US park agency wants to remove cats from Puerto Rico tourist site

US park agency wants to remove cats from Puerto Rico tourist site
A cat on a tree at the San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico, credit: Reuters/Clark Mindock

The animal welfare group Alley Cat Allies sued the United States National Park Service (NPS) on Wednesday to stop a plan to remove and in some cases kill cats from a historic place in Puerto Rico.

Alley Cat Allies said in its lawsuit that the park agency violated federal environmental laws when it approved the plan to remove hundreds of stray cats last year. The cats are currently living in and around the Paseo recreational trail. 

“For generations, community cats have lived in peace along the rocky shores of Old San Juan’s scenic Paseo Del Morro. They are adored by locals and tourists alike and are woven into the fabric of Puerto Rican culture,” Coryn Julien, communications director for Alley Cat Allies, said. 

“Now they face a deadly threat from the NPS, which is determined to remove the cats from their natural outdoor homes and their community, including by lethal means,” she added.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal officials to carefully evaluate environmental impacts before making major decisions. According to Alley Cat Allies, government officials decided too quickly to implement the plan to remove the cats.

The NPS said removing the cats was necessary to protect visitors and natural wildlife, but Alley Cat Allies said the park agency didn’t provide efficient evidence to show the cats pose a threat.

The cats are currently cared for by volunteers who feed, spay and neuter the animals living in the area.

Under the proposed plan, the cats will be trapped and removed on an ongoing basis to clean the area. The animals would then be evaluated and placed for adoption if possible, although they could also be euthanized.

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