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Feral cats have taken over Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan. But residents are rolling their eyes at a plan to remove them.

In World
June 09, 2024
  • Feral cats have long been a part of the landscape in the historic areas of Old San Juan.

  • But the National Park Service is forging ahead with a plan to remove the cats.

  • The advocacy organization Alley Cat Allies in March sued the park service over the plan.

For generations, feral cats have wandered the historic Old San Juan neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico — attracting their share of local fans.

The US National Park Service, however, is not one of them.

The federal agency is moving forward with a plan to remove the cats from the San Juan National Historic Site — which includes the imposing Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal — despite protests from many longtime residents.

The reason? The agency said in 20222 that the cats inhabiting the area were “not ideal,” especially at the touristy Paseo del Morro, and that their living situation is “inconsistent with National Park Service policies regarding the feeding of animals and invasive species.”

The agency also said it sought to address the issue of animal abandonment. However, the roughly 200 cats have become a beloved part of the neighborhood by tourists and natives alike, and many locals say their displacement is reminiscent of broader and more ominous changes in Old San Juan.

Once home to artists, Old San Juan — with its colorful colonial architecture and cobblestone streets — has been invaded by short-term rentals and vacation homes, according to The New York Times.

Many natives say they, too, could be displaced, joining friends who’ve had to leave Old San Juan due to rising costs, the newspaper reported.

For some residents, the possibility that Old San Juan will lose its feral cats only adds to the feeling that the neighborhood is losing its way of life.

That said, not every resident loves the cats.

After the park service announced its plan, one Old San Juan resident said: “The cats create areas where they accumulate their excretions and it becomes unsanitary and unsafe for one’s health.”

According to the Times, the nonprofit organization Save a Gato — which has neutered and spayed the Old San Juan cats for almost two decades — was tasked with finding homes for about 170 of them or the park service would hire a company to remove them.

Parties opposed to the park service’s plan are not backing down, worried the cats could be euthanized.

The Maryland-based advocacy organization Alley Cat Allies in March filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the park service’s plan, arguing that it violates both the National Environmental Protection Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

According to the Times, Save a Gato has secured 50 cats since last November, and roughly half of them have been placed in homes or are in the process of being placed in a home.

The park service last week moved forward with its plan to hire contractors to remove the remaining cats.

Business Insider reached out to the National Park Service for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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