East Bay Regional Parks considers changing policy after controversial feral cat shootings

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Thanks to public outcry after an ABC7 I-Team investigation, the East Bay Regional Parks District is revising its feral cat management program. However, the proposed guidelines stop short of a pledge to never resort to lethal force.

The ABC7News I-Team first uncovered the controversial policy in December, through the eyes of Cecelia Theis, who had been feeding and caring for a colony of about 30 feral cats at an East Oakland office park -- only to discover that a dozen had been shot and killed by EBRPD staff, after the cats wandered into a nearby marsh, inhabited by endangered species.

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A major development after an 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.

Now, district staff has proposed revised policies to include better coordination with local animals services and rescue organizations, increased efforts to trap and rehome the animals and greater public outreach, to encourage spay and neutering, and *discourage the abandonment of cats, and the feeding of those already on the loose.

"We are hoping to work with the community to hep them understand that these cats need to be relocated away from sensitive areas," said Kristina Kelchner, Assistant General Manager of Acquisition, Stewardship and Development for EBRPD.

Kelchner presented the new proposed guidelines during a meeting of the district's Natural and Cultural Resources Committee, which voted to send the recommendations on to the district's full board for consideration.

"While we're pleased that the policy seems to be to work with local advocates as to prefer not to killing cats, we want to see a pledge that this never happens, ever again," said Fleur Dawes, with In Defense of Animals.

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In the South Bay, bow and arrows will not be used in any effort to control San Jose's pesky wild pig problem.

The issue seems to be most concerning at the park like Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline in East Oakland, where feral cats might interact with wildlife, like endangered bird species.

Even with its revised policies, the district reserves the right to use another agency to use lethal means - as a last resort. But under the proposed new guidelines, the act of euthanizing the cats would be done by someone other than EBRPD staff.

"There's absolutely no excuse for shooting cats ever," said Dawes. "There's always a humane solution."

For more information on how to protect the cats and get involved, visit here.
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