If one is a curious, like a cat, one might wonder why Basil Scott is so keen to “open up” the meetings of a committee that is helping Councilman JoAnn Yukimura craft a county ordinance on dealing with Kauai's feral cats.
Basil, president of the Kauai Community Cat Project (KCCP), offers a clue to his motivation in his comment to The Garden Island, which obviously wrote its “closed-door discussions” story on the committee at Basil's request:
"JoAnn has set up something that can’t possibly have a positive result.”
By which he means a result that goes his way, as in no eradication of the thousands of wild cats that roam the island, preying on endangered native birds and other creatures. Basil instead advocates spaying, neutering and then returning the cats to managed colonies – an approach that KCCP uses to raise money.
On its website, it offers people a chance to become a “Kitty Kahu” by donating anywhere from $50 to “provide food and supplies for one day for one month” to $500 to “provide shelter for 12 cats removed from a dangerous area.” It states, “We survive solely on contributions from caring people like you.” So the KCCP would obviously be adversely impacted financially by any program that moved to limit managed cat colonies.
No one knows exactly how many feral cats live on Kauai, but the population has been estimated at 15,000 to 20,000. A July 2015 TGI editorial reported that KCCP had increased the number of cats it works with from 300 in 2012 to 510 cats in 2014. Yet in today's article, Basil claims the group works with about 3,000 cats annually. That's quite a jump in just a year – if it's true.
In any case, if KCCP was spending $80,000 to manage just 510 cats, one can imagine how much it's spending on 3,000 cats. And then from there, how much kala might be required to manage 20,000. Empire building, anyone?
The nine-member feral cat committee, which has been working on the ordinance since last August, is reportedly within a month of producing a draft bill. JoAnn would introduce the proposed ordinance, which would then go through committee meetings and public hearings, providing ample time for comment.
But Basil wants to redirect the process his way now, by bringing in his own supporters, some of whom — to put it nicely — have a hard time considering other points of view. We've already seen these same people, including Basil, launch a vicious attack on Kauai Humane Society Director Penny Cistaro, who is also a committee member. They are dead-set on turning KHS into a no-kill facility.
In taking his case to TGI, Basil whines that “the committee has representation from bird and other nature conservancy groups.” Yes, but it also has representation from cat groups, including Basil and Judy Dalton, as well as Penny, who sees the big picture of feral and unwanted animals on Kauai.
If KCCP wants to rescue cats, that's fine. But it's fooling itself, and others, by pretending the outrageous feral cat problem on Kauai can be resolved through spay-neuter-release-manage alone. Kauai has unique native birds that exist nowhere else in the world. As an introduced, invasive species cats are a proven threat to these birds. Serious efforts must be taken to protect these birds by reducing the feral cat population, regardless of whether it hurts the bottom line of KCCP.
We also need to look more realistically at the whole fantasy of no-kill. While these no-kill shelters tug at the heart strings — and thus purse strings —of animal lovers everywhere, the reality is quite a bit different. Consider this essay by a woman who adopted from a no-kill facility:
The promise of life often leaves cats or dogs languishing in cages or transferred from foster home to foster home for years. Animals are given out sick, with minimal to no prior medical care. While numbers are still hard to come by, hardly a day goes by when a rescue or foster home isn’t exposed for overcrowding, neglect or, notably, hoarding.
Even the animal rights group PETA has serious reservations about cat colonies:
PETA has in the past trapped, neutered, returned, and monitored feral cats (and still does, in favorable situations) but not without hesitation and serious concerns. Our experiences include countless incidents in which cats suffered and died horrible deaths because they were forced to fend for themselves outdoors, whether “managed” or not, and have led us to question whether these programs are truly in the cats’ best interests.
Moreover, free-roaming cats also terrorize and kill countless birds and other wildlife who are not equipped to deal with such predators.
Having witnessed firsthand the gruesome things that can happen to feral cats and to the animals they prey on, PETA cannot in good conscience oppose euthanasia as a humane alternative to dealing with cat overpopulation.
Returning to the essay:
In a sea of no-kill shelters that turn people down, PETA will euthanise your pet for free. But this policy outrages its opponents. ‘We get threats of physical violence, we get animal organs sent to us in the mail. We got a deer head thrown on our front parking lot, all sorts of nastiness.’
The essay concludes:
Perhaps our focus on keeping pets alive, no matter the consequences, is really more about us humans than about a desire to spare animals suffering.
No one wants to see cats suffer — or wild birds, either. The feral cat committee is working on an approach that couples a limited number of managed colonies with an aggressive eradication program akin to what is already in place in other island nations, such as Australia and New Zealand.
It's important to keep the big picture in mind, and resist the efforts of a special interest group to derail and direct the process.