The Loews Hotel properties in Orlando, located on the grounds of Universal Studios, had a model feral cat colony until this January, when the management of this self-proclaimed “pet friendly” chain decided that the cats needed to be trapped and taken to local shelters because they presented a threat to guests’ well-being. This decision, sure to be a death sentence for the affected cats, unleashed a firestorm of media outrage, and Loews suspended trapping and said the cats could stay.
Unfortunately, Loews has now reversed course again, and has begun trapping cats. In his article Loews Loathes Cats, which was also picked up by the Chicago Tribune, Steve Dale calls the situation inexplicable, adding that “according to an internal memo, if employees at the hotels feed the cats, this is potential cause for dismissal!”
From Steve’s article:
The resorts are currently trapping feral cats. In the process, some of the animals are getting hurt. “It’s common for some scrapes, but in my 10 years (of trapping) I’ve never seen injuries like these,” says Carol Needham, a volunteer with CARE Feline TNR, a local non-profit that helps feral cats. “The trapping company is apparently not following protocol to keep the cats calm.”
Peter Wolf of Vox Felina reported that the conditions in which these cats are trapped are inexcusable:
On Thursday, Alley Cat Allies co-founder and president Becky Robinson published a letter on the Care2 website in which she criticizes Critter Control, the pest control company hired by Loews, for “clearly not following humane best practices. We have heard reports of cats being held in the traps outside for hours. The average temperature in Orlando in the past five days has been 89 degrees; today’s heat index is expected to be 97 degrees. There is no indication that proper protocol for trapped cats—visiting the traps every hour, keeping them covered with a towel to minimize the cats’ anxiety, and removing them promptly—is being followed.”
Best Friends Animal Society CEO Gregory Castle recapped the situation in his article Loews Hotels in Orlando Give Community Cats the Shaft earlier this week, calling on readers to contact the Florida Department of Health and urge the agency to reevaluate its position and embrace public policies that serve to better promote human health and compassion toward animals.
Alley Cat Allies is sponsoring a petition to Tell Loews: Stop Hurting Cats that has received more than 21,000 signatures to date.
The thought of what these poor cats are being put through for no reason other than the ignorance and whim of hotel management executives makes me sick to my stomach. Loews says it made the decision to trap to protect their guests from harm, despite the fact that a well-managed feral colony presents no threat to humans.
In fact, Steve Dale’s post mentions a nearby Sheraton property that had a more severe problem than Loews. According to George Ricci, the former bellman at Loews who began the TNR program there (with management’s consent at the time):
“Cats were hanging out (at the Sheraton property) wherever people were — even at the pool — because they’d get handouts. The interactions raised concern, since the hotel didn’t want guests scratched or bitten by cats who were basically wild. They did it exactly right,” says Ricci. “They paid for people who understand TNR. The cats were trapped, spay/neutered and returned, and feeding stations were created and gradually moved away from where guests would see them.”
Please spread the word about the cats’ plight, sign the petitions, and boycott Loews Hotels. For more information on efforts to help these cats, please visit the Save Loews Cats Facebook page.
Photo of Oreo, one of the Loews Hotels feral cats, from the Save Loews Cats Facebook page