Monday, August 27, 2018

Catnip Nation's August Report - Settlement Reached Over Jones Beach Ferals

In June I brought you the seventh installment in a series of posts by Tina Traster, Producer and Director of the documentary film Catnip Nation.  This month Tina brings us news about the settlement that was reached between New York State and the American Bird Conversancy over the feral cat colonies at Jones Beach on Long Island, NY. Tina first told us about the plight of the colony in this post from last year



I was hoping for better news for the Jones Beach ferals. In the eight years that I've been on social media (four of them blogging), I've never been publicly judgmental, attempting to keep Lola and Lexy's world a positive one. But I wonder how an agency can state worry over the existence and safety of one species with total disregard for the possible demise of another. All living beings are equally important in my book. But it doesn't seem that the American Bird Conservancy shares my view.

This is why TNR ordinances are necessary in every town of this country. Feral cats need to be protected. TNR ordinances work! You can read about a success story here. I thank Tina and her peers for working tirelessly on this issue and bringing important information to light. 

Are there TNR ordinances in your area? Tell us about them in the comments below. 
Dawn



On location with a colony caretaker at Jones Beach.


New York State Reaches Settlement with American Bird Conservancy Over Jones Beach Ferals


Not a Win for Cats


In a settlement reached this month, the State of New York’s Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey agreed to humanely remove and relocate 23 TNRed ferals, or “colony cats,” but sold out on the notion of protecting any other dumped, stray or feral cats at Jones Beach. According to the language of the agreement, the state parks department will “remove in as humane a manner of possible all cats” from the park by March 31st, 2019, to the best of its ability. What isn’t said in the agreement is remove to where, or to what fate? As we cat lovers well know, most ferals are not good candidates for shelters and sanctuaries are scarce (and they generally require a fee).

Overall, the news here is bad. While it offers a reprieve for 23 cats caretakers have been looking after for years, it is roundly a defeat for TNR, which is humane, practical, and the only method we have for cat population management. ABC’s victory here is a shallow one because cats, one way or another, will find their way to Jones Beach. They always have.

The American Bird Conservancy filed their suit in the spring of 2016 under the Endangered Species Act, claiming cats were a threat to the piping plovers at Jones Beach. But for the piping plovers being listed as endangered, the ABC would not have had standing to file such a lawsuit. We have not seen what was gathered during the “discovery” process, but I would love to know what kind of hard evidence existed regarding the threat to the plovers. I do know anecdotally from caretakers on the ground that the cats were never anywhere near the plovers.



According to the settlement, the state must build a containment area for the 23 identified feral cats. They’ve agreed to “place these cats in shelters” (totally unrealistic) “where they won’t be euthanized”. The deadline for this is March 2019, but the colony cats can continue to stay in the containment area so long as the state continues to show a good-faith effort to relocate the cats. No other cat has been given protection under this settlement. So what will happen to these other cats when rounded up? Euthanized? Poisoned? Dumped?

So why did the state defend this suit in the first place?

They had to – not out of any humanity for cats – but to protect the Parks Department from having to remove ferals from all of the other state parks. If there’s a glimmer of good news in this settlement it’s that the settlement will have “no precedential value or effect against the State of New York whatsoever and shall not be admissible in any other action or proceeding against the State of New York as evidence or for any other purpose” except the settlement. What this means is that the case doesn’t set a legal precedent. That indeed is a plus, though I do believe many public servants have been watching this case closely. They know the ABC is a well-funded, powerful organization that holds rigid views on ferals. They do not believe birds and cats can co-exist, and they have no sympathy for the plight of the ferals.




Always lost in lawsuits like these are impact and the collateral damage done to “individuals” – both the cats and the caretakers. A caretaker looking after a colony for a decade is attached to her clowder, and the cats are attached to her. There is a personal relationship. There is a lifetime of money and emotion invested. The cats, too, see their piece of turf as their home. The disruption is just details to the ABC, or even the distant park bureaucrats, but to those who are having their chess pieces moved, there is anger, loss, and disillusionment.

What American Bird Conservancy v. (Commissioner)Rose Harvey shows us is that our ferals are disposable, that parks personnel needs an education on TNR, and that bird lobby is a formidable force to be reckoned with. This mentality can only change when cat lovers demand from their public officials, particularly Gov. Cuomo, that we concentrate on this issue holistically. A few years ago, New York was ready to pass a TNR law, and Cuomo vetoed it after being lobbied by the birders. We need to fight just as hard.

Please weigh in. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

And, if you’d like to help support Catnip Nation, please visit our homepage..


Tina Traster is a socially-conscious, award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker. Her 30-minute documentary, This House Matters, is an examination on historic preservation in the Hudson Valley. The film has screened at the YoFi Film Festival, the Kingston Film Festival, the Hoboken International Film Festival, and the Nyack Film Festival. Traster's work has appeared in scores of newspapers, magazines and literary journals including The New York Times, The New York Post, Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, Redbook, Family Circle, Parade, Time Out New York, Audubon, Ski Magazine and many others. She is the author of the award-winning memoir Rescuing Julia Twice: A Mother's Tale of Russian Adoption and Overcoming Reactive Attachment Disorder. Since 2006, Traster has written the "Burb Appeal" column for The New York Post. 

25 comments:

  1. So sad to hear that precedence is given to one over the other, with a likely fatal cost to those that are left behind. Surely a permanent act of compassion rather than half hearted is what is needed or is that too time consuming and costly?
    ERin TCP

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  2. This is sad. TNR does work. Why can't people see that?

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  3. The bird people had more $$ to lobby the politicians. So sad. And what happens to the 'other' cats, the ones yet to come? Sad, so sad.
    P.S. Our city does not allow TNR technically, but they have no way to monitor or pressure folks, other than writing tickets to 'feeding wildlife', and that's when some idiot pours kibble in a pile on a sidewalk. Do it quietly, cleanly, and it's all okay.

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  4. Maybe we need to TNR politicians, they shouldn't be allowed to reproduce either.

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  5. the three organizations here work collectively to ensure the community cats are safe and cared for; it became a city ordinance back in '14
    =^..^= ♥♥

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  6. My human hates all the bird groups, does not donate to them and actually advocates against them since they are so anti-cat! It's frustrating. We just need to keep fighting to protect ferals. What else can we do?

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  7. We just keep thinking, "Can't we all just get along?" and wonder why some people seem so opposed to that simple concept.

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  8. How does that birdie group know that pussycats are the reason for the demise of the povers? Do they have proof on video or statements from witnesses that say they saw pussycats eat the birdies? I'm skeptical. I wonder if some of those birdie group members just don't like pussycats. Maybe the birdies numbers have fallen due to disease or lack of nesting areas or lack of food? Thanks fur the update, Lola.

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  9. I am glad those ferals are safe, but very concerned of any new ones that come along, so sad.

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  10. The American Bird Conservancy stopped TNR activities in Los Angeles, too. I think individuals can do it, but the city (and its city-run shelters) cannot promote TNR. I remember being told not to talk about TNR when visiting BF in LA because “spies” were around to make sure they weren’t promoting TNR. So ridiculous and sad. I think there was maybe a time limit attached so it could be reviewed again years later? Not sure where they are with that now.

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  11. The American Bird Conservancy are a bunch of dummies. This makes me so angry.

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  12. That just makes me sick. I thought TNR was the standard and I was shocked a few years ago when a news story came out that one local jurisdictions approved a TNR trial. I couldn't believe the ugliness in the comments. People can be so ugly.

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  13. This is so very wrong in all ways. My cat's mother was a Feral, that my doctor's wife befriended, the mother cat would let the wife feed her, and finally let her pick her up and bring the mother cat inside. The mother cat had seven kittens, all were born inside. They were able to have five kittens adopted by patients, the other two nobody wanted. Not sure why, even the shelters wouldn't take them (this was in Connecticut where I was living at the time). Fast forward to a year and a half later, I kept hearing a cat crying and thought it was all in my head since I had just lost my cat. I finally asked one day about it, and was told there were two cats, and the doctor thought that one would be perfect for me if I wanted it. When I came back from my next appointment, they had a carrier, food, some cat litter and the cat ready for me! That was seven years ago, Punkin' (my boyfriend named her that since on the way home I kept calling her Pumpkin, it was right before Halloween and she is a grindle color. So I told him to come up with a name.), has been an indoor cat all her life, every now and then wants to go out, will get jealous when I take the dog out.
    When I lived in houses, both my mom and I had both were able to bring feral cats to vets to have them spayed. All our female cats have been spayed as well. Sorry this is so long, I believe in all that you are doing, I feel bad that I'm not able to help.

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  14. It seems no matter what, the cats are always the losers in these situations. And it breaks my heart. So many of our kitties through the years have been the offspring of ferals. What those bird people don't get is that without the cats there would most likely be a run amok rodent population and probably snakes as well. We love and appreciate birds at our house and watch them at the feeders with great appreciation, but every species on our earth deserves the right to live as God intended. TNR is the ONLY and BEST answer. Thanks for keeping up with this situation, Dawn. Please share as things go forward with regard to these 23 cats. Hugs, Janet

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  15. This is so sad that they are putting one species over another when animals always have lived together and it should be left that way. The Bird people are now going to face other challenges which the cats held at bay and they will in the lose this battle to nature. I really feel sorry for the cats as that is their home that they are losing

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  16. My first question when reading this was "what happens to the cats being removed?" There is a TNR program here and what I do know about it is, it works. I worry about what lays ahead for these cats and any cats that come after them.

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  17. This is a sad situation for sure. As a pet lover, as well as someone coming from a wildlife biology background, I can kind of see both sides here. I feel for the cats for sure but am personally not a fan of outdoor cats/ferals as they are invasive and very damaging to natural ecosystems. TNR is an option for sure but it doesn't stop people from dumping more, intact, cats and it doesn't protect birds and other wildlife species from the fixed cats. I really wish some kind of solution could be thought of that would protect the cats but also wildlife. I think, at least, this is an area where a lot of education is needed. I know it's probably not going to happen but if we could stop people from dumping/abandoning so many cats in the first place I think everyone would come out ahead.

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  18. Such sad news, but an all too familiar story. I can't understand why local government bodies are so against TNR, and it seems no matter how many reports and statistics you present, showing how effective it is in controlling the cat population, not to mention the benefits to humans as well, they seem to reject them outright and would opt to kill them or allow them to suffer instead. I will never forget caring for some ferals in the park near a building in my neighbourhood. I never left plates or garbage when feeding them, I had them fixed and returned and together with another lady cared for them. The abuse I got from many of the tenants was shocking. I tried to explain the benefits to them since explaining the humane side was of no interest, and they wouldn't hear of it. They were much happier swearing at me and threatening me. It never stopped me, I would just go under cover of darkness. How sad where there is so little compassion for living beings.

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  19. I agree with you. It's a tragedy that the state puts more value on the life of the birds over the feral cats. TNR does work. I really feel bad for the people that have developed a relationship with these ferals. Now they will be gone by Spring. I worry that the State will just put them in a kill shelter with no regard or attempt to place them in no kill shelters or find other rescues that are willing to help. I wonder if there are any feral cat sanctuaries in NY area they can partner with or reach out to?

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  20. So sorry about the settlement. The bright side to me, is that there are still people who are passionate about animals out there. It's great that the cats had so many people fighting for them. The outcome is unfortunate though.

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  21. This is so infuriating!! Those f'ing Piping Plovers have been the excuse to keep any and all pets and feral cats away from Long Island's beaches for years. So these sweet, defenseless cats will be killed because of the tiny birds who can easily fly off to another area - it's not like there aren't a million of them on the beach every day, and it's not like there isn't enough shoreline along the entire Eastern seaboard! There are thousands of "breeding pairs" right now - how that constitutes near extinction is beyond me. Choosing wild birds over keeping homeless cats or dogs alive is a disgrace. You know those poor cats will be euthanized - I'm sorry to say it so bluntly but it's true. You can't usually adopt out feral cats and most rescues & shelters won't take them. This is devastating. I tweeted a nasty tweet to Gov Andrew Cuomo for vetoing the TNR initiative for these poor cats. He should be ashamed of himself - well, he will NOT get my vote, Ever, that's for sure. This is what I despise about Long Island NY, their hostility towards cats and dogs - there are probably more No Dogs Allowed signs on Long Island than anywhere in the country! This is why we'll be moving OFF Long Island again next year - why did we even come back here?? It's the least pet friendly place I've ever been to. Thanks for the update, sorry for the emotional meltdown, but I just can't take the lack of humanity out here.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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  22. I'm sorry they couldn't figure out a better solution! You would think that the bird group would have to show evidence that cats were causing a problem for the plovers.

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  23. Bastards. Selfish greedy money grubbing bastards! (Sorry it has to be said.)

    THEY SOLD OUT! They are the opposite of Project bay Cat (tell the miserable sods to go look at how well THEY handle these things!)

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  24. I admit I don't know anything about this; around here, feral cats just do their thing or gather in people's barns.

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  25. It truly upsets me that the general public seems to think cats are always so disposable. You never hear of people trying to get rid of dogs. You also hear of people abuse and cats more than dogs and even laughing about it. I don’t know why cats got this reputation. It’s so sad.

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