As many of you know our country is facing an epidemic rate of homeless pets, especially cats. Last month Betsy Saul, co-founder of Petfinder.com shared at a pet conference, that homeless cats, especially stray and feral cats, remain the biggest challenge in the animal rescue and welfare world. I knew this firsthand and set out on a mission– Education.
The first step was to research successful case studies of TNRM. You probably heard of it–Trap-Neuter-Return- and Manage. This effort has worked successfully in communities and upscale hotels and businesses from New York to Paris to Japan. My idea was to collect studies and build a library that would serve as a reference for others.
I learned about the model TNRM program at the Loews Hotel in Orlando, Florida. Originally there were over 40 cats and one hotel employee took it upon himself to start trapping the cats and having them spayed/neutered. He did this on his own time and paid any costs from his wages. His name was George Ricci, a bellman. Over time and with the help of fellow employees, the kittens were adopted to loving homes and the adult population stayed at 20. Furthermore, all cats were dewormed, spayed/neutered and rabies vaccinated. To make it complete, employees built Italian style cat mansions as dry feeding stations to complement the Portofino decor. As a marketing/PR professional, I thought this was brilliant. Loews Hotels could milk this for great PR and help thousands of cats, right?
After visiting the property and talking to several employees, they were so proud of their contribution and the difference they made. I was so moved. This was truly a perfect program to emulate.
As I was wrapping up my case study in December 2001, I suddenly learned that the new Director of Operations, David Bartek, mandated that all cats be trapped and sent to a county shelter where they are euthanized. Kill the cats? I SOUNDED THE ALARM!
The county shelter informed us that a mother cat and her kittens were already brought in from the Hard Rock hotel and put to sleep. Bloggers, cat lovers, and animal advocates unleashed their fury on social media and Loews Hotels backed down. Then Loews asked for help in relocating the cats. Experts, caretakers and bloggers phoned, emailed and wrote letters and Loews never answered. They did not want to hear that relocation was traumatizing and not an option. The best solution was to continue their TNRM program. Cats knew the grounds, their caretakers, and their names. They pose no risk. Loews Hotel was the only home they knew.
But sadly, executives at New York headquarters ignored our pleas, letters and phone calls and redirected us to the Orlando staff, where template letters with no answers were sent. The trapping began and so did the trauma and injuries to the cats. A Facebook page was created to document every movement and included photos.
As predicted, new cats, unsterilized, have moved in. The vacuum effect has taken place. To this day, not a single question has been directly answered.
How can you help? We need to continually remind Loews Hotels that we are not going away. This is not a passing fad. We are concerned, we are watching and we will keep educating the public. Outdoor cats are harmless when vaccinated and managed and deserve to live humanely. TNRM works! Let’s continue the pressure on Loews Hotels in a few ways.
1. Like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SaveLoewsCats
3. Write letters to Loews headquarters in NY. You can send them to Mr. Paul Whetsell, CEO and Ms. Lark-Marie Anton, VP Public Relations at Loews Hotels, Corporate Head Office, 667 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10065. You can also call them at 212-521-2000 .