The Festival of Lights began on Saturday at Fishermen’s Village Resort in Punta Gorda, Florida. The event drew thousands of tourists — and a dozen protestors.
The activists were protesting because the resort’s management rounded up 70 resident cats in September and sent them off to an undisclosed location.
Carrying signs saying, “Boycott Fishermen’s Village,” protesters urged management to return the feral cats to their home.
Management says the cats were a nuisance to customers as well as a liability.
Patti Allen, general manager of Fishermen’s Village, said, “We have had two claims this past year that have involved the cats and so far it’s affected my general liability for the property.”
Although Allen couldn’t discuss specifics, WFTX News reporter Bobeth Yates discovered that the claims are for two different cat attacks.
At least 100 feral cats live underneath buildings at Fishermen’s Village, and Allen said that’s why the cats have to go. “We are faced with a population that has grown to an unexpected level for any business to have,” she said.
Thus began Fishermen’s Village’s effort to trap the feral cats and remove them from the property. But when the problem first came to public attention in September, the Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County, the only place that would take the animals, said it was full.
“There is no way I can house a 100 plus cats feral cats,” said Sharon Thomas, executive director of the Animal Welfare League. She said, however, that the league has been working all year to control the cat population. The organization’s trap-neuter-release program has spayed and neutered 73 cats and returned them to the property.
“I flat out refuse toeuthanize this colony when we put all this help into fix them,” Thomas said.
The cats that were caught were turned over to EARS, an animal rescue group. Of the 70, about 40 were feral.
Activists are demanding that the feral cats be brought back to their home, saying they will die if they’re released into the wild.
“They would become dinner,” said Patricia Stoppiello, one of the animal activists. “Most of these cats were born here. This is where they deserve to live their life.”
EARS said last month that the cats are being kept in an undisclosed location because the organization fears that activists will try to take them. A spokesperson said many of the cats that could be domesticated have already been adopted and the remaining cats are getting good care.
Many of the protesters are skeptical the cats are getting the good treatment EARS says they are. They allege that the feral cats are locked in cages inside a warehouse.
“They are sitting in a warehouse, two months now,” said Holly Gunsher, a cat activist. “If that isn’t cruelty to animals I don’t know what is.”
Allen, as general manager of Fishermen’s Village, is the target of much of the anger. She said Saturday she is “done” talking about the cats and would not give an on-camera interview.
“I don’t really care” if [the protest] hurts business, said Gunsher. “That’s why I’m here. I hope it does hurt tourism. I hope it hurts them.They’ve done a bad thing here.”
Allen brushed off any talks of a boycott.
[Source: WFTX News]