LB V.A. Hospital supports relocating cats elsewhere, but animal supporters say it's smarter to spay/neuter and manage colony on site
(December 14, 2002) -- Supported by honking car horns from passing drivers, roughly two dozen demonstrators lined several parts of the sidewalk along 7th St. at Bellflower Blvd. today to encourage the LB V.A. Hospital to change its recently adopted policy of trapping and handing over feral cats on its property to LB Animal Control...where they are either adopted/rescued or (likely) killed.
The animal advocates want the cats trapped, neutered...and returned to the LB V.A. Hospital grounds and managed. They said this is being done at the V.A.'s West L.A. facility and a number of other sites with feral cats in the L.A. area.
Jacqui Rengstorf (photo right) told LBReport.com, "I'm here to encourage the V.A. Hospital to adopt 'trap, neuter, release.' In this day and age there's better ways to handle feral cats than killing them."
Animal advocates indicate they held a businesslike, professional November 22 meeting with LB V.A. Hospital officials and the controversy subsequently arose when LB V.A. Hospital announced it doesn't want a feral cat colony, neutered or otherwise, at its LB site.
A spokeswoman for the LB V.A. hospital, on site to field questions from reporters, told LBReport.com the LB V.A. Hospital would be amenable to trapping the feral cats...but wants them placed elsewhere and not returned to the LB V.A. Hospital site.
LB V.A.'s Public Affairs Officer, Estella Murray, said: "We don't mind trapping them and taking them [elsewhere]...We've done it in the past" and indicated that after the November 22 meeting, it appeared the animal advocates were unable to have the cats relocated, which had been done in the past.
Ms. Murray acknowledged that V.A.'s West L.A. hospital allows a feral cat colony, but said the West L.A. site is several times larger than the LB facility, meaning the roughly 75 feral cats in LB are concentrated in a smaller area and more visible. She also indicated the cats use the child care center's sandbox as a cat box (i.e. latrine) and there is also concern over health impacts for V.A. Hospital patients, often elderly and/or immune compromised. She added that the decision on the feral cats had been collectively made locally by LB V.A. Hospital management and an Environmental Care Committee.
Animal advocates called the issues raised by Hospital management manageable...and the concerns bogus. Bill Dyer (right) of the group In Defense of Animals said:
"The cats go where the food is. The feeding stations would be away from those areas they're concerned about, away from the [children's] sandboxes...It's managed, it's controlled. Who's picking up the feces now? Our people would do that...and keep the population down."
Mr. Dyer, a U.S. Army Veteran, indicated he'd personally helped in previously finding places for some of the feral cats, but the LB V.A. Hospital cat colony had nearly doubled since then...precisely because there'd been no spay and neutering program.
"Two years ago I had a place for them. I don't anymore." Mr. Dyer said, adding "We met [with LB V.A. officials] on November 22...And we pleaded, we told them: We don't have a place. There is no place...If there was a place for the cats [to be taken], we would take them there. There are three million feral cats in the County of Los Angeles and it is impossible [to take them all elsewhere]...[That's why we support] "TNR"...it stands for trapping, neutering and release...It's [used] right next door at the [CSULB] campus. It's the only thing that works...[I]f you have a managed colony [you can] have shots, spay/neuter them, flea control...[D]eath is not a solution. They will always have cats here unless they are managed..."
On health concerns, Mr. Dyer said: "We can address the infectious disease because it's a red herring. It doesn't exist...We have the statistics for all of California about all these diseases."
As of this posting, the impasse continues with feral cats being trapped and handed over to LB Animal Control...and an often final fatal feline fate.
For the record, we post below the verbatim text of a Dec. 12 LB V.A. Hospital facility press release:
VA Long Beach Healthcare System has an over abundance of feral cats on its campus of 100 acres. In two years, the feral cat population has significantly increased. The increased challenges with the number of cats in and under buildings have become unacceptable for a healthcare facility. VA Long Beach Healthcare System must place the highest priority on the
health, welfare, and safety of our patients, volunteers, and employees. Consistent with these objectives and all applicable federal, state, and local laws, wild animals imposing a health threat must be handled in a humane fashion that lends itself to the reduction of such health hazard.
VA Long Beach enjoys a good partnership with Animal Birth Control (ABC), the Harbor Shelter and until recently, with In Defense of Animals (IDA). VA Long Beach continues to humanely trap and transport animals to centers such as the Maddie Fund sponsored clinic for neutering and/or spaying. IDA performed relocation to an alternate site.
A proposal to establish a feral cat colony at VA Long Beach Healthcare System was presented by Feral Cat Caretakers' Coalition, Lauren Laster and Dona Baker on November 22, 2002. The financial responsibility for neutering and/ or spaying and feeding will be from donated monies to Feral Cat Caretakers' Coalition. The stipulation is that the feral cats be returned
to the grounds at VA Long Beach. Taking into consideration the past and present ways to control the cat population, the health and welfare of our patients, volunteers, and employees, a feral cat colony will not be established on the VA Long Beach campus.
VA Long Beach Healthcare System is willing to humanely trap and transport feral cats to a designated clinic for neutering and / or spaying. The cats would not be returned to VA Long Beach Healthcare System but released to an alternate location. The clinic, animal rights organizations or foundations would perform relocation of feral cats and not have the cats returned to the federal government campus.