Thursday, August 4, 2016

North Bay Village Scratching Post

This is a post I've been avoiding for a long time.  Any discussion of the feral cat problem in North Bay Village quickly descends into bitter arguments flying right past each other with the anti-feral cat people expressing their frustration, sometimes crudely, and the cat carers violating Godwin's Law, which states that the first person to invoke Hitler loses the argument.   But since fools rush in where angels fear to tread, here I go.  

The situation is that the village stopped Animal Control a few years back.  The Board exists in name only and there has been no serious attempt on the part of the administration to control the feral cat population.   The population has been growing from a combination of breeding and new cats being abandoned.  The problem is worse on Treasure Island.  

There is a group, small and informal, who call themselves the Cat Action Network, who feed the cats, trap them for participation in the Trap Neuter Return program and who defend their right to do so.  

Residents are concerned because there are seemingly more cats everyday and the CAN people use the public sidewalks for feeding.  When questioned, their responses can be pretty nasty. There are concerns about public health and the quality of life problems the feral cat population bring.  

While the Trap Neuter and Return Programs have been shown to reduce feral cat populations, this is only true when there are a combination of factors involved.  These factors include vigorous enforcement of anti-abandonment laws, a large scale public awareness campaign about the program so that affected residents are included in the plan, legislation that designates and controls the feeding, trapping and return areas and times, and a strong adoption and placement program.  

We don't have that.  All we have are some self appointed guardians of the cats who believe they are being kind and perhaps are, but who have taken upon themselves with no authority whatsoever to simply declare that Treasure Island is a "cat sanctuary."  It is not.  It is a neighborhood that people live in.   

The CAN does care about the cats but that's not enough.   If cats are to live in a community and the population is to be managed through TNR, it's incumbent on this group to create community support and ensure their actions are legal and in accordance with the rest of the community.  Otherwise they are just maintaining a large outdoor accommodation for their pets.   

In the Facebook Group North Bay Village Residents Speak, this subject always causes controversy.  And legitimate concerns are brushed aside with mistaken assertions about the posters who are concerned, several of whom have domestic cats and on the other side, well, some pretty nasty language has been used.   

The problem of the growing feral cat population is shared between the Village administration which has dismantled all of the boards while not addressing this problem, and the Cat Action Network, who if they did not cause the problem, have certainly made it worse by their unilateral decision to make other people's property a cat habitat without legal sanction and without regard for the people affected.  
It's time to stop the craziness.   There is an election coming up.  Ask each candidate what they plan to do to balance the needs of the community with the desire to control and protect the feral cat population.  If the candidate is an incumbent, ask what actions they have already taken and why is the problem getting worse?   Demand that the city take charge of the problem.  

For the Cat Action Network, I get it.  You like the cats.   But these are feral cats and they live in a community.  You should be working with the village and the community to create a useful and comprehensive program.  I have heard the argument that you spend your own money and time to feed and TNR the cats.  I have hobbies too.  But I don't expect my neighbors and government to pay for them.  And that's what you're doing when you unilaterally turn someone else's neighborhood into a cat sanctuary without involving them.  You are pursuing a hobby.  And I might add that most of you don't even live here.  Stand up and do the right thing if you really give a damn.  

Kevin Vericker
August 4, 2016

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kevin!

    I only recently stumbled across your blog, and, having already outed myself as one of the feeder/trappers, feel compelled to respond to this post. I look forward to having a fruitful and enlightening conversation on this.

    Firstly - there is no 'Cat Action Network'. I'm not quite sure where you heard that name. There is a 'The Cat Network', a non-profit which serves Miami-Dade at large. We do utilize The Cat Network's mobile spay and neuter unit from time to time, but otherwise aren't affiliated with them.

    Secondly - I hear you on how nasty this issue can get. But your post paints it very one-sided. You make it out as though people who have "legitimate concerns" about the cat population get "nasty" responses from those who are defending them for simply bringing up the issue.

    I've seen it that way, but I've also seen it the other way, which you don't address at all. There are lunatics on the Facebook group who openly post about poisoning animals (which has actually happened in our Village several times). There are people who constantly rail on the cat population and those who take care of them, but don't make any effort to contribute to solving the issue, instead openly disparaging those trying to help, insulting us, downplaying our efforts, etc. There have been several of us, myself included, who have been personally threatened early in the morning when feeding. I am a young woman out in the dark at 6 in the morning - men in trucks pull up to yell at me to take these cats back to my own apartment, etc. For the sake of being fair, your post could have duly acknowledged the unnecessary contentiousness faced by those who are only trying to help.

    Contrary to popular belief, those of us who feed and TNR the cats do not enjoy keeping a 'cat sanctuary' of 'pets' (to be clear, they are not pets, and while North Bay Village is often nice for people, it's far from a sanctuary for cats). I TNR so that I can reduce the population. I feed so that I can TNR. TNR is the only way to manage and reduce the cat population. Though many in our Village don't enjoy the cat colonies - I completely understand this - the best thing we can do is TNR. You cannot move the cats nor kill them under Florida law. As they are territorial and we live on an island, they will not simply 'roam away' if we stop feeding them.

    And while there might be 'legitimate concerns' that there are 'seemingly more cats everyday', I would dispute this. I've only been a resident for a little less than 2 years, but I am out feeding cats every week. And over the months, I've been feeding less cats. I've been noticing less litters of kittens. We have TNR-ed more than 200 cats on the island, and now track them to make sure that we aren't missing any.

    If the population is growing, it might be due to abandonment, which is something we really need to work with the Village administration to address. And I agree that it is incumbent upon us to be open about what we are doing. I do not like the stigma that I am sneaking around in the early morning, feeding cats because I am simply obsessed with them and it gives me utmost joy to feed their little bellies. No - I care about cats enough that I want to keep the populations healthy until they are reduced through TNR.

    As a long-time and well-informed resident - do you think a workshop would be useful? I want to change the negative tides. Feed, TNR, until we have manageable colonies.

    Here is some helpful reading -

    Thank you for your posts! I hope you have found the conversation civil :)


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