Recently PBIC faced "a protest" by a tenant at a commercial property -- who did it anonymously. It was hard for our Field Operations Team and Management to address the concern about the homeless cats when we didn't know the specifics. So when this matter arose, we decided it was time to restate our method of managing the feral cat program and explain why the many volunteers do what they can to better the plight of the cats.
A Bit of History.
In 2010 when Palm Beach Island Cats (PBIC) formed as an IRS-approved public charity, our organization made promises to the Town Council and residents of Palm Beach outlining how this program would operate. In short, we promised to calm what had become a contentious issue. PBIC is happy to report that promise has been honored and continues today.
- Town Hall and Code Enforcement no longer receive multiple and daily complaints about cats in various neighborhoods. Calls are received directly by PBIC.
- Every concern by residents about the homeless cats is addressed promptly and honestly.
- All homeless cats have been trapped (with rare exception) for purposes of sterilization surgery to prevent future generations and vaccinated against rabies and other feline diseases.
- Medical care is provided to sick or injured cats. All are micro-chipped and have computerized medical records.
- Residents are now vocalizing that fewer cats are around their property. (One resident actually accused PBIC of overdoing the trapping and sterilizations because she doesn't see as many cats anymore.)
- Kittens are removed from the field between four and six weeks, the perfect age to domesticate them, and they are now in adopted homes.
- Feeding stations are established only with the express permission of property owners.
- No destruction of personal property occurs by PBIC or anyone affiliated with the charity, and no trespassing is committed.
- Food and fresh water are provided 365 days a year despite weather conditions.
- Rodent problems are controlled by a healthy cat population.
- Experienced and educated contractors operate in the field.
- Feral cat colonies are registered with Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control indicating there are no un-owned cats in Palm Beach.
- Compliance with every national, state, county and town regulation is observed.
- The program has earned the confidence and trust of the Town Council by keeping a transparent, successful program in place with positive results.
PBIC’s original approach to management was to establish a specified feeding station in every known area of a cat population to "settle a colony." This allowed monitoring so that the cats could be monitored daily, and they stopped the roaming from place to place just to find sustenance. One of the first expenses was to purchase a stealth camera and locating it at the stations in order for Field Operations to observe and identify how many cats were on the island and to determine the number of unsterilized or sick cats. PBIC was comfortable reporting at that time about 750 cats were under the management of the program. Satisfied with the valuable information captured on film, PBIC was able to trap cats - station by station – to ensure that every cat was sterilized, vaccinated and immunized.
When Field Operations said they were seeing fewer cats at the 71 feeding stations, a second census was completed toward the end of 2013. As PBIC promised, the Field Staff continued to remove kittens and sterilize breeding cats. Today, the count shows a population at 550 healthy and aging cats. Never in feline history on this island has the community cats ever been healthier, more controlled and less obnoxious.
While there are still some dissenters of the program, it's a minute portion of the human population! The few opponents claim it's a waste of money, time and resources to "fool with the cats." On the other hand, it has been a success story for property owners, municipalities and animal welfare groups that realize the benefits. It is important to note that the goal of the program is not to abolish the entire cat population, but to manage the population through Trap-Neuter-Return.
But back to the reason that brings about this explanation.
One very early morning, the feeding team arrived at the commercial property where a permitted feeding station was located. The staff found landscape debris blocking access to the feeding station. Also, the feeding equipment had been removed and computer-generated signs posted advising PBIC that security tapes observed trespassing and destruction of property. The signs further accused PBIC of exposing the cats to poison and threatened legal action. We immediately contacted the Property Manager and explained what the feeding team had encountered. The property manager assured us that we had permission to be on the property, and to feed and maintain the cats. Also, the tenant was contacted by the Property Manager. The problem was resolved.
In Palm Beach, property owners know firsthand the feral cat management program keeps its’ promise. In 2000, the cat population in that one location had exploded to 125 sick and starving cats. Through the dedication of volunteers and perseverance of following the TNR guidelines, the cat population on that property today is about 35. The success of the PBIC program as evidenced on this property is replicated all over the island, and it's hard to argue with success!