Battle over feral cats brewing on Long Island

June 2, 2010 3:13:54 PM PDT
There is a battle over cats brewing on Long Island. There are so many feral cats in one Suffolk County town that officials are trying to come up with a plan to control the number of animals. But they're facing opposition from the cat lovers in Brookhaven.Lurking in the trash strewn shadows, behind strip malls and industrial parks, an illegal community of thousands of feral cats is growing out of control.

But like so many thorny issus of running a town, Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko is finding there's no easy way to get rid of the feral felines. Colonies of cats have all but taken over areas in Coram, New York. They are thriving thanks to animal lovers who feed them.

The cats are also preying on a bird called the piping plover. It is an endangered species and is vanishing from Suffolk County because of the growing number of feral cats on the prowl. Lesko endorsed a plan to ban anyone from feeding the felines on town land.

"That's what really drove this, is this feral cat population is hunting, and they're hunting, among other things, birds. If there's an endangered species by all means we should all protect," Lesko said.

Dawn Reilly is leading a fight to kill the plan. She runs a rescue for feral cats. At a meeting last night, Reilly presented more than 1,500 names on a petition, forcing the town to rethink its plan. She favors catching, neutering and releasing the animals in hopes the population will dwindle on its own.

"Do cats prey on birds? It's nature. But in managed colonies we don't see that. We see that in unmanaged colonies," Reilly said.

Town leaders say they're committed to finding a solution both effective and humane. In the meantime, the cat colonies will continue to breed, in the Suffolk County shadows.

  • Long Island Feline Adoption Center