Two days after the National Zoo in D.C. refused to suspend a wildlife researcher who was charged with attempting to poison a colony of feral cats, Alley Cat Allies turned over to the institution a letter of protest from 8,000 supporters.
For Alley Cat Allies, the only national organization that advocates for stray and feral cats, the case against researcher Dr. Nico Dauphine is personal. The group is based in the D.C. area and began the feral cat programs in the city.
Nico Dauphine, who is a wildlife bird researcher, is accused of putting rat poison and anti-freeze into the food bowls of a feral cat colony that live in a park across from her apartment. When caregivers found an unusual substance in the cat food they asked the Washington Humane Society to analyze it.
After the substance was determined to be a poison that was deliberately added to the food, the Humane Society conducted a video surveillance of the area for a month.
The evidence they collected pointed to Dauphine and she was arrested at the end of May.
In addition, the researcher has been vocal about her dislike of feral cats and how she believes they threaten birds and other wildlife. She has written about it in her research and lectured about it to others in the profession.
However, the National Zoo that employs Dauphine has refused to remove her from any of her job duties.
Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies explained in an interview the importance of this case and why Dauphine should be placed on administrative suspension until her trial.
“Keeping her on staff during this time would be a violation of the public’s trust in the national Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution,” said Robinson.
“Intentionally poisoning and killing a cat by any means is a felony crime in virtually all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Attempting to perpetrate this cruelty with rat poison and anti-freeze — as Dr. Dauphine is charged — is even more stunning in its brutality. Poisoning is a slow and painful death.”
Robinson explained that the caregivers at the park have a special bond with the cats they feed twice a day. “Even though they can’t hold and pet the cats, the caregivers have the same feelings for the animals as they would for a pet cat,” said Robinson.
Robinson also shared the flawed science behind Dr. Dauphine’s bias that stray and feral cats threaten the lives of wild birds. She said research points to pollution, loss of habitat and even accidents such as flying into windows as the biggest threats. Cats rank very low on the scale of eliminating large numbers of birds.
Dr. Dauphine’s current work with the National Zoo puts her in constant contact with free roaming cats. Her study includes placing tiny cameras on the backs of cats to record their interaction with birds.
Robinson finds this very disturbing considering the charges against the researcher. “Given the nature of the charges pending against her, we request confirmation of whether or not Dr. Dauphine is actively engaged in domestic cat research.”
Alley Cat Allies works hard to protect feral and stray cats and stop them from breeding at uncontrollable rates. They have established hi-volume spay and neuter clinics and have more than 260 groups across the country that focus on Trap-Neuter-Return programs. Robinson also wanted to remind people that feral cats are not a breed of wild felines. They are simply the offspring of domestic housecats that were either abandoned or lost.
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