According to an email today from my rescuer friend, the cats trapped at the Ovington Avenue location in September were not taken to ACC, as originally assumed. They were dumped at another Brooklyn location.
Numerous agencies are now investigating, and legal action is possible.
Bethlehem Lutheran has been working with the local animal rescue community to put a plan in place for the Ovington Avenue cats. The dozen or so cats remaining on the church property have now all been spayed/neutered, and the TNR operation is continuing, with cat shelters and feeding stations being set up.
Foster/adoptive homes are being sought for a group of tame cats and kittens taken from the site -- probably former deli cats -- including a litter of 5 tiny kittens. If you're interested in fostering or adopting, contact Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Hopefully, a big takeaway here will be that local storekeepers who fail to spay/neuter their store cats; who allow them to roam and mate; who dump female cats with kittens; then get another cat and repeat the cycle, were the likely cause of the feral cat problem on Ovington Avenue, which involved an unprecedented number of cats.
Not only must the local merchant community be educated around these issues, but the animal welfare community must examine the link between feral cat proliferation and health code enforcement. Many a store cat has ended up a street cat after a visit by the health inspector.
Would it be such a big deal for the inspector to cut some slack for the store cat, who has no place to go but the street?
Two rescuers have reported to me that none of the ACC facilities they have contacted in Brooklyn had any record of receiving trapped cats from the Ovington Avenue site in September. It's unclear what happened to the cats.
According to the church spokesperson who responded to an inquiry by Council Member Gentile's office on behalf of a concerned local resident, 7-10 feral cats were trapped and removed from the grounds of the Lutheran Elementary School on Ovington Avenue in September.
The company that removed the cats, hired either by Bethlehem Lutheran Church or the Lutheran Elementary School, reportedly either dropped the cats off at ACC or somewhere else.
Due to the overwhelming response by the local community and animal welfare advocates since September, Bethlehem Lutheran has now hired a professional TNR team to trap, neuter and return the 16-20 feral cats remaining on the church property.
According to Nancy Coleman, who leads the TNR effort at the church, Pastor Knudsen has told her that Bethlehem is willing to host a feral cat colony, and the church is working with Coleman toward that outcome.
Knudsen denied that the church itself hired the trappers who took the cats from the school grounds in September.
Local animal welfare advocates are now sleuthing the identity of the trappers involved in the September operation, and tracking where and how the cats were euthanized -- if that's what happened.
According to a follow-up message from my rescuer friend today, the NYC Feral Cat Initiative and Animal Care and Control are now involved and are in the process of contacting the school, the church and the pastor.
According to an email today from an animal rescuer friend in Bay Ridge, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, on 4th and Ovington Avenues in Bay Ridge, has hired trappers, probably exterminators, who have been seen trapping tame young cats and kittens on Ovington Avenue behind the Lutheran Elementary School and the pastor's house next-door.
Waiving off rescuers who have tried to intervene, the trappers have been seen shoving cats and kittens too trusting to run away into traps not even lined with newspapers.
It isn't clear how extensive the trapping operation is.
Many of the cats and kittens the trappers have been taking have apparently migrated to the Ovington Avenue location from shops along 4th Avenue, where they had been kept as store cats.
I have heard from more than one local rescuer that some Bay Ridge shopkeepers, when their store cats become sexually mature and begin to breed, dispose of the cats and kittens by putting them out on the street. One rescuer friend intervened when she saw a 5th Avenue shopkeeper standing in the open bulkhead doors to his basement placing a litter of kittens on the sidewalk. Other kittens have not been so lucky as to have a rescuer witness their abandonment.
At least one local rescuer who has observed the trapping operation on Ovington Avenue believes that the trapped cats are being trucked to Queens and released into a park, where they would be completely disoriented and have no access to food or care. In another version of the story, the cats were trucked to another Brooklyn location and dropped off in a managed feral colony.
Bay Ridge resident Meredith Weiss, of Neighborhood Cats, an organization that works with feral cat populations citywide believes that if the trappers were in fact exterminators, they would know that it's illegal to dump the cats in a park, and would most likely drop them off at the nearest Animal Control facility, where they would probably be euthanized.
Meredith Weiss and/or the citywide network she works with, consisting of thousands of volunteers and dozens of animal welfare organizations, could have handled this project humanely and at no cost to the church. Why weren't they given the chance?
True, their plan wouldn't have been as easy as hiring an exterminator to take out the living trash. Humane solutions are always more complicated.
All of the adoptable animals -- the tame kittens and young cats -- would have first have to have been removed and either fostered or placed for adoption with local animal rescue organizations. Any adult feral cats at the site would then have to have been trapped and spayed or neutered, to prevent further proliferation, and returned to an agreed-upon Ovington Avenue location under the supervision of volunteer caretakers provisioned by Neighborhood Cats.
This process can be made much more complicated -- and apparently was at the Ovington Avenue site -- by the presence of well-meaning "feeders."
The presence of the resulting stable feral colony would have prevented new ferals from moving in. Otherwise, once a site has been cleared of cats, new arrivals soon appear and the breeding cycle repeats. And if merchants in the area are disposing of their store cats by putting them and their kittens in the street, repeat it will.
I couldn't understand why Bethlehem Lutheran, with access to a humane solution through the local animal rescue/TNR network, would have chosen to pay exterminators to haul tame, adoptable cats and kittens to ACC. So, before putting up this post, I reached out to the church by email, followed up with a phone call to the office this afternoon, to ask "Why?"
Putting it politely, I got stonewalled.