ALBANY — The removal of a feral cat colony in Brooklyn has sparked outrage among the animals’ caretakers and calls for new legislation to protect strays.
“I am completely distraught and heartbroken,” said Mariana Nuziale, who has leased a studio in Industry City since 2012 and has cared for several of the cats that took up residence in and around the Sunset Park complex.
“I have grown very attached to them,” Nuziale, 45, said. “They have become our companions.”
Nuziale and others who cared for the Industry City cats said they were stunned when, earlier this month, an exterminator hired by the complex’s owners trapped and removed more than a dozen of the cats they’ve cared for over the years.
“My heart is wrenched out of my chest,” said Jennifer Petito, 32, a security guard at Industry City who also cared for the cats. “They were a part of me.”
Their anguish further increased when — after days of pressing Industry City officials for more information — they learned that the exterminator, Brooklyn-based Squash Exterminating, had reported dumping the cats in spots near Leif Ericson Park and Gerritsen Beach.
“The way they disposed of the cats was illegal,” said Kathleen O’Malley, of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, a program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals.
“They should have brought the cats to a shelter,” O’Malley said, adding that the incident is under investigation by the NYPD’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad.
A woman who answered the telephone at Squash Exterminating refused to talk to a reporter from the Daily News, saying “I’m not talking to you, goodbye.”
In a statement, Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball apologized for the matter and said they were trying to find the cats.
“We apologize for any unintended harm that was done to the feral cat community, and have terminated the contract with the service provider that did not follow established protocols and practices,” Kimball said. “We are working with animal advocacy organizations and care providers to ensure the well-being of the cats. We expect that an appropriate remedy will be in place soon.”
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), who met with Industry City officials and a group of tenants on Friday, said she plans to introduce legislation that will require building owners to notify any caretakers of feral cats about plans to remove them. It will also increase penalties on exterminators who either kill or dump animals illegally.
“To the people who take care of them and visit them, they are not just stray cats,” Rosenthal said. “They are part of their lives.”
Because feral cats are considered impossible to adopt, O’Malley said her organization encourages property owners and caretakers to neuter them and manage their food supply in the hopes of controlling the population and gradually reducing their numbers.
“Removing cats doesn’t work, especially in New York City,” she said. “New cats will just move in.”