Since May 2008, cats at the Mahogany Run Condominium Association in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, have enjoyed regular feeding and managed care as part of The Cat Café Project, a Trap-Neuter-Return program operating under the Humane Society of St. Thomas. That is, they were until mid-September, when this stable colony of 16 neutered, healthy, well-cared-for cats received an eviction notice.
Instead of voicing their concern and working with Cat Café administrators, the Board of Directors of the Mahogany Run Condo Association wrote to them requiring that the feeding station be removed within 30 days. The letter expressed intent to trap any remaining cats found on the property and remove them. Since then, the Board has ignored repeated requests from the Cat Café Project and Humane Society of St. Thomas to meet and discuss a more humane resolution, and instead removed the feeding station on October 11.
TAKE ACTION: Help the Cats of Cat Cafe Get Their Homes Back!
No cats have yet been trapped by Mahogany Run, but this much is clear: In The Cat Café Project, St. Thomas has a progressive, humane feral cat policy. In years past, the Humane Society killed hundreds of feral cats each year — cats that were brought to the shelter by well-meaning residents who didn’t understand that unsocialized cats can’t be adopted. The Cat Café Project began in 2008 to curb the killing and allow the cats to live out their lives in their outdoor homes. To return to the mindset where removal and killing is an option is a huge step backwards, a step that doesn’t even reflect the wishes of the community.
The Cat Café Project is popular with residents, tourists, and local businesses. Resorts including the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef and Wyndham Sugar Bay have not only footed the bill for Cat Café feeding stations on their property, but they also provide food for the cats. (Mahogany Run never supported the program financially — all the neutering and feeding has been done at the expense of the Humane Society and private contributors.) Since the removal of the feeding station, objections have poured in from Mahogany Run condo owners and renters whose lives improved along with the cats’. Here are a few excerpts:
“The Humane Society is far from being able to give the same attention and service to these animals, and to send them there is essentially putting these peaceful animals to their deaths….In sum, the Cat Café [Project] provided a service that is greatly needed and that benefited our neighborhood in many ways.”
“We have personally visited and help to fund the Cat Café [Project] around the island and can assure you that it is a worthwhile and noticed effort.”
“I would be willing to have additional funds taken from my condo fees to help support this program as I feel [project director Dellia Holodenschi's] efforts are helping to increase the standard of living and value of the property.”
Community relations is a crucial element of Trap-Neuter-Return, and includes listening and addressing concerns from neighbors and property managers. When Mahogany Run revoked their participation without voicing their concerns, they eliminated any opportunity for The Cat Café Project to address those concerns using community relations or conflict resolution. Instead, Mahogany Run has chosen a cruel plan that could ultimately end these cats’ lives and undo the progress made by a successful community program.
Sign Cat Café Project’s Care2 petition and ask the Board of Directors to meet with Cat Café Project and Humane Society of St. Thomas administrators to reach a peaceful compromise that will benefit both the cats and the community.
Becky Robinson is the founder and president of Alley Cat Allies, a national advocacy organization dedicated to transforming and developing communities to protect and improve the lives of cats.
photo credit: Alley Cat Allies
by Becky Robinson, founder and president of Alley Cat Allies