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Park Service seeks public input on management plan for feral cats at Paseo del Morro


The National Park Service will be hosting two in-person meetings on a management plan for feral cats at the San Juan National Historic Site. The meetings will be held next Wednesday and Thursday at the park’s Visitor Center at Castillo San Cristóbal in Old San Juan.

By The Star Staff


The San Juan National Historic Site, a unit of the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), has issued a statement announcing public input for the preparation of a Free-Ranging Cat Management Plan and Environmental Assessment that has raised concerns on the part of some San Juan residents.


The NPS said it is hosting two public meetings and will be accepting comments until Nov. 22. The proposed action seeks to “humanely remove free ranging cats” that live within the historic site.


Raysa Santiago, a San Juan resident, said that anytime someone talks about humanely removing cats it usually means killing them.


“I am afraid that is what they will do,” she said. “These cats don’t bother anyone. I don’t feed them, but I don’t agree with killing them. If anything, they should be adopted.”


San Juan National Historic Site Superintendent Myrna Palfrey said in the statement that “the situation that these animals experience at the park, specifically at the Paseo del Morro, is not ideal for them and is inconsistent with National Park Service policies regarding the feeding of animals and invasive species.”


“The abandonment of animals is a problem that we as a society are facing throughout Puerto Rico, and that we are seeking to address within the park,” the official said. “The National Park Service needs your help, we need to hear from you as we commence this important process. We encourage public participation by commenting on this issue and by attending the Open House meetings.”


The NPS will be hosting two in-person meetings next Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 2-3) at the park’s Visitor Center located at Castillo San Cristóbal in Old San Juan, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Public comments on the proposed actions can be made on the website: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/PaseoCatPlan or by mail to: SAJU Superintendent Attn: Paseo Cats 501 Calle Norzagaray San Juan, PR 00901


“Public comment and involvement is not merely a step or a checkmark in the process. It can influence how decisions are made, and the NPS takes this process very seriously,” Palfrey said. “We are conscious of the complexity of the issue that the proposed actions seek to address and hope that through this process we come up with a strategy to manage it successfully.”


According to the organization Save a Gato’s website, the cats are a part of the Old San Juan experience, and noted that “some of these cats are said to be descendants from the original cats that arrived on the ships when the first Spanish settlers came to the island.”


“Most of the cats around the Paseo del Morro are feral cats, which means that they are not socialized to humans,” the group said. “They are cats that were either born outside and never had human care/contact, or cats that have become accustomed to living without human companionship.”


Through an agreement with the National Park Service, Save a Gato said it provides food, water and medical assistance for the cats. They also said they control the number of cats in the colony by trapping and neutering them. However, the group works on donations and encourages other ways to help the cats.


“There is never enough money to neuter all of the cats, so unfortunately, there are always new kittens,” the group said. “Luckily, most kittens can be socialized and adopted out to good homes.”


Save a Gato could not be reached for comment.

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