Lawsuit Aims to Stop National Park Service from Removing Cats from San Juan Site

A feline advocacy group filed a legal challenge this week against the National Park Service over its plan to remove cats from the San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico.

The Maryland-based nonprofit Alley Cat Allies filed the lawsuit on Wednesday arguing that the Park Service’s plan is not just “cruel, futile, and unlawful” but also “ignited a firestorm of opposition from both the local community and international supporters.”

In a statement, Coryn Julien, communications director for Alley Cat Allies, argued that cats “are adored by locals and tourists alike” and that they’re “woven into the fabric of Puerto Rican culture” as they have lived peacefully at the historic site for generations. 

“Now they face a deadly threat from the NPS, which is determined to remove the cats from their natural outdoor homes and their community, including by lethal means,” Julien said. 

In January, the Park Service released a 10-page plan to address the free-ranging cat population at the historic site. The agency explained that the purpose of the plan was to improve safety, protect resources, and reduce the impact on native wildlife as “[t]he free-ranging cat is an invasive species in any habitat.”

The options considered included trapping, removing feeding stations, adding repellants, habitat modification, and exclusion devices. Terms like “euthanize” and “terminate” were mentioned if cats could not be socialized or habituated at a shelter. According to NPS research, approximately 200 cats are roaming the site. 

Along with the plan, Myrna I. Palfrey, the superintendent of the San Juan National Historic Site, released a statement arguing that the plan will help with “pet abandonment” issues at the park and throughout Puerto Rico.  

However, the lawsuit argues that the Park Service failed to consider meaningful alternatives that place more emphasis on “addressing the underlying cause of the growth in the cat population” and improving the longstanding Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. 

Yonaton Aronoff, a lawyer representing Alley Cat Allies, argued that the Park Service plan “not only lacks scientific backing and is doomed to fail but also flouts environmental protection statutes, setting the stage for the senseless slaughter of scores of cats.”

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