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Brunei
Monday, November 28, 2022
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Brunei
Monday, November 28, 2022
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    Cat lives matter!

    Danica Coto

    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (AP) – Hundreds of cats have long slinked through the cobblestone streets of Puerto Rico’s historic district, stopping for the occasional pat on the head as delighted tourists and residents snap pictures and offer bits of food.

    The cats are so beloved they even have their own statue in Old San Juan.

    But officials say their population has grown so much that the United States (US) National Park Service wants to implement a “free-ranging cat management plan” and is considering options that could include removing the animals.

    The idea has outraged many people, who worry the cats will be killed.

    “This is like Disney World for cats,” said Alfonso Ocasio, who has been going to Old San Juan since 2014 to feed the cats a couple times a week. “I don’t know how these people dare face the world with their proposal.”

    A stray cat sits on a wall in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. PHOTOS: AP
    Alfonso Ocasio smiles as he feeds a colony of stray cats

    Black cats, white cats, calico ones and tabbies roam the seaside paths surrounding the historic fort known as “El Morro” that guarded San Juan Bay in the colonial era. The shy and surly ones crouch in the bushes away from cameras and human hands while others perch on nearby rocks to groom or stare at passerby as the ocean laps behind them.

    They’re known as “cobblestone” or “colonial” cats, but not everyone loves them.

    “Encounters between visitors and cats and the smell of urine and faeces are… inconsistent with the cultural landscape,” the National Park Service wrote in its plan.

    The agency said the plan aims to improve “visitor experience”, protect cultural and natural resources, reduce health and safety concerns and alleviate “nuisance issues”. It also noted that cats are likely killing wildlife in the area.

    Officials so far are offering two options: Remove the cats or retain the status quo. The latter would include maintaining feeding stations, spaying or neutering cats, and removing those that have not been tagged, work currently done by the non-profit group Save a Gato.

    On Wednesday night, dozens of people gathered for the first of two public meetings on the issue. But when National Park Service officials said there would be no hearing and asked people to only write down their comments, the crowd erupted in anger.

    “This doesn’t make sense!”

    “We have doubts! We have questions! Let’s defend the cats!”

    The crowd kept yelling, demanding a public hearing until officials relented. They opened the doors to a small theater as one elderly activist blew on the emergency whistle of his keychain to herd the crowd in.

    People spoke one by one amid loud applause. Their biggest concern was that the cats would be euthanised, even though the National Park said it is still receiving public comments and that any decision would be based on those.

    “These are the initial stages,” said superintendent of the San Juan National Historic Site Myrna Palfrey. “We don’t have any answers right now.”

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