MEDIA RELEASE: Oakland’s Community Cats May Still Be Shot Following East Bay Regional Parks District Vote
Oakland, Calif. (June 16, 2021) — In Defense of Animals is disappointed by Tuesday’s vote by the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBPRD) to “update” its policies surrounding the treatment and killing of community cats in Oakland that will still allow shooting them as a “last resort” without clearly defining if or when that may actually be necessary.
EBRPD staff shot and killed at least 18 cats last year, without giving colony caretakers, rescuers or animal shelters an opportunity to step in. The move led to widespread public outrage — more than 26,000 signatures were collected by In Defense of Animals’ first alert (over 15,000 signers) when the news broke and on a second alert (more than 10,000 signers) after the gunman was identified. Both were calling for an end to killing cats, and the implementation of non-lethal alternatives that would protect both cats and wild animals.
In December, EBRPD temporarily suspended the lethal removal program while it reviewed its wildlife management policies, but didn’t commit to ending it.
In Defense of Animals staff has spoken at public meetings regarding this issue, asking for a formal policy to be implemented.
Tuesday’s vote by the Board of Directors updates EBRPD’s policy, but it still allows for the lethal removal of cats.
The new Free-Roaming Cat Management Policy (p.166) will update recommendations that were approved in 1999, and is intended to improve “education, prevention, collaboration, and transparency” in communities the EBRPD serves.
While a number of measures are positive steps, including increased public education and partnerships with animal services agencies, it’s disappointing that the EBRPD did not remove lethal control measures as an option for handling free-roaming cats, and that loopholes still exist that will make humanely trapping and removing individual cats and colonies difficult.
The new policy states “Lethal control will continue to be used only as a last resort…” So, according to EBRPD’s “new policy,” the 18 cats it gunned down were also only killed as a “last resort.” Because the EBRPD won’t admit the cats it killed before were killed well before “last resort” status, it’s difficult to believe this new policy will really change anything.
Saying lethal removal will only take place as a “last resort” without clarifying exactly what steps need to be taken by either EBRPD, or how much time partners may have to handle situations, also leaves the door open for more cats to be needlessly killed.
“We are very concerned that EBRPD is standing behind the callous actions of a staffer who acted maliciously and without oversight against a beloved group of cats who were already facing extreme adversity,” said Anita Carswell, Communications Manager for In Defense of Animals. “We maintain it’s virtually impossible for the cats to have been anywhere near where they were claimed to have been when they were gunned down and their corpses were referred to as “party favors.”
“Furthermore, there's no excuse to retain a policy that ever allows for the killing of cats or any wild animals by EBRPD or the hired assassins at the USDA's Wildlife Services,” added Carswell.
Contact: Anita Carswell, firstname.lastname@example.org, (415) 532-9242
In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in Marin, California, with over 250,000 supporters and a 38-year history of protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitats through education and campaigns as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi. www.idausa.org