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Elderly Woman Battles to Save Cat Colony

Betty with one of her own cats


Elderly Woman Battles to Save Cat Colony

Ten cats in Paihia face starvation after a recent community board resolution was passed that will force the removal of the food shelter they have fed from for the past nine years.

86-year-old Betty Chapman and her team of nine SPCA Cat Coalition volunteers feed the cats daily, and under the Animal Welfare Act it is now their responsibility, as ‘persons in charge’ under the Act, to continue to care for the mostly elderly cats. Should Betty abide by the council’s resolution and remove the food station and shelter, she will be breaking the law as the cats, which are used to being fed and cared for, will almost certainly starve to death.

Royal New Zealand SPCA National President Bob Kerridge describes the decision as “one of the most inhumane and irrational decisions ever made by a local authority.”

The issue was presented to the community board by self appointed ‘conservationist’ group Bay Bush Action claiming that the cat colony was depleting local wildlife – however ironically, most of the cats are past the recognised hunting age and would not actually be able to catch their own food should they be left to fend for themselves.

“The Council does not want to destroy the cats, but taking their food and shelter away would have the same effect,” says Ms Chapman.

“Most of the cats don’t hunt – especially considering they are currently well-fed. There are only ten of them, and they are no more of a threat to wildlife than the domestic cats in backyards down the road. I would be devastated if I was forced to abandon them.”

In addition to caring for the small cat colony, Betty also actively identifies any “dumped” stray cats that aren’t part of the colony, and provides a service to the area by de-sexing them (at her own cost) and finding them new homes. Because of this, the stray cat population in the area is very effectively controlled.

“In addition to asking Betty to behave illegally, this would also be an act of total cruelty, as the cats are currently healthy and well cared-for, and would go from being fed daily as if they were owned, to being abandoned,” says John Logie of Bay of Islands SPCA.

“There are actually no grounds for the claims made by Bay Bush Action, or for the decision made by the Council. We’d love some support from the people in this community – and beyond – to help us get this decision overturned. Betty and her team should be commended on the great work they carry out.”

The appeal is due to be heard on May 6. The community is invited to support Betty and the colony by “liking” the Facebook page www.facebook.com/savebettyscats


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