The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) plans to "trap and remove" outdoor cats from a national wildlife refuge area in southern Florida, claiming the felines threaten native wildlife. But many of these cats could now face a death sentence of their own.
Trapped cats will be turned over to a local animal control agency to decide “the best options,” which include returning them to their owners, putting them up for adoption, relocating them to a “long-term cat care facility” or “euthanizing” them, the FWS said.
The cats in the refuges are believed to be a combination of pets let outside; stray cats, who are recently lost or abandoned pets; and feral cats, who are not socialized to people and are usually unadoptable. The trapping, which has been in the planning stages for years, will occur in the sprawling Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex, which is comprised of the Crocodile Lake, National Key Deer, Great White Heron and Key West refuges.
“The critically endangered status of the Lower Keys marsh rabbit and the Key Largo woodrat and other imperiled species demands urgent and immediate action,” the service said.
The FWS said it “engaged” and received comments from six animal welfare groups opposed to the trapping, but that it received “overwhelming support” from natural resource agencies, zoos, veterinarians, environmental advocacy groups and wildlife advocacy groups.
The service announced its trapping plans Jan. 28, two days before Alley Cat Allies, a national cat advocacy group, denounced a new FWS-funded study that claims cats kill billions of birds and other wildlife each year. The group called the study “biased” and “a veiled promotion by bird advocates to ramp up the mass killing of outdoor cats.”
In 2011, when the FWS trap-and-remove plan was still a proposal, Alley Cat Allies called it "a costly and inefficient approach that has already failed in the Florida Keys and elsewhere." It said trap-neuter-return (TNR) would be a more effective and humane strategy.
The FWS Feb. 1 did not respond to a series of questions, including:
- How many cats do you hope to trap?
- How much money will this trapping project cost?
- How much time will the trapping take?
- If you trap lactating moms and can't find their kittens, what will you do – spay and return the moms so they can nurse their kittens, or let the kittens starve to death?