Cat lovers took note when Loews Orlando hotels quietly announced this week that they’d follow through on their unpopular plan to remove formerly welcome feral cats from their property. Now rescuers are working with animal control to save the cats’ lives.
Loews Universal hotels waited for controversy to die down before implementing their plan to reverse a policy that welcomed a feral cat colony on their property consisting of animals that were tended and received TNR sterilization and vaccinations. Despite quiet notification that the plan to have the formerly welcome cats removed from their home ground and taken to animal control, presumably to be put down, outrage sprang back immediately.
“We have reviewed our practice involving feral, free-roaming cats and have talked with numerous agencies including Orange County Animal Services. The Florida Department of Health states that feral, free-roaming cats pose a continuous concer…n to communities due to the persistent threat of injury and disease.
The priority at our hotels is the health and safety of our guests and team members. As a result, the cats will be relocated to the county animal services center.
We appreciate all the feedback we have received on this important matter and are grateful for your understanding as we implement this policy.”
Pet lovers will have to decide for themselves whether the company’s pet friendly status continues to appeal to them now. The company’s website calls the Orlando hotel complex pet friendly as it touts that “Put Simply: Loews Loves Pets. Our Orlando Pet Friendly Hotel Welcomes Furry Friends ” on a page that lists numerous amenities for pets.
Not surprisingly, national advocacy group Alley Cat Allies released a statement* today denouncing Loews’ decision. The statement gives the group’s position but was made before recent developments made the situation less dire, though still disappointing.
Loews hired Critter Control to trap the animals and take them to Orange County Animal Services, and they were on the job today. OCAS has agreed that, rather than killing the cats as unadoptables, they will allow them to be pulled and saved and their rescuers will be responsible for relocating the cats afterward. OCAS is working with CARE Feline TNR, INC. and others to get the most humane outcome for the cats after they are removed from Loews’ property.
The rescuers’ first order of business will be to get the cats from OCAS as they are brought in, then they will need help in re-establishing them in new colony locations, or as barn cats.
Thanks go to many for turning outrage to action, but the Orange County Animal Services deserves a special thanks for its flexibility and humane attitude in handling the situation.
* Alley Cat Allies statement:
“Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats, today reacted to a decision by the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, Fla. to trap and remove a colony of cats who have lived at the property for years as part of a successful Trap-Neuter-Return program. Loews announced plans to “relocate” the cats to a local animal control facility, where they will likely be killed unless other arrangements can be found for them.
“This announcement from Loews is nothing more than a fairy tale meant to divert attention from the reality of the situation. These cats are not being ‘relocated’ to another outdoor home, but are being torn from the only home they have known, trapped by a pest control company, and taken to the local animal control,” said Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies. “Feral cats who enter animal shelters face a death sentence. Nationwide, 70 percent of all cats taken to shelters are killed—and for feral cats, that number rises to virtually 100 percent.”
“Loews markets itself as a ‘pet-friendly’ company, but the truth is more sinister,” said Robinson. “Loews refused to consider humane options for the cats despite our and others’ repeated invitations to work with the company to address their concerns.”
The cats at the Loews resort are feral cats. They are not socialized to people and cannot be adopted, but live peacefully among their colony. The cats are part of a longtime Trap-Neuter-Return program, in which local caregivers have ensured the cats are neutered, vaccinated, and fed. Trap-Neuter-Return is the only effective and humane approach to feral cats, because it ends the breeding cycle, stabilizes the population and makes the cats healthier and better neighbors.
“The cats at the Loews property are living healthy, quality lives. The population is stable, and the cats are not interfering with guests or operations at the resort. There is no good reason to move them,” said Robinson. “This decision by Loews to send the cats to their death is hypocritical and heartless.”
Update 3/31: Someone close to the situation wrote to say that, contrary to appearances, the cats’ safety is not guaranteed. We do not have details. The person also pointed out that our generic use of the term “rescuer” in reference to those engaged in pulling and and saving the cats might suggest to some that CARE Feline TNR, Inc. is a rescue group rather than a TNR group.”Rescuer” is used in its basic sense, to mean those coming to the aid of the cats.