Relax park rule to let SPCA neuter stray cats there: Welfare groups

Society asks to be allowed to neuter feral cats living in public facilities, where they breed

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2012, 4:21am

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals wants the government to end the ban on it operating in the city's parks, a measure it says hinders efforts to reduce the population of stray cats.

Public parks are ideal habitats for feral cats, but the government's concern is that the SPCA's presence would encourage irresponsible owners to dump their pets in parks.

"Without intervention, the cats [in parks] are free to reproduce," said Dr Fiona Woodhouse, SPCA's deputy director of welfare. The SPCA has a programme to catch, neuter and release strays. While there are no statistics on the number of feral cats, the SPCA has neutered more than 40,000 in the past 12 years.

By returning neutered cats to the streets, the SPCA's trap-neuter-return (TNR) programme controls the population, in part by maintaining competition for food.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said last week: "While we appreciate that the [SPCA] programme may help control the overall stray cat population … [involving parks in the programme] will encourage more irresponsible pet owners to abandon their cats in our parks, as they believe their abandoned animals will be properly fed."

The SPCA does not feed strays in parks, except when it uses food to bait traps for its TNR programme, and occasionally when giving medical care.

Yet the situation is complicated by some local animal welfare groups that do feed stray cats in addition to neutering them.

This has led to a stand-off between the non-profit Mid-Levels Streets Cat Colony and the Museum of Medical Sciences over a cat the society calls Jackie.

For nine years, the colony's volunteers have fed cats that live in the museum's garden by coaxing them onto the street. But a volunteer who tried to feed Jackie, who looked weak and hungry, was thrown out of the garden several times over the course of a fortnight.

The cat has since been taken to a shelter, but now the volunteers worry that the museum may remove all the strays on its grounds. Dorothy Kwong, the museum's acting curator, said: "The feedings will encourage more cats to live [here], which will damage our outdoor exhibits."

Woodhouse - who noted that about one-third of the thousands of stray cats are abandoned pets - said: "In addition to convincing the government and public to support animal birth control … we need to deter pet owners from abandoning animals."