Busted: Loews Hotels Caught Trapping and "Relocating" Feral Cats to Kill Shelter
It all started in January. Florida cat lovers were stunned to learn that a hotel renowned for its model feral cat TNR program, which even included palatial feeding stations and shelters, had suddenly reversed its stance and the 10 community cats that lived there were no longer welcome. The hotel's management planned to have them trapped and "relocated."
Cat lovers all around the state -- and soon, all around the country and even all around the world -- bombarded the hotels with pleas for the cats' lives. National groups like Alley Cat Allies got involved and volunteered to work with the hotel to find a solution that would allow the cats to stay at the only home they had ever known. It was starting to look like the colony would be allowed to stay.
But last night, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Loews Royal Pacific Hotel posted this announcement, buried deep within the comments to a note on its Facebook page labeled "Feral Cat Issue":
That's right: the hotel is having the cats "relocated to the county animal services center," where they will certainly be killed.
The note where this comment appeared is more than two months old now. It hadn't even been touched for weeks until a member of the public asked yesterday morning, "So, Loews, what is your stand?" Do you know what happens when comments are made to 2-month-old Facebook posts? Not much!
Who would even have known about Loews' move if a member of the public hadn't asked?
Why is the hotel making this drastic move? Because the Florida Department of Health and other agencies say that feral, free-roaming cats pose a public health hazard. The hotel never offered any research to back up this claim, because, well, there isn't any.
In a four-page memo dated March 27, 2012, Loews Hotels laid out their new policy for dealing with "wild animals" like feral cats. Employees, guests, contractors, and other businesses working on Loews' Orlando properties were forbidden to feed or interact with the feral colonies in any way and were urged to report any such activities by other employees to management. Employees found in violation of this policy will be "subject to disciplinary action." Implicit in this warning is the threat that if a "LHUO team member" feeds or handles "feral or undomesticated wild animals," he or she could be fired.
It turns out that the management of the Loews properties at Universal studios never returned calls or e-mails from Alley Cat Allies or any other groups that specialize in managing feral cat colonies.
Overnight, my Facebook page exploded with infuriated comments from my fellow cat bloggers and cat lovers.
The traps were set yesterday and the cats' fates may be sealed today.
Riverfront Cats, a feral cat advocacy and care group, is urging people to contact the hotel and speak up for the ferals. "Please call the hotel and ask to speak with manager (407-503-1234). Let him or her know you have a complaint. Don't give specifics to phone taker. Just demand to speak to manager," and ask the questions listed on Riverfront Cats' website.
You can leave a comment to the note on the Loews Hotels Facebook page, too, if you'd like, but they'll probably delete it as they have with so many other comments about the cats.
The Save Loews Cats Facebook page was created just this morning. If you want to comment on Facebook, Loews Hotels can't delete your words there!
If you do contact Loews Hotels or write on the Facebook page, I urge you to please refrain from hissing, spitting and cussing! No matter how angry you are, be polite and respectful in your dealings with them, for the sake of the cats. You can hiss and spit all you want in the comments to this post, though.
Update: Catster's Dorian Wagner created this Facebook page this morning to draw attention to this cause. Please "like" it if you can!