Feral cat shelters cruelly removed by village management without consultation

Ossining feral cat in winter exposed to the elements
Ossining feral cat in winter exposed to the elements. Photo: Cat Protection Council of Westchester on Facebook
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

With temperatures plunging to sub-zero in the village of Ossining, Westchester County, NY, the new local authority management lead by Debbie McDonell decided to remove winter shelters for feral cats, without consultation.

They had been provided with permission by a prior administration as part of a TNR program. Then suddenly, unannounced they were taken away. The shelters were removed pursuant to a new village code which put the lives of the cats in danger. All the cats are spayed, neutered and vaccinated and cared for properly. They were doing no harm and apparently no one objected.

This left eleven or twelve community cats out in the cold and uproar amongst feral cat advocates. A protest developed managed by the Cat Protection Council of Westchester who gathered support from their Facebook webpage. Supporters wrote to Mayor Gearity and a protest march took place last Sunday (see video below). Mayor Gearity said that the Village management had been meeting with the ‘community volunteers and the SPCA’ but Paula Garber, president of the Cat Protection Council of Westchester, says this is untrue and she has evidence to prove it. Paula says that the Village manager will only discuss the TNR program with the SPCA who are not involved in the TNR program. Therefore the Cat Protection Council of Westchester representing the volunteers is cut out of discussions.

In response to the media campaign online, Debbie McDonnell, Ossining Village manager ordered the 10 cat shelters to be removed from another colony on a municipal property for which permission had been granted by the prior Village administration (in addition to 2 shelters removed from another site as I understand it). Despite the fact that it was a holiday for Animal Control they were called to remove the shelters on Friday 10th. Paula says that the temperatures were in the 20s and the coldest night of the season.

The feral cat colony caregiver was told to collect the ten shelters from the police station and not to return them to the site. A threat was made: if the shelters were returned they would be collected and thrown away. No laws had been broken by the colony caregivers. The cats of the colony are now exposed to the elements and will suffer.

“Whether you like cats or not, this is the most inhumane way of treating innocent cats who are not harming anyone.” (Paula Garber, president of the Cat Protection Council of Westchester)

The question asked by the Cat Protection Council of Westchester is does this cruel decision reflect the feelings and intentions of the residents of Ossining because if it does not it is out of order. Their role is to serve the community and reflect the thoughts of the residents.

Feral cat advocates are very supportive of the plea for help. For instance, to take one comment from the FB webpage from Barbara Mangoine:

“Sent an impassioned email to them. Asked them to respectfully return the shelters so these cats don’t die a horrible death due to the arctic air moving in. I advised them that as a former clinic manager at the Simpson Clinic, the volunteers who feed the cats and trappers who get them to the clinic are working very hard on their own time (and sometimes their own money) to stem the feral cat population in Ossining. Hope it helps. Please keep us posted”

The volunteers are making their own makeshift shelters as a desperate measure to try and keep these cats well in severe weather.

Here is a short smartphone video of the protest:

Paula sensibly wants a dialogue with the Village management to resolve the matter and the shelters returned. There must be a mutually satisfactory method of proceeding. It seems that the new management have outdated ideas concerning community cats. TNR is becoming a mainstream method of managing community cat colonies across America and winter shelters are part of the process. If the Village management agree TNR (as they do) they are obliged to agree shelters for the cats in very low temperatures during winter.

P.S.Legal Stuff – A couple of visitors have suggested that the council may be committing a crime, a misdemeanour, in removing the shelters. There is a faint possibility that this may be the case but a challenge would be unlikely to succeed, I feel. I am aware that the council have changed their rules but the new rules may be incompatible with allowing good TNR. Therefore the new code (rules) may be defective.

The possible relevant NY state law is: McKinney’s Agriculture and Markets Law § 331 – 379; McKinney’s Penal Law § 130.20. The relevant section I believe is: § 353. Overdriving, torturing and injuring animals; failure to provide proper sustenance:

….any animal, whether wild or tame…neglects or refuses to furnish it such sustenance or drink….

The word “sustenance”, I believe, could at a stretch include life supporting facilities such as shelters as well as food and drink. Also, as mentioned, the council approve TNR and therefore they should approve shelters in extremely bitter conditions as part of the community cat colony management.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

36 thoughts on “Feral cat shelters cruelly removed by village management without consultation”

  1. As a former resident and Comptroller of the Town of Ossining and California feral cat rescurer I am appalled at Debbie McDonnell’s complete disregard to communicate with the the proper New York State animal protection authorities and the community at large. Feral cat haters should not be in the position to make these unauthorized changes without notifying the responsible people. Sending animals out into freezing cold is punishable by law. I am hoping to get a response about what I can do from Los Angeles.

  2. The cat is a domestic pet. Not a wild animal. They have broken a law by causing harm and possible death to a domestic animal. Where are their brains. I don’t live there. I live far away and I care.

  3. Michael-I volunteer at a cat shelter in Massachusetts and we want to help. Is there anything we can do…let more of the media know?

    1. Thank you, Maria, for your sweet comment and offer to help. I think, as you say, the best you can do if you want to help is to spread the word. This may end up putting some pressure on the village management which may, in turn, lead them to change their opinion.

  4. Our neighbors caught 4 of 5 feral baby cats, we got the fifth and had it vetted,and found a home so the vigilantes couldn’t get the last one. Feral mommy was so proud of her babies, took such good care of them. The authorities came and threatened me with fines, possible jail or community service if I feed cats. So they starved momma out, actually all of them save the one we gave a home. I think only got that one bc it wouldn’t leave mommy’s side. So,so sad. Anyway I know where the feral cats are hiding and if anybody asks, I don’t remember…after all, I’m 71 years old!!!

  5. You who are forcing these cats of shelter just plain stink and you fall into my definition of animal abusers. Thank you to the individuals who are trying to make shelters for them

  6. TiredOfManipulativeLiars

    Why did you fail to mention this important bit of info, as reported on every other last site on this issue.

    “The village has a new code that does not allow feral cats to be housed or fed on public property.”

    The cat in the photo you are using shows no signs of being feral. That’s a tame cat that the “rescuers” are abusing by not providing shelter and care for it on their OWN property. Even if feral they claimed ownership to it the very first time they fed or trapped it. If they can’t care for THEIR cat on THEIR OWN property then they need to find some other way to care for THEIR cat — or be convicted of animal-neglect, animal-abuse, and animal-abandonment laws. If they can’t do that then they will have to have it humanely euthanized so it doesn’t suffer any longer under the “rescuers'” OWN animal-neglect and animal-abuse.

    1. How do you now the cat is not feral? It is probably semi-feral or a community cat. Feral cats become used to people being around. That’s the first point. The second point is that there has obviously been a change in the code and I mentioned this. Thirdly the council allows TNR and fourthly the new law conflicts with good TNR and therefore it is bad law. Fifthly the council could conceivable be in breach if animal welfare laws.

      One last point: you have missed the moral dimension. You would because you are an immoral person.

    2. One last point: Change your username or I won’t publish your comments. The name is insulting. I am tired (to use your words) myself of manipulators and trolls like you.

    3. I, too, want to know what a feral cat looks like. Not every feral is sickly, skin and bones, or ratty looking. It took years, but my husband and I adopted a feral, or he us, who was built like a tank, meaty and muscular.

      1. I remember a feral cat fed by a friend of mine in America. The cat was unneutered and really a different sort of cat to the typical domestic cat. As you say more muscular etc..Domestication does remove something from the cat. We don’t live with a true cat.

  7. Why do people insist on being so cruel to animals out in the elements? Please! Get some common sense and help the animals. God is watching what your next move is.

  8. Being a feral cat caregiver myself this enrages me to the point that I’d like to have a wee chat with this Debbie but I will refrain from calling her wot I really want to call her,I sent her an email and I hope she reconsiders her cruel act.

  9. If not for forums like this you would hear very little of the plight of the stray pet cats dumped to die in the streets and feral cats who are only out there because someone refused to enlighten themselves on why S/N is important.
    For whatever reason cruelty to cats is not only OK but it now seems it’s pushed by local governments.
    So here’s an idea. All of those council members should be forced to sit on the street with no coat , no food and no shelter for one damn night. No one will save them no matter what. I would be fine if a few of them froze to death.

      1. When I was still a child I was in a hurry to feed my dog. It was winter and I just ran the tap over the dry food to make the promised gravy and gave it to him. My father caught me and made me sit at the table and think about how I would feel if the only meal I got on a winter day was freezing cold.
        Someone who thinks it’s ok to take away a cats shelter and care when it has nowhere else to go and will likely stay on it’s home turf suffering needs to think.
        There are anti cruelty laws almost everywhere and it’s very possible the council here violated them.

        1. The “Council” is Perpetrating Animal Cruelty by denying those cats their needed and provided Shelter! Totally CRUEL and INHUMANE TORTURE to Innocent Animals who are Unable to care for themselves! Reminds me of the type of person who would throw a child unable to swim into the deep end of a pool and walk away! There are laws in place to stop them from hurting the kitties by depriving them of shelter like that! Surely someone will SUE THEM!!

          1. That’s a good point Linda. I wonder if they have acted criminally in breaking the animal welfare laws of the state. I might check that out.

            1. Cats are considered domestic pets I presume if they’re in your home, outside or stray and feral so animal cruelty laws should apply. The State AG and DA should be contacted and a complaint made. The people most likely to get traction are the care givers.
              Feral cats are a man made problem in 2017 where S/N is available at low cost or no cost regardless of your income in many place. There should be a tax credit for it. 500 dollars regardless of who paid for the S/N.

        2. Linda, another visitor to PoC, made the same point about the possibility that the council’s actions might be a crime under the state’s animal welfare laws or federal law. I’ll look into that.

  10. It seems time for the Cats Protection to get legal council to, at least, be able to be part of the discussions like SPCA is.
    It is, also, time for the caretakers to trap and move the cats to a safer, warmer environment before one more nightfall.

    1. Thanks for your input Dee. For me this is another example of dare I say it ‘ignorant’ decision making by those in authority.

  11. Quite a few people turned out for the protest it seems, but the one gal with the banner kept turning her back to the cars passing by. Stop mugging for the camera and take it to the people! Geeze!

  12. Unbelievably cruel and arbitrary! I’m inclined to board a plane and fly across the country to protest my brains out! What is wrong with people in power these days?!

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