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Posts Tagged ‘Atlantic City Boardwalk’

Alley Cat Allies Boardwalk Cats Project

Alley Cat Allies Boardwalk Cats Project in Atlantic City. Photo via http://www.facebook.com/AlleyCatAllies

In November, ATZ began a series of posts about rescuing ‘Snow Coney’ and other cats in Coney Island, where strays and ferals live along the Boardwalk. While the cats are being fed by caregivers, they lack winter shelters and medical care. As we previously reported, both Disneyland in California and Atlantic City’s Boardwalk have model programs including feeding stations, shelters, and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) to stabilize and manage the cat population.

Disneyland is home to a managed colony of 200 feral cats who dine at five discreet feeding stations and receive medical care in exchange for keeping the rodent population under control. While the Disneyland cats are only occasionally sighted by visitors, the Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats, founded by Alley Cat Allies in 2000, have become something of a tourist attraction. The national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats cares for the feral cat colonies along the boardwalk as part of a city-endorsed Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. We first heard of the Atlantic City cats after Sandy, when news reports documented their survival. The Coney Island cats also survived Sandy, but are being displaced by development. With the new year and the new pro-animal rights administration of Mayor de Blasio, we would like to see a program modeled on Alley Cat Allies Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project.

ATZ interviewed Alley Cat Allies Interim Programs Director, Aileen Walden, who has been instrumental in the Atlantic City program, to learn how her organization’s success can be replicated in Coney Island. Here is an excerpt:

Alley Cat Allies

Alley Cat Allies Boardwalk Cats Project in Atlantic City. Photo via http://www.facebook.com/AlleyCatAllies

Q: On your website it says Atlantic City Boardwalk’s famous cats draw visitors and admirers from all over the country. This is a really interesting and positive aspect. I would like to know how a feral colony can go from being kept secret by feral cat advocates or considered a nuisance by some locals to world famous and admired. This is a very good selling point for a project in Coney Island!

A: One of my favorite things to share with people is that in 2012, the Boardwalk Cats were named by Atlantic Coast Magazine as one of the top 10 attractions in Atlantic City. Whenever we are down at the Boardwalk, we are stopped by people who tell us that every time they visit Atlantic City, they make it a point to visit the Boardwalk Cats. We also have people who come regularly from Philadelphia, northern New Jersey and NY just to feed the cats. During high season, it’s not unusual for our staff and volunteers to be surrounded by a crowd of people asking us about the Boardwalk Cats and sharing stories of their love for their own cats.

Alley Cat Allies

Alley Cat Allies Boardwalk Cats Project in Atlantic City. Photo via http://www.facebook.com/AlleyCatAllies

Q: Can you tell me how many cats were originally at Atlantic City, the approximate size of the population over the years and today. If the cats are spayed and neutered, doesn’t the size of the colony dwindle or do new ferals and strays join the colony?

A: We had approximately 250 cats at the Boardwalk Colonies when we began. Over the years, we have handled 394 cats there (many within the first 3 years) which would be original colony members, kittens, friendlies that wandered in or were dropped and migration from other city colonies. There are now just 127 cats in those colonies and no kittens have been born in over a decade.

We have found relatively few abandoned cats over the years but there are a few. It’s important to prominently display the local ordinances against abandoning animals when you have colonies at public locations.

There is now a Seaside Heights NJ official colony that the mayor and local TNR group modeled after Atlantic City with support from ACA.

Alley Cat Allies

Alley Cat Allies Boardwalk Cats Project in Atlantic City. Photo via http://www.facebook.com/AlleyCatAllies

Q: How did you manage to get the support of the City for the program and organize the support and cooperation of businesses as well as people feeding the cats?

A: Perseverance, Professionalism and Persuasion. We were reasonably lucky in Atlantic City because early on the head of the Department of Health, Ron Cash, recognized the value of managing the breeding of the cats at the Boardwalk and that removing them wasn’t making a dent. He also recognized the public health and PR benefits of TNR. We also worked closely with the Atlantic County Humane Society who were well-known in the area.

The people feeding were the easiest to convince. Once people know the cats are safe and will remain, they are more than happy to help. The HS and DOH were helpful in relating to business owners who had concerns. The best advice I can give is find the people who care about animals who are opinion leaders. They are everywhere. Elected and appointed officials, media people, wealthy community members, prominent business leaders.

There is no single formula that will work in every community. You need to identify and build a coalition of support for the TNR program. You then need to identify and target the departments and administrators who are the decision-makers for TNR and for Animal Control. I don’t know if Coney Island is a state or federal park but if it is, you will need to identify the decision-makers for that park as well as trying to find sympathetic ears in the Borough. You have an advantage in NY because the Mayors Alliance supports and promotes TNR for outdoor cats and oversees the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, www.nycferalcat.org.

Here are some links to:
Advocating for TNR and humane programs for cats.
Starting a TNR program or organizing what was previously a lot of separate programs and people.

Here is a contact form to send Amusing the Zillion a private message about helping the Coney Island cats. Let us know if you’re interested in volunteering to help organize a TNR program in Coney Island or can provide post-op recovery space for a few days after surgery.

Related Posts on ATZ…

January 26, 2014: Save Coney! Adopt Steeplechase the Coney Island Bunny

January 18, 2014: Coney Island Bunny Rescued After 21 Days on The Run

January 8, 2014: Bunny Returns to Bulldozed Coney Island Garden, Kitten Euthanized

December 10, 2013: Update on Coney Island Cat ‘Snow Coney’ & His Family

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Runaway rabbit

Runaway bunny returns to bulldozed Coney Island Community Garden. January 7, 2013. Photo by Carolyn McCrory

The rabbit and the cats who ran off during the December 28th pre-dawn bulldozing of the Coney Island Community Garden, where they were cared for by the gardeners, have been spotted. “It is so sad to see them sitting on the barren land,” said Carolyn McCrory, who sent us a photo of the yet-to-be-rescued bunny, a white rabbit with black ears.

It’s distressing to imagine a domestic rabbit left to fend for itself in wintry Coney Island. All the more so because the place was named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch after the wild rabbits that lived here in the 17th century. This runaway rabbit, who fled when developer iStar bulldozed the garden after Christmas to make way for an amphitheater project, is the only one of its kind. He went back to the garden looking for shelter but found none. Did the bunny survive yesterday’s freeze? [Update: After several sightings, the bunny was finally “netted” by a rescuer on January 18th and is safe.]

Coney Island Kittens

Kittens from community garden ended up at ACC, where one was euthanized and these two were rescued by Empty Cages Collective. December 30, 2013.

Another sad story is that of a mother cat, a calico who has been seen returning repeatedly to the bulldozed lot looking for her kittens. As ATZ previously reported, when a gardener collected her chickens she also walked off with three kittens. As it turns out, the next morning a cat carrier with the kittens was left on the boardwalk in front of the demolished garden. Pleas for help were posted on Facebook but before a rescuer could get there, the carrier was picked up by the City’s Animal Care and Control, which is a kill shelter.

PJ McCosky of Empty Cages Collective, who has recently rescued several cats in Coney Island, was alerted and rushed to ACC to save them. One sickly kitten had already been euthanized. The other two kittens were rescued and are now in the care of Empty Cages foster homes. The kittens were about four weeks old when found and need to be bottle fed.

Empty Cages Collective is an all-volunteer organization. You can support the work they do for New York City’s animals by donating or volunteering to become a foster home and following their Facebook page.

Coney Island Kitten

Kitten from bulldozed community garden brought to ACC and rescued by Empty Cages Collective. December 30, 2013.

Since ATZ began covering Coney Island in 2009, the colonies of cats have been pushed farther west by the dismantling of Astroland and the demolition of vacant buildings such as the Henderson and the Playland Arcade. The construction on the Boardwalk at West 21st Street is causing further displacement. While there are many people feeding the cats, there is much more that needs to be done. With the new year and the new pro-animal rights administration of Mayor de Blasio, we would like to see a program modeled on Alley Cat Allies Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project. Since 2000, the national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats has cared for the feral cat colonies along the boardwalk as part of a city-supported Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. According to their website, Atlantic City Boardwalk’s famous cats draw visitors and admirers from all over the country. Can’t we do the same for cats on the Coney Island Boardwalk?

Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty

Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related Posts on ATZ…

December 27, 2013: Coney Island Mama Cat ‘Okaasan’ & Kittens Up for Adoption

December 10, 2013: Update on Coney Island Cat ‘Snow Coney’ & His Family

January 24, 2013: Landlord Evicting Famous Coney Island Cat and His Humans

January 26, 2011: Photo of the Day: Henderson Music Hall Cats Now Homeless

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