Loews Hotel at Universal Suddenly Stops TNR Program, Begins Trapping Feral Cats, Sending them to Kill Shelter
*Please be sure to see updates at the end of this post for the most recent news!*
Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando had a model TNR program. It was a great example of how it can work, and the hotel even built "cat mansions" for its ferals to eat comfortably from.
Two days ago, however, hotel staff completely reversed their stance and began trapping the cats in their cared-for feral colony and supposedly taking them to a local shelter, citing guest safety as the reason. I think we all know what fate feral cats have at shelters — they are generally not adoptable, so sending them there means almost certain death.
From what I have heard, there are only 10 cats at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and 12 cats at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Twenty-two precious, innocent lives. The fact that there are so few on such a large property shows that TNR works.
I'm writing this here because we have a voice. We are many, and we need to let Loews Hotels know that what it is doing is wrong. I understand the need for "guest safety" and some places do not wish to have feral cats — but a sudden and complete reversal on policy and total lack of regard for the well-being of these cats is unacceptable. The hotel could work with local rescue groups or ensure the cats are taken to no-kill places or, at the very least, some sort of sanctuary where they could live out their lives.
It was confirmed today that a mother and her four kittens were trapped at another Universal property, Hard Rock Hotel, and brought to Orange County Animal Services yesterday — and euthanized today.
This is me writing from my own outrage. I know I would never stay at a Loews hotel knowing they are doing this. I'm sure most of you would feel the same.
This is what Loews Portofino Hotel posted on their Facebook page in response to everyone's concern for the cats and disappointment at the end of the TNR program:
"Loews Hotels is a pet-friendly hotel brand and we support the humane treatment of animals. It is important to share the facts surrounding this issue. Feral cats at our Orlando hotels are being humanely trapped and taken to a local shelter. For liability reasons, we were advised not to maintain a cat colony in our hotel environment. All cats that were part of an established colony on property are being safely relocated. Our commitment to addressing this issue in a humane and responsible way will continue."
Loews' main Facebook page posted this:
"We appreciate and respect the opinions expressed. While Loews loves pets, like many Florida businesses, we have plans and procedures to address issues involving outdoor, undomesticated animals on our property. The decision to remove the feral cat colony humanely and relocate them to a local shelter takes into consideration the safety and comfort of all our guests."
Loews reps insist what they are doing is "humane and responsible," but I fail to see how sending cats to certain death is either of those Loews Portofino Hotel humane trap or not.
So how can we help save these innocent cats?
Consider contacting Loews Hotel and Universal and letting them know what they are doing is not right. There are better ways.
Here is the contact information I've been able to gather. Feel free to contact any or all of them, but let's do it diplomatically and rationally. We want them to see our point of view, not think we're a bunch of crazies (we're not, of course, but I don't want them to dismiss our concerns for any reason).
The GM of Loews (whose decision this ultimately was): David Bartek, 407-503-9000, firstname.lastname@example.org
The hotels' Facebook pages: http://www.facebook.com/LoewsUniversalOrlando
The company's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LoewsHotels
The company's Twitter account: http://twitter.com/Loews_Hotels
CEO of Loews: Jtisch@loewshotels.com
Director of public relations for Loews: Jennifer Hodges, 407 503-9090, fax 407-503-9005, email@example.com
PR rep for Universal Studios: Vince Laruffa, Vince.Laruffa@universalorlando.com
Write a review on the hotel's Google maps page (Right now it has 3.5 stars — let's post about this there! Scroll a little at the link to the red "REVIEW" button.) Loews Portofino page here and Loews Royal Pacific page here.
Just a note: All of this is my opinion. Blogging can be incredibly powerful, and I hope that by spreading the word about what Loews is doing, we can save these innocent cats. Please feel free to pass this along or write posts of your own. As my good friend at I Have Cat posted: "Don't mess with cat people!"
Now let's let them know how unhappy we are with their decision! I'll post updates here as I hear any new information. Please share in the comments if you do, too!
UPDATE 1/12/12, 11:30 a.m.: I posted on Orange County Animal Services Facebook page asking them to help us be part of the solution (they are not the ones who decided to do the trapping, so I don't want any negativity sent their way) — and they just responded with this! I'll follow up with other parties and see if we can verify. Next steps would be figuring out the exact relocation plans ...
"Our officers were there this morning to investigate exactly what's going on. We have been informed the trapping has been suspended and the caretakers have been given an opportunity to relocate the cats. Good news :) "
UPDATE 1/12/12, 3:30 p.m.: I have confirmed with the caretaker of this colony that they have stopped trapping the cats. The caretaker, they said, will be allowed to relocate the cats -- instead of them being rounded up and taken to a shelter. This is victory to celebrate (Yay, they are safe for now!), but it isn't the end. Unfortunately, we all know relocation is not a great option for ferals. They try to go back home, can wander off and are left where they do not feel safe. We need to continue to ask Loews Hotels to please let these cats stay. They are harming no one, and relocation is not a responsible option for the. Thanks everyone for helping us fight the good fight!
Also, I called and left a message with David Bartek, letting him know I'm the one behind this article that has so widely been making the rounds. Hopefully that's enough for him to call me back. I'm sure he can't be too happy with me right now. ;)
UPDATE: 1/13/12, 4:30 p.m.: Alley Cat Allies is in contact with Loews Hotels and the cats' caregivers -- hopefully they can help convince all involved that the TNR program needs to stay in place and the cats should stay! Here is what they just posted on Facebook:
"Thanks to everyone who has shared their concerns about the cats at Loews Hotel in Orlando, Florida.
We are working with local caregivers who are directly impacted by this issue, and we are in formal communication with Loews and have asked for an official commitment to a moratorium on the trapping. We are hoping Loews Hotel does the right thing and embraces the successful Trap-Neuter-Return program on their grounds.
As we continue to follow this case, we will let you know if we need your help to take action."
Also, I will try to continue updating here, but I recommend following Riverfront Cats on Facebook as well. She is the person who originally told me about this and is in contact with all parties involved as well and posting regular updates!
UPDATE 1/14/12: Check out this article in the Orlando Sentinel today about the Loews Hotels cat situation!
UPDATE 1/15/12, 11:00 p.m.: We have some pictures of the Loews Hotels cats that they are threatening to "relocate!"
(Correction: I originally posted that Hard Rock Hotel was a sister hotel to Loews. It is not. They are different companies, but both on Universal land. The wording has been fixed above.)