Residents and animal lovers have organized a protest against the Town of Hempstead's plan to move dozens of feral cats that live in Newbridge Road Park. The rally will take place at Newbridge Road and Sunrise Highway on Sunday.
Town officials want to relocate the cats' makeshift shelters and their feeding stations to the end of the park starting May 1.
Joyce Christie of Bellmore and Jennifer Jones of Merrick have been taking care of the felines for about 12 years. They said they are not happy with what has to be done.
"Many of these cats have lived here their whole lives," Christie said. "Moving these cats will expose them to elements and those who choose not to follow can starve. They want to move them more than a quarter of a mile."
Stephanie Cieslik, a Bellmore resident and former director of the Freeport Animal Shelter agreed.
"Cats are territorial and they will not leave where they are," she said. "They will go to the feeding stations to eat, but they are going to go back to where they are used to."
More than 12 years ago, Christie started seeing kittens in Newbridge Road Park and would try to find homes for them. After she met Jones in a supermarket, the two started taking care of the cats together.
"Jennifer had a knowledge of Trap-Neuter-Return and I was good with networking so we got together," Christie said.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a humane and effective method used to control feral cat population growth. Using this technique, all the feral cats in a colony are trapped, neutered and then returned to their territory where they are provided with regular food and shelter.
Jones said that she and Christie paid for the TNR of about 30 cats and that they paid for all of the cats' food over the years.
"It makes no sense what they are doing," Jones said. "When we first started the colony no one said we could not do this and last year an official from the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter said that we had a well maintained and cared for colony."
Town spokesman Michael Deery told Newsday that the move is necessary since the areas where the feeders are located have begun to erode due to the Whaleneck River. He also said that the Nassau County Health Department is concerned because people have complained about cat droppings near the park's pool deck.
"The move is for the health and safety of the people at the park and for the cats," Deery said.
Jones and Christie disagreed.
"The cats are behind a fence and they don't bother anyone," Jones said. "No adult or child has been harmed by them."
"I don't believe that droppings were seen," Christie said. "It's a cat's natural instinct to dig and bury."
Cieslik said that the relocation and cause a number of issues.
"It's possible that after the move, cats will be seen in the pool area more or they will start going into the trash for food," she said. "These cats were dropped here and abandoned and these two women took care of them. A problem is being created when there is no problem."
The protest will take place on Newbridge Road and Sunrise Highway near Harley Davidson from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.