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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Mainland group sues park service to stop Paseo cat roundups



A lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Alley Cat Allies Inc. requests an injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia “to prevent the unlawful, misguided, and cruel roundup and likely extermination of scores of cats from federal land in Puerto Rico by the National Park Service (NPS).”

By The Star Staff


A mainland cat protection group has sued the National Park Service in federal court to prevent the extermination of cats from the Paseo del Morro National Recreation Trail.


This lawsuit was brought by Alley Cat Allies Incorporated (ACA), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and improve cats’ lives through advocacy, education and action. The group, which filed a request for an injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks “to prevent the unlawful, misguided, and cruel roundup and likely extermination of scores of cats from federal land in Puerto Rico by the National Park Service (NPS).


The cats have lived in the area that is now the Paseo since long before the area came under federal jurisdiction, and the cats are beloved by residents and tourists alike, the ACA said. Despite these facts, the NPS has arbitrarily decided to pursue an unattainable, unnecessary and inhumane goal: the complete eradication of cats within the Paseo, the suit says.


Prior to its recent plan, the NPS partnered with a nonprofit organization to manage the health, welfare and population of the cats through a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, whereby cats are trapped, neutered, eartipped, vaccinated and given veterinarian care, and returned to the park.


“This program has improved the cats’ lives and allowed them to thrive in their natural outdoor home in a community that cares about them,” the suit said. “Now, after all of this time and despite the cats being valued community members who cause no harm and who are being actively spayed or neutered and vaccinated through a TNR program, NPS has arbitrarily decided it will end the TNR program and take a phased approach to the management of community cats, which will include continued trapping and removal efforts by an animal welfare organization if one is found suitable, and otherwise by a removal agency, removal of all feeding stations in the park, monitoring, and additional removal efforts if deemed necessary.”


The suit claims the NPS will “euthanize” or cause the “euthanasia” of any removed cats that are deemed unsuitable for adoption or that cannot be placed in animal shelters due to limited space.


The NPS claims the plan is necessary to improve the safety of park visitors and employees, and protect park resources and reduce impacts on native species; alleviate nuisance issues and align the visitor experience with the purpose of the park; and bring the park into compliance with existing authorities for invasive species.


“NPS’s espoused justifications for its Plan are transparently pretextual,” the suit said. “NPS has provided no evidence that the community cats pose any danger to humans, has not demonstrated that the cats in the Paseo prey upon or harm any native species or wildlife, has not provided support for and appears to exaggerate the nuisance allegedly caused by the cats, and makes no attempt to explain why existing authorities for managing invasive species — assuming the cats can be classified as an invasive species — are suddenly a paramount concern after nearly two decades of an active TNR program which has contributed to a harmonious coexistence between cats, the community, and tourists.”


In addition, the group said, the NPS fails to acknowledge, much less address, the fact that removing the cats will not solve what the NPS claims is a problem because even with the NPS’s proposed plan, community cats will continue to live in the area surrounding the Paseo and frequent cat abandonments in and around the Paseo will continue to occur. While the cats in the Paseo are currently being fed, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and treated with veterinary care, the new cats that will inevitably be introduced into the Paseo will not be, the suit says.


While the number of cats across Old San Juan far outnumbers that currently in the Paseo, the NPS only has jurisdiction to remove the community cats within the Paseo itself, meaning that whatever issues NPS believes community cats are causing in the Paseo will continue to exist all around the site, and due to the “Vacuum Effect,” the community cats removed from the Paseo are highly likely to be replaced by community cats from neighboring colonies, the lawsuit said.

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Oscar Melendez
Oscar Melendez
Apr 01

Feral cats are a pest in Old San Juan. Cats kill birds and other animals that are needed in our ecosystem

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