Cat lovers tempt prosecution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 12:00am

Security guards have warned an average of more than 10 people a month against feeding the colony of stray cats in Victoria Park, according to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

Although officials reiterated they would prosecute people for the offence, nobody has yet been charged. The colony has been the subject of fierce debate between the government and animal lovers, who want to be allowed to trap, neuter, then re-release the animals in the park where they would be fed by volunteers under an SPCA scheme.

But the government has rebuffed the offer, and is trapping the animals itself. Most will probably be destroyed.

'[People feeding the cats] are very scared. They don't want to break the law,' said Pauline Taylor, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) has posted notices in the park warning that the cats should not be fed, but some park-goers continue to do so.

The colony in Victoria Park grew after people abandoned cats there during the Sars outbreak.

So far the department has only given verbal warnings, an LCSD spokesman said. But it has the right to prosecute under the Pleasure Grounds Regulations. The maximum penalty is a fine of $2,000 and imprisonment of 14 days.

Dr Taylor said she was scheduled to meet representatives of the LCSD and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to discuss the cat situation in Victoria Park next week.

The kitten season is due to begin next month, Dr Taylor said. She estimated there could be as many as 300 kittens produced if there were about 75 female cats in the park.

A department spokesman said there are about 30 to 40 stray cats remaining in the park. There were estimated to be about 150 cats before the trapping began.