A college in B.C.'s East Kootenay wants to relocate a feral cat colony that a non-profit has run on its campus for 10 years.
Over the weekend, the East Kootenay Community Animal Response and Education Society (EKCARES) initiated an online petition asking the College of the Rockies (COTR) to scrap its decision to move the colony out of its campus in Cranbrook, B.C.
EKCARES says the school emailed the organization last November saying it would "destroy the food, water and cat housing" for all the 14 cats on March 31. The non-profit says the animals have all been spayed, neutered, vaccinated and microchipped.
The petition has garnered more than 20,000 signatures.
Relocation of feral cat colony 'not humane': non-profit
Municipalities across Canada have been struggling with managing feral cat populations for years. Feral cats are undomesticated, having had diminished or no physical contact with humans, making them difficult to shelter or adopt. The B.C. SPCA recommends they be neutered and kept in the colony they belong to.
EKCARES president Kim Balcom agrees, adding the cats on the COTR campus are well knit together, and it would not be viable to remove them out of their colony.
"You need to have humane treatment of cats — these cats have been on the college property for 10 years.
"If you remove the housing and the food, you're going to destroy the colony and you're going to have death — that is not humane," she said.
Balcom says COTR had never raised any concerns with the feral cat colony until last November, and her organization hasn't been able to find a new location for the colony since.
"If they [the college] had reached out [before November], then our colony caretaker would have addressed those concerned immediately."
Cats create health and safety concerns: COTR
But COTR president Paul Vogt argues the school's decision to relocate the feral cat colony is unnegotiable, because it has created what he describes as health and safety concerns for students and staff at campus buildings nearby.
Vogt says the school had to write off two vehicles used for educational purposes in its automotive and mechanic programs, because the cats had nested in the vehicles for a long while and had led to severe allergic reactions in a student working on those vehicles.
The school adds that health and safety concerns around feral cats have been reported for years, but the issue "has grown significantly and become untenable" over the last six months.
It says instructors in the automotive and mechanic programs often have to remove feral cats' nests, feces, urine and, in some cases, dead bodies from vehicles.
It also says the feral cats have turned an outdoor volleyball court into "a giant kitty litter," which requires regular cleaning during spring and summer.
"They [the feral cats] are better off the further they are away from busy human centres," Vogt said, adding the school will help EKCARES find "the best solution."
COTR student association president Lucy Adams says she's also concerned about students' safety issues, but she argues the school should allow the feral cat colony to stay.
"It's extremely surprising, because the cats have been here for 10 years, that it has all of a sudden become an issue, and those issues haven't been [brought] forth to EKCARES so they can resolve them.
"I just hope that a better line of communication can be brought forward," Adams said.