Fracas Over Feral Felines: Gold Star Manor Residents Protest Property Mgmt's Trapping And Handing Wild Cats To LB Animal Control (Where As Unadoptable Animals They're Killed); Group Urges "Trap, Neuter, Return" Policy
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(January 21, 2006, w/ further text added Jan. 21) -- A group of residents at LB's Gold Star Manor demonstrated on January 20 in opposition to their property management's policy -- implemented by Gold Star Manor CEO/President John Higginson (RADM, USN, Ret.) -- of trapping feral (wild) cats on the 23-acre property and handing them to LB Animal Control where they are ultimately killed.
Carrying homemade signs urging a "trap, neuter and return" policy they said has been successful elsewhere, about a dozen demonstrators brought petitions indicating an overwhelming number of residents they surveyed opposed killing the feral felines.
The demonstrators indicated Gold Star Manor management's policy, implemented by Adm. Higginson, has been a sore point with them for some time but had recently reached the boiling point. After forming a residents' association, they timed their demonstration to coincide with a meeting of the Manor's governing board which oversees the park-like oasis at the NW corner of Santa Fe/Spring, originally built for mothers who lost a child in military service, now providing affordable housing for others.
"We found the solution [for Adm. Higginson]. It costs the Gold Star Manor nothing in time or money...We found [the solution]...handed it to him on a silver platter and he's resisting...And the boardmembers as they came in [drove in] would not even take our literature, they just went right by," said resident Marge McKinney. She added politely but firmly, "I for one will not accept 'no' for an answer."
Demonstrators distributed a homemade flier stating in part, "Tell our administration we have a safe, humane solution. Killing is not the cure." It added, "Our outside cats can be captured, neutered, given shots and returned to the premises at no cost to the manor" through the help of the LB Spay and Neuter Foundation. That group's co-founder, Antje Hunt, indicated to LBReport.com that her group accesses pledges and vouchers from other groups which support the trap, neuter and release policy.
Homeowners who've had two or more wild cats in their area can attest to late night howling and brutal fights, but advocates of the "trap, neuter and release" policy say neutering, which prevents making more feral cats, also reduces the howling and fighting.
In an email communicated to LBReport.com, Patricia Nissen (photo foreground), president of the newly organized Gold Star Manor residents association, wrote in part:
Many of the seniors feed the cats or treat them like pets and in a lot of cases the cats have tamed down and bring much joy to them. In one case a resident [we omitted name] raised a cat from a kitten for it to be trapped and put down. She made frantic calls to the Long Beach Animal Control to find Tiger but it was too late and he had been put down a day before. She has not been the same since and wrote a beautiful poem about her heartache due to her loss...
Asked at the demonstration what she wanted Adm. Higginson to do, Ms. Nissen said: "He should give the people and animals who live here consideration [consider their views] and a fair chance to live."
Some demonstrators complained that Adm. Higginson had dismissed the "trap, neuter and release" option in peremptory fashion without bringing it to the Manor's governing board.
Not so, Admiral Higginson told LBReport.com following our request for comment, saying he has has discussed the issue with boardmembers and they approve of the way he's handling the matter.
"We have about 400 people living here and we're trying to keep everybody happy," Admiral Higginson said. He said some residents are allergic to cats, others object to dodging cat droppings on the well-kept grounds...and nobody wants fleas as co-tenants. Adm. Higginson added that residents are already allowed to have cats as pets and said he's following procedures consistent with LB Animal Control.
LB Animal Control officer Wesley Moore articulated the city agency's position...which essentially lets the property decide how to handle the matter. "A person has the right to trap on their property and chooses how to handle the matter. If the property owner has a problem with wild cats coming onto their property, they can trap the animals. If they give the animals to us, we hold them for the legally required period. If they're feral -- meaning they have reverted to their wild state -- they're eventually euthanized. If a stray, domesticated cat is trapped in the process, then they can be put up for adoption."
Some groups, such as "Allie Cat Allies" (www.alleycat.org) strongly support a trap, neuter and return policy. On a flier showing a cat's face, the group asks rhetorically, "Do you believe she deserves to live even though she is wild?" It continues, "Trap-Neuter-Return, the humane, non-lethal method of population control, is more effective than trap-and-kill, and is more reflective of a caring society."
However, some knowledgeable in animal issues say the feral cat issue is quite complex. Among other things, they say feeding feral cats can attract more feral cats (and potentially cat predators including coyotes). Others say the best way to manage feral cats is, as with any wild population, to reduce their food source so the feral colony effectively manages itself naturally.
[subsequently added text] Admiral Higginson also noted that the Audubon Society (whose focus is birds) has major concerns about outdoor cats. And after also receiving an email from a reader on this point, we checked...and yes, the Audubon Society website devotes an individual webpage to the issue (www.audubon.org/bird/cat) which references efforts by the American Bird Conservancy ("Cats Indoors!"). The Florida Dept. of Fish & Game also has a web page that discusses the subject (www.myfwc.com/cats/index.htm). [Our commenting reader said both websites indicate "trapping and releasing feral cats does not solve the problem of cats fighting, defecating and killing birds. Only keeping cats indoors can do that. Every cat deserves a home."] [end added text]
Friends of LB Animals was not among those at the Gold Star Manor demonstration. Its president, Shirley Vaughan, told LBReport.com that the Friends' position on feral cats is no position. "We focus on pet overpopulation, not ferals. Our board is split on how best to handle feral cat issues."
In December 2002, a feral cat controversy arose at LB's V.A. Hospital (7th/Bellflower) when that facility moved to change its policy of allowing the relocation of feral cats. VA management said it was open to having the feral cats relocated but was having trouble finding outside groups that could continue doing so. What VA didn't want was having the cats returned to the hospital grounds (even if neutered). In a written statement at the time, VA hospital management said:
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...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.
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