats, and to end the killing of cats in animal control pounds and shelters – the number one documented cause of cat death in the United States. Since 1990, Alley Cat Allies and its 150,000 supporters and volunteers have pursued this mission nationwide through educational and outreach programs. Alley Cat Allies also advocates for the use of Trap-Neuter-Return programs to control reproduction of cats. Visit Alley Cat Allies on the Internet at http://www.alleycat.org.

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