East Bay Regional Parks suspends shooting cats after I-Team investigation

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A major development after an ABC7 News I-Team investigation, the East Bay Regional Park District has suspended a program to shoot and kill cats.

Park staff opened fire on the cats, killing at least a dozen over the past month to try and protect birds.

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The I-Team's Dan Noyes been talking to cat rescue groups around the Bay, and they all couldn't believe park staff were shooting cats. They say that's a practice from a long time ago and they're thrilled it appears to be coming to an end.

It's been four days since the I-Team first reported that East Bay Regional Park District staff shot and killed at least 18 cats this year, trying to protect endangered birds; 12 cats killed over the past month in this colony along the East Oakland waterfront.

Cecelia Theis spent the past year feeding them, adopting out the kittens, and getting the adults spayed and neutered.

She's devastated telling us, "I just hope that they shot them quickly, that they did know what they were doing, and I hope that they didn't see each other get shot."

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The park district has been flooded with angry messages from cat lovers and rescue groups; an online petition has soared past 3,800 signatures.

Thursday afternoon, park district board members told ABC7 News, they've suspended the shooting of cats. Dee Rosario is the incoming board president.

Dan Noyes asked, "Is it your intention to have the shooting of cats banned permanently?"

"That will be one of our, will be definitely one of our goals to see how to try and do that, yes," answered Rosario.

Ellen Corbett EBRPD Board Member added, "I think we can make sure that we protect the endangered species without shooting cats."

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Corbett represents the Martin Luther King shoreline; she was shocked to hear park staff had opened fire on cats there.

"The board will be asking some tough questions, and we want to get a report of exactly what happened. And that's why we've asked for an investigation," said Corbett.

One issue; did park rangers warn Cecelia Theis that her cat colony was about to be targeted? The I-Team interviewed park district spokesman Dave Mason last week.

Dan Noyes: "Why not give her a deadline? Why not say, if the cats aren't trapped by this date, we're going to have to use lethal means."
Dave Mason: "But we did reach out to them and even check in-"
Dan Noyes: "But you didn't give her a deadline, did you?"
Dave Mason: "We reached out, we even asked how things were going."

Mason provided two emails as proof, but the park ranger had misspelled Cecelia Theis' email address. She never got the messages.

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Theis and other volunteers have been able to trap several of the cats that survived; four of them are at Marin Humane Society and will be available for adoption soon.

If you'd like to adopt or support groups that are helping feral and abandoned cats, here are some links:

The Marin Humane Society

Island Cat Resources & Adoption

Oakland Animal Services

Take a look at more stories by Dan Noyes and the ABC7 News I-Team.
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