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Priests Starve Cats at St. James Church

(Photo by Jake Remington)
(Photo by Jake Remington)
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Church Groundskeeper Threatens Poisoning as Next Step

New York, NY – Monday, March 19, 2012 – The small colony of eight feral cats has not been fed for almost two weeks at historic St. James Church in lower Manhattan. Father Lino Gonsalves and Father Walter Tonelotto have locked out caretakers there in an effort to starve the cats off church property. The priests refuse to meet with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals to discuss any plan for cat care, though caretakers are willing to address any concerns the church may have for security or hygiene. Where will the cats be welcomed if even a church is throwing them out?

Historic Manhattan church in catfight over feral colony
by Amy Sacks and Lisa L. Colangelo, New York Daily News
Saturday, March 17, 2012

The cats are all neutered and vaccinated, following the guidelines of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), the only proven effective and humane method for controlling feral cat populations. When contacted for comment by the New York Daily News, Father Gonsalves derided, “The cats will not be poisoned, but we don’t want the people to feed them on church property.” Since the church owns all property in the vicinity, does the Father imagine that starving them out is somehow less cruel? Eradication of the cats is clearly the church’s goal, if not by poison as once declared by the groundskeeper, then by starvation. Until now, St. James’ feral colony was a model TNR project for which the church could be credited with humane leadership by example. This recent public banishment of the cats sends a very cruel signal to others facing the decision of how to approach feral cat management.

“We can only imagine what the Holy Father, who himself lovingly tended to his feral cat colonies, would think about this situation,” said Jane Hoffman, President of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. She added, “As a Roman Catholic, I am saddened and appalled by this attack on eight of God’s little creatures.” The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is known to adore feral cats, and has defended their care on the grounds at the Vatican.

The Mayor’s Alliance delivered a letter to H.E. Timothy Cardinal Dolan asking him to intervene on behalf of the animals and allow for their continued care and protection. They also asked him to end harassment of the caretakers. The church groundskeeper locked a cat caretaker inside the courtyard last week and called the police to report the caretaker as trespassing. The caretaker slipped out a side exit before police arrived, but she was shaken by the hostility of the confrontation.

Mike Phillips, Community Outreach Coordinator for the NYC Feral Cat Initiative of the Mayor’s Alliance, said, “The church is missing a fantastic teaching opportunity for compassion and kindheartedness. Parishioners in New York City and around the world are looking for a humane and effective way to address free-roaming cats on their property. The best service to the community would be to support TNR, which is proven to be effective, stops reproduction, controls nuisance behaviors and the spread of disease, but above all, is humane and compassionate.”

Those who wish to comment directly to St. James Church officials can e-mail Father Lino Gonsalves at sjc@stjosephnyc.org. (The Archdiocese of New York and the Vatican will be copied on your e-mail.) You may also call Father Lino Gonsalves of St. James Church at (212) 267-8376 or Joseph Zwilling, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of New York, at (212) 371-1011 x2997.

Mayor's Alliance for NYC's AnimalsAbout the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals®
The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, Inc., founded in 2002 and powered by Maddie’s Fund, The Pet Rescue Foundation, with support from the ASPCA, is a coalition of more than 150 animal rescue groups and shelters working with Animal Care & Control of New York City (AC&C) to end the killing of healthy and treatable cats and dogs at AC&C shelters. To achieve that goal, the Alliance, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, helps its Alliance Participating Organizations (APOs) work to their highest potential to increase pet adoptions and spay/neuter rates, with the goal of transforming New York City into a no-kill community by 2015. www.AnimalAllianceNYC.org

New York City Feral Cat InitiativeOne of the Alliance’s life-saving programs is the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, which is committed to solving NYC’s feral cat overpopulation crisis through the humane, non-lethal method of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). www.NYCFeralCat.org

Media Contact

Mike Phillips, Community Outreach Coordinator
NYC Feral Cat Initiative of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals
Phone: (917) 596-5666
E-mail: mike@NYCFeralCat.org

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