There is often a silent battle between TNR volunteers and hotels. It is played out on the ground and on Facebook.
Once again, this is a story of the silent battle, replete with dirty tricks, between feral cat colony caretakers and the ugly side of commercial businesses (often hotels incidentally). Worldwide, commercial enterprises in general do not like feral cats anywhere near their businesses. They believe that they have a negative impact upon their profits. At the other end of the spectrum are kindhearted volunteers, animal advocates, who enjoy the company of street cats and who want to do right by them which translates to caring for them whenever they can, provided of course that their activities comply with local ordinances and regulations.
For this story, the country is the Philippines but it could occur anywhere and it has happened under quite similar circumstances in America. Twenty semi-feral, friendly cats lived in a park (One Bonifacio High Street Park in Taguig City) adjacent to a hotel, the Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila.
Out of the blue and without any notification residents in the area, and a concerned community of volunteers, noticed that their cats were missing. They found out that the colony had been removed by the owners of the hotel. Apparently, however, the president of Compassion and Responsibility for Animals Welfare Philippines (CARA) had been told that it might be happening since November of last year. Why didn’t they communicate with the volunteers? Perhaps we don’t have the full story.
The general manager of the hotel, John Rice, confirmed that they had hired, Pestbusters, a local pest control company to go the park and to dispose of the cats at night.
It appears that both the hotel and the company that they employed are in breach of the Animal Welfare Act. They are also in violation of Republic Act No. 8485, apparently.
The question remains as to where the cats are. Were they killed? The hotel said that half of the cats had been adopted by its employees (can you believe that?). And the other half had been relocated to two unspecified areas (sounds suspicious).
The hotel wants to assure people that no harm has been done to the cats. CARA said that the pest control agency had no authority to deal with the colony of cats as they were considered to be companion animals and cannot be categorized as pests.
The feral cat caretakers want proof that the cats have either been adopted or relocated. There has been public outrage and the volunteers believe that the hotel is hiding the truth.
The cat colony was a beloved fixture of the area. It is said that they fostered a strong sense of community. The volunteers work together to operate a TNR program and have a Facebook page called Cats of BGC.
A local resident Marcel Marcelino said:
“They’re very friendly. There are actually the main attraction of that park, the reason people will come.”
He said that their removal has left the area devoid of life, energy and love. Another resident said that she likes to interact with the cats. A third resident, Bernadette Leonardo, 30, told the online newspaper, the Inquirer that the cats were her “happy pill and stress reliever”. In short there are many people who are extremely upset by the unilateral and callous behaviour of the hotel owner. They appear to refuse to comment about the matter further except that the Facebook page of the volunteers, Cats of BGC, reports that they have met with hotel management who have promised to help find permanent homes for the cats.
I would have thought that that would be unsatisfactory. The only proper resolution of the matter would be to ensure that the cats are brought back to the park if they are alive.
UPDATED ANNOUNCEMENT FROM CARA AS OF FEBRUARY 18, 1:00pm:
Our volunteers have done an initial search of the areas given to us. We did not find any of the BGC cats. We will be doing a second search early evening in case the cats appear when the sun goes down. We are calling on our volunteers and concerned citizens to join us on the search. Please find the meet-up information below:
Help Us Find The BGC Cats!
- When: Today, February 19 at 4:00pm.
- Where: Meet-up in front of Fully Booked High Street. Transportation will be provided.
Please let us know if you have any questions. Hope to see you there! Thanks.
Here is a Facebook post of 16th Feb:
Sources: The Inquirer and Cats of BGC.