By Annie Gowen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
More than 200 wild cats at a trailer park in Chantilly will be trapped and probably euthanized starting next week, despite protests from residents who have been caring for them for years, a Fairfax County animal control officer said yesterday.
The Meadows of Chantilly has hired a company that will begin trapping the feral cats and taking them to the Fairfax animal shelter, where they will probably be put down, said Sgt. Andrew Sanderson of the county police department's animal services division.
Park operators are "definitely moving forward," Sanderson said. "There is nothing legally holding them back. They have every legal right to trap on their property."
Residents at the trailer park, which is off Route 50, have been working since 2002 with the Bethesda-based Alley Cat Allies to humanely control the cat population, which has grown over the years because transient residents left their pets behind. Volunteer caregivers set out bowls of food and trap the animals so they can be vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
Other residents have long complained about the cats, saying they dig up gardens, kill birds, splatter flower beds with urine and litter yards with feces.
The neighborhood has been in an uproar for the past month since news of the management company's trapping plans surfaced. Some residents came home late Monday to find notices posted by the company saying that the cats would be captured and euthanized. The fliers were taken down yesterday.
"We have talked to many residents. . . . The vast majority of you are asking us to reduce the feral cat population," the notice said. "It's important everyone stop feeding both stray and feral cats immediately. We have contracted with a State approved agency who will trap the animals in the same way [Alley Cat Allies] does. The difference is the cats will not be returned to the community and will be put to sleep."
The park manager referred calls to the Chicago headquarters of Equity LifeStyle Properties, the company that operates the Meadows. The general counsel did not return calls.
Cindy Sikes, a park resident who helps the cats, said she was "absolutely sick" over the trapping plan. Sikes and others said they fear the animals will be killed because feral cats are difficult to domesticate.
"They're like wild animals," said Michelle Hankins, a spokeswoman for the county shelter. "You cannot bring them into your home and expect them to be curled up on your lap. They cannot be placed for adoption."
Through the years, the Meadows cats have become part of the 500-unit trailer park community, where many residents have created houses for the animals on their stoops and porches. But others have written letters of complaint, and the wild cats are at odds with the management company's attempts to sell manufactured homes in the neighborhood.
Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies, which has spent more than $8,000 spaying and neutering cats in the neighborhood, called the management company's plan "hasty." Her agency wrote a letter asking for a meeting to discuss alternatives.
"Basically, if this is the decision, we're disappointed," Robinson said. "We believe they still have time to put a moratorium on this."