Pet cats missing after homeless encampment bulldozed in San Jose, California

NEWS AND VIEWS – SAN JOSE, UNITED STATES: Nathan Winograd has told me about a news item which is concerning to animal advocates. The NBC video covers it nicely. And the video mentions the problem with disappearing cats.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Nathan Winograd summarises it nicely too:

The recent sweep of a homeless encampment in San Jose [CA] has left its residents distraught and concerned that several missing cats may have been trapped in tents during the bulldozing. [One resident said]: “My cat’s everything to me, man. I’m a homeless guy. I mean I’m homeless. I don’t have anybody”. All the cats were “neutered, microchipped, and given necessary vaccinations” by the local Humane Society but are missing and may have been thrown away with tents and other belongings like so much trash.  Caltrans, the state agency which conducted the sweep, was unapologetic and defiant. Those involved should be fired.

Nathan Winograd

There are two sides to the story. The property-owning local residents were and are concerned about the mess of the homeless encampment. It does look chaotic. There is a loss of amenity for the community. They see it has a hazard. They want rid of it.

The California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) listened to them and acted. They sent in the bulldozers and cleared – lock stock and barrel – a part of the encampment.

They just swept it all up indiscriminately. That’s what it looks like. Some homeless, tent-dwelling individuals such as Steven Steffke lived with cat companions. He had four and they are all missing.

He has a job and he was at work when CALTRANS moved in. He said:

Someone said the machine might have killed one of them. I don’t know. I wasn’t here,

Steven Steffke

There are others with the same problem. One of them is Scott who is heartbroken.

My cat’s everything to me, man. I’m a homeless guy. I mean I’m homeless. I don’t have anybody.


Five cats are missing after the clearance. It looks brutal and inhumane especially as the Unhoused Response Group and the Humane Society had been involved in caring for the cats by providing a spaying and neutering service plus vaccination and microchipping. These cats were cared for decently. They were genuine pets.

Caltrans deny that they have acted carelessly and callously. They said that they followed all necessary protocols by providing a 72-hour notice of the clearance. And they said that the City of San Jose offered outreach services. Caltrans said that they did not remove any pets during the operation.

Residents managed to rescue some of the cats. Some cats could be heard meowing in the undergrowth nearby.

Comment: Caltrans cleared to area as if it was trash. They used large machinery to grab the possessions of the homeless as if it was rubbish. Judging by the video it would appear that they considered the entire camp to be a pile of rubbish. It was all balled together with the same label.

The problem is that it was people’s possessions. It may have looked like rubbish to the authorities and CALTRANS but not all of it was. Within it were pet cats.

They may have been killed by the machinery. If not, they are terrified and lost. To an outsider like myself, it would seem that a better job would have been done if CALTRANS had been more precise and focused on the cats because they are sentient beings. The rest was inanimate possessions. They can be lost and reacquired. Once an individual cat is lost, he/she cannot be replaced as there is an emotional connection. Their loss causes human and cat emotional distress.

If the homeless guys are accurate in their story CALTRANS have committed the crime of criminal damage. More precision was required. They should have gone slower.

And the story brings home the fact that the homeless find comfort in companion animals. They have a greater need of a companion animal than property owners. And they have equal rights to be a cat caregiver.

There is this devaluing of rights. Humans are very ready to devalue people and animals when it is convenient to do so.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

10 thoughts on “Pet cats missing after homeless encampment bulldozed in San Jose, California”

  1. All of the cats in question here have been accounted for. They were removed beforehand, but not necessarily by the owners.

  2. Cats that actually live in houses run away. If there is a disturbance at their place they flee. If they don’t even have a decent place to live, AND there is a huge disturbance there, of course they will run.

    1. Well, that isn’t the issue. The allegation is that the council workers bulldozed tents with cats inside. That’s the issue: insensitivity and callousness leading to potential animal abuse and even criminality.

  3. Nathan Winograd is a prick. The workers were simply doing their job. There is no way the camp was bulldozed without checking because campers usually have propane tanks or other dangerous items in or near the tents. The people camping knew well in advance the camp would be removed. Typically campers take what they want and leave the junk and worn out stuff to be collected. There is a restaurant called Mimosas very close to there that has been burglarized several times by people living in camps.

      1. Fair enough. But, given the time of year, it is illogical someone would simply bulldoze unknown piles of stuff. It could be another Public Storage.

        1. Well, insensitive, robotic council workers can do some pretty idiotic things sometimes. I don’t know what happened exactly but it would not surprise me if the cats were bulldozed. And, yes, the homeless guys can be stupid too. If the cats were harmed their owners contributed to it.

  4. Elisabeth Pintar

    I live near the area and can tell you no cats were trapped. They were running everywhere and some went to houses.The sensationalism is asinine.The real issue is these people setting fires, polluting the area and worse.These people don’t deserve canimals.Why would someone leave a pet unattended in a tent. Plus, this time of the year the hardworking people who clean up these messes have to be careful not to bulldoze gas tanks and explosives.these people were warned to move their crap or it would be removed for them

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