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Roman Authorities Want to Shut Down a Feral Cat Sanctuary

After almost 20 years, a street-cat facility might be evicted from an important historical site.

 |  Nov 12th 2012  |   12 Contributions


The ruins from Rome’s heyday are probably the most often photographed features of Italy’s capital. Running a close second, though, are the cats who live in and around the archeological sites and on the city’s streets. By some estimates, there are 300,000 feral cats living in 2,000 colonies throughout Rome. Although some Romans aren’t fond of the cats, a number of them feed and care for the kitties in the colonies, and most are content to approach the felines’ presence with a “live and let live” philosophy.

Unfortunately, one of Rome’s biggest cat sanctuaries and tourist attractions, located in a corner of the Largo Argentina temple square and home to about 250 cats, has come under fire from historic heritage experts. Authorities want to close the sanctuary down, claiming that the facility is unhygienic and that it was built without proper permits. The volunteers who run the refuge say that they’ve vastly improved the space since they moved in.

“This was an ugly, dirty place without electricity or water when we moved in,” says Lia Dequel, one of the founders of the refuge. “The authorities say we built it, but how could we ever have put in these huge beams? The only things we put up are a few plastic dividing walls.”

Largo di Torre Argentina is a square in Rome that hosts four Republican Roman temples and the remains of Pompey's Theatre. The cat sanctuary is located here. Largo di Torre Argentina Square by Shutterstock

They’re right about the beams: Those came about when Italian authorities began -- and abandoned -- a road project in the 1930s.

The shelter doesn’t take tax money. Like most shelters in the U.S. and around the world, it’s supported by voluntary donations, which allow volunteers to perform TNR services for the colony. They’ve spayed and neutered almost 27,000 cats in the 19 years the sanctuary has been operating.

On one hand, I can see why these folks would be concerned about the sanctuary: It is, after all, only a few yards away from the place where Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE. On the other hand, the place has been in operation for almost two decades, and nobody’s raised a fuss about it until now.

Roman Mayor Gianni Alemanno has publicly announced that he wants to see the sanctuary kept open. “I’m on the cats’ side,” he wrote in a tweet. “And so is my own cat, Certosino.”

I am, too. The cats have been there since the ruins were shiny edifices standing tall and proclaiming the city’s dominance of the western world. If those historical heritage people really do care about Rome’s historical heritage, they should leave the cats –- and their allies and keepers -– well enough alone.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

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