Vox Humana

Photo courtesy of Alley Cat Allies.

For more than two weeks now, those of us who are outraged by the trapping of cats on the Loews Orlando properties have been able to express ourselves solely through virtual means—blogging, Facebook and Twitter, and an online petition.

Yesterday afternoon, however, many local advocates took to the streets, participating in a protest organized by Alley Cat Allies. According to an ACA press release:

Sixty-eight people raised their voices—and their signs—against the Loews Royal Pacific, Loews Portofino, and Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resorts after management made the decision to trap and remove the 23 feral cats who have lived peacefully on the properties for years.

Many of us—myself included—were unable to attend, but were there in spirit (and watching the whole thing unfold via social media). Thank you to all that made it possible!

For additional updates on the Loews cats:

Note: Alley Cat Allies has provided high-resolution photos of the event for the media here.

Photos courtesy of Alley Cat Allies.
Photos courtesy of Dorian Wagner/Save Loews Cats.

Loews Memo-random

Just as Loews began removing cats from their Portofino Bay Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort properties late last month, Shawn German, Regional Director of Human Resources, issued a memo outlining, among other things, the rationale for the decision and penalty for any members of the Loews “campus community” violating their no-feeding policy.

Not surprisingly, the focus is on the alleged public health threats posed by these sterilized, vaccinated, carefully monitored cats. The memo does not explain what prompted the recent policy reversal—again, no surprise.

What is a little surprising is what’s included in the Rationale section:

You might enjoy getting to know your furry friend but your neighbors might not, and may take action to eliminate the “pests.” Animals that become used to close interaction with humans become easy targets for people who do not respect wildlife and would hurt them intentionally. Also, there are many people who are afraid of wildlife and may injure an animal in an attempt to defend themselves against a mistaken “attack.”

Is Loews really suggesting that these cats are being removed for their own good? Recent events certainly suggest otherwise—indeed, that very little consideration has been given to the treatment and care of the cats that have been trapped. And it’s been nearly two weeks since the remaining cats (six or so, by my count) have been fed.

It’s clear at this point that the greatest threat to these cats is Loews management.

Date:         March 27, 2012
To:             LHUO Subcontractors, Vendors, Tenants and/or Business Partners
From:         Shawn German, Regional Director of Human Resources
Subject:      Animal Feeding and Handling Policy

Whether you are a subcontractor, vendor, tenant and/or business partner of Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando (LHUO) you are considered to be members of our “campus community”. As such, we urge you to please review the attached policy and ensure that all of your employees understand and follow this new policy. The health and safety of our guests, team members, vendors and visitors must be a priority.

We have completed a thorough and objective assessment of the feral, free-roaming cats on hotel property and are working closely with Orange County Animal Services, where the cats will be taken. There are many challenges that arise from maintaining free-roaming, feral cats in our hotel environment. Specifically, when the feral cats get into guest contact areas, it creates safety issues for both guests and team members, as well as health Issues. The outdoor feeding of animals attracts other wild and feral species, which can facilitate the spread of disease from rabies vectors such as raccoons. While our hotels are pet-friendly, there are important distinctions between owned pets and feral, undomesticated animals.

The Florida Department of Health’s position states: “The concept of managing free-roaming, feral domestic cats is not tenable on public health grounds because of the persistent threat posed to communities from injury and disease. While the risk for disease transmission from cats to people is generally low when these animals are maintained indoors and routinely cared for, free-roaming cats pose a continuous concern to communities.”

It is important for you to know that we have researched and evaluated all aspects of this issue and believe we must take these steps in the interest of the health and safety of our guests, team members and members of our “campus community”. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your respective Hotel General Manager or the Regional Executive Offices for LHUO.


POLICY# 7225



The ability to control the feral and undomesticated wild animal population on our campus property is always a concern and priority for us at Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando (LHUO). In an effort to reduce the community’s health risk from contact with these animals, the following policy has been adopted. Feral and undomesticated wild animals are potential carriers of rabies and other diseases, which may infect a person if bitten and/or scratched. This policy intends to raise awareness and reduce conflict with feral and undomesticated wild animals; therefore reducing the risk of contracting animal borne diseases. LHUO team members, vendors, contractors, suppliers and business partners are prohibited from leaving food or water on campus grounds for the purpose of feeding animals. The practice of leaving food stuff outdoors creates attraction of undesirable wild and feral species, which in turn creates the health risk. Any food found outside on LHUO grounds will be promptly removed and disposed of. The person(s) identified as feeding the animals will be informed of the “No Feeding Policy”, and may result in disciplinary action.

All trash dumpsters, in which food may potentially be disposed of, are to be kept clean and covered at all times.

In addition to our “No Feeding Policy” it is also a violation of this policy for any LHUO team member to handle or engage in any physical contact with any feral and undomesticated wild animals found on LHUO grounds. The “No Handling” aspect of this policy is equally important to ensure that no members of our “campus community” are injured by coming into contact with these animals and to rely on experts who are trained and best capable in handling these animals in a safe and humane manner. *

All members of the LHUO “campus community” are required to comply with all aspects of these policies and are responsible for reporting incidences of non-compliance. Any guests that are found to be feeding and/or handling these animals should be asked to comply with this policy as well.

Any incident involving a feral undomesticated wild animal should be reported to the Safety/Security Department. The handling and/or removal of these animals will be handled by the following:

Safety/Security and Engineering personnel, Orange County Animal Control, Florida Fish and Wildlife and/or other representatives designated by LHUO Management.

The purpose of this animal feeding and handling policy is to:

  • reduce the risk of injury to LHUO guests, team members, visitors and members of our “campus community”
  • reduce and/or eliminate contact with these animals which either annoy or endanger the comfort, health or safety of LHUO staff and/or these animals;
  • avoid potential health hazards;
  • and to prevent damage to LHUO buildings and grounds.

This policy applies to all LHUO staff.


Wild Animal – A feral animal that is wild by nature and is not normally considered domesticated includes, but is not limited to, the following: squirrels, ducks, pigeons, raccoons, possums, snakes, birds, alligators, rats, and stray cats and dogs.

Feed – Any material that can be utilized for consumption by wild animals.

Feeding – The feeding, spreading, casting, laying, depositing, throwing, placing, leaving or dumping of food.

LHUO Campus Community – This includes LHUO team members, vendors, suppliers, contractors, business partners, guests and visitors of LHUO.

Feral and/or undomesticated wild animals are prohibited in any LHUO building. This includes, but is not limited to, administrative offices, hotels, tents, food & beverage outlets, and all on-campus structures.

Owned pets may be brought onto campus, but shall be appropriately restrained and/or contained at all times by the responsible owner.

Dogs must be on a leash or chain that does not exceed 6 feet in length and that is in the hands of a responsible owner/custodian.

Other pets may also be allowed on campus, but only in an appropriate cage, carrier, crate, or kennel.

Animals may not be tethered unattended, or abandoned on LHUO property.

Animals may not be left unattended in any vehicle parked on LHUO property.

Animals brought on campus must be appropriately inoculated for rabies, with the burden of proof on the responsible owner/custodian.

When animals are brought on LHUO property, the responsible owner/custodian shall be responsible for feeding and cleaning up after the animal. This includes any fecal material deposited by the animal while on campus.

LHUO, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to request that any animal(s) creating a nuisance be removed from campus property and further reserves the right to prohibit animals from any Hotel/Resort event.

LHUO is not responsible for any animal brought onto LHUO property.

The feeding and/or handling of feral and undomesticated wild animals on or around LHUO grounds is not permitted because:

  • It establishes a potential risk of injury to our Team Members, members of our “campus community”, LHUO guests and visitors;
  • creates or fosters a congregation or congestion of wildlife;
  • establishes the potential conflict with domesticated pets staying with registered guests of LHUO;
  • creates an accumulation of droppings on surrounding properties;
  • causes actual or potential property damage or disfigurement, or degrades scenic attractiveness;
  • has the possibility to attract rodents and other vermin;
  • interferes with the enjoyment of LHUO facilities;
  • is potentially unhealthy for the particular species, or causes undue distress or conflict for the animal being fed;
  • and it increases the likelihood of diseases being spread from animals to other animals and to humans.

In addition, no LHUO team member shall knowingly leave or store any feed in a manner that would constitute a lure, an attraction or an enticement of feral and undomesticated wild animals.

Any LHUO team member that engages in the feeding or handling of feral undomesticated wild animals will be subject to disciplinary action.


OVERPOPULATION An abundance of food can lead to a population increase that the natural food supply cannot support. This can then lead to starvation and disease.

LOSS OF FEAR OF HUMANS Nuisance wildlife problems are often caused by those animals that have lost their natural fear of humans. Property damage and unwanted “houseguests” are often the result. You might enjoy getting to know your furry friend but your neighbors might not, and may take action to eliminate the “pests.” Animals that become used to close interaction with humans become easy targets for people who do not respect wildlife and would hurt them intentionally. Also, there are many people who are afraid of wildlife and may injure an animal in an attempt to defend themselves against a mistaken “attack.”

DISEASE Stress from competition for food, and an inadequate diet can increase the susceptibility of individual animals to diseases and parasites. Some wildlife diseases can be transmitted to other animals and humans.

INJURY RISK Wild animals do not understand that you are trying to be their friend by feeding them. They may misinterpret your actions and injure you. There is no guarantee that a wild animal knows where the food stops and your fingers begin. Bites can also cause substantial injury, trauma and disease.

UNNATURAL INTERACTIONS BETWEEN WILDLIFE Feeding can cause injuries and harmful interactions between wildlife species that would normally forage separately, by often bringing incompatible, competitive or even natural enemies together.

LHUO recognizes it is our responsibility to provide a safe environment for our guests, team members and visitors and to seek assistance to have any feral undomesticated wild animals removed from LHUO property when necessary.

* Sections of this policy may not apply to designated personnel as determined by the management of LHUO)

Issued: 3/28/2012 Revised: 3/27/2012

Loews Update: 10 Cats Trapped So Far

For those of you not following the Loews Cats story on the Vox Felina Facebook page, here’s a quick update…

For more than a week now, cats have been trapped at both the Portofino Bay Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort properties. From what I can tell, all 10 that have been trapped have been taken to Orange County Animal Services, where they are subsequently bailed out by volunteers for CARE Feline TNR, Inc., the same organization responsible for the sterilization, vaccination, and long-term care of the Loews cats. (This is done, as I understand it, in collaboration with Orange County Animal Services—OCAS provides the veterinary services, and CARE agrees to provide ongoing care.).

Six or seven cats (reports from caretakers have, understandably, not been entirely consistent) have yet to be trapped.

Frequent updates have provided all week on CARE’s Facebook page, as well as on the recently launched Save Loews Cats Facebook page (which has attracted 1,659 “Likes” in just eight days!).

Inexcusable Conditions
On Thursday, Alley Cat Allies co-founder and president Becky Robinson published a letter on the Care2 website in which she criticizes Critter Control, the pest control company hired by Loews, for “clearly not following humane best practices.”

“We have heard reports of cats being held in the traps outside for hours. The average temperature in Orlando in the past five days has been 89 degrees; today’s heat index is expected to be 97 degrees. There is no indication that proper protocol for trapped cats—visiting the traps every hour, keeping them covered with a towel to minimize the cats’ anxiety, and removing them promptly—is being followed.”

Indeed, an update (sent from one of the caretakers) posted Wednesday on the Save Loews Cats Facebook page reads: “Just reported that there is a cat in a trap at Royal Pacific howling and baking in the sun. Somebody please stop them!”

Later that same day, a photo of Shadow—an open gash on the top of her head—was posted on CARE’s Facebook page with a note reading: “Others have sustained injuries similar to this.”

Earlier this week, Alley Cat Allies started a petition “calling on Loews to stop trapping cats right now” and, according to one of CARE’s “Bailout Team Members,” also made a “generous donation toward the purchase of crates and relocation supplies so very much needed to move the Loews/Universal cats to a safe permanent location.”

No Viable Option?
For its part, Loews has been pretty quiet—hardly surprising, in light of the coverage the story has received, from the mainstream media to various online cat-friendly outlets, including CatChannel, Catster, and Petside.

On Friday, however, the luxury chain was responding to e-mail inquires this way:

Thank you for contacting us. We hear your concerns and understand there are many reports circulating of inhumane trapping. These are not accurate. We continue to re-locate feral cats to the Orange County Animal Services Center and are working closely with the team there. Everything is being handled with the utmost care by experts. Orange County Animal Services was on-site with us as recently as last night for a detailed review of everything we are doing and advised us that they had no concerns with our process.

To provide you with more background, please understand that we reviewed our practice involving feral, free-roaming cats and talked with numerous agencies, including Orange County Animal Services. We met with a local feral cat group to seek their assistance in the re-location, but they felt they could not support this change. For more than two months, we sought input from the public on a solution for re-locating the feral cats. No viable option emerged, after weeks of diligent outreach.

It is important to note that the Florida Department of Health states that feral cats pose a continuous concern to communities due to the persistent threat of injury and disease. The priority at our hotels is the health and safety of our guests and team members.

We would encourage you to review the Florida Department of Health’s Rabies Advisory Committee position statement on this issue. You may access it here:


Page vii (near the bottom) and continuing on page viii.

Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando

Well, as always, I’m here to help. And the best way to do that—to prevent any Loews team member or guest from being exposed to rabies or, more broadly, “the persistent threat of injury and disease”—is to discourage people from going there.

Any empty resort is, as they say, a safe resort.

Please help spread the word!

•     •     •

CARE needs our help finding permanent homes for these cats. If you know anyone with a farm, barn, stable, etc. who might be interested, please email: caroln@carefelinetnr.org.

Taking the Loews Road

On Wednesday, the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort announced that the property’s managed colony of cats will be “relocated to the county animal services center.”

This, of course, was not entirely unanticipated. Loews first announced that it would be reversing its position on TNR and on-site managed colonies back in January. Nor was it a surprise—given how the self-proclaimed “pet-friendly” luxury chain has tried to downplay the issue from the outset—that the big announcement was buried in a Facebook comment to a post more than two months old now:

We have reviewed our practice involving feral, free-roaming cats and have talked with numerous agencies including Orange County Animal Services. The Florida Department of Health states that feral, free-roaming cats pose a continuous concern to communities due to the persistent threat of injury and disease.

The priority at our hotels is the health and safety of our guests and team members. As a result, the cats will be relocated to the county animal services center.

We appreciate all the feedback we have received on this important matter and are grateful for your understanding as we implement this policy.

Turns out, an awful lot of us don’t understand at all—beginning with their alleged public health concerns. Jennifer Hodges, Director of Public Relations for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando, played the same card in January—but, to my knowledge, no details were ever offered. (I received a brief, generic e-mail reply when I inquired about the issue.)

The real problem for Loews, however, is that in their efforts to keep the whole thing low-profile, they apparently failed to inform their own marketing department. Which, in turn, failed to get the website updated accordingly. As a result, visitors to the site might easily come away with the impression that Loews actually is “the vacation choice of every pet lover.” Or that, as is indicated in the out-of-date copy, “Loews loves pets.”

Perhaps it’s true that “your VIP (Very Important Pet) will be waited on hand and paw, traveling in first-class comfort.” But for the cats outside—sterilized, vaccinated, and well cared for—their next trip won’t be comfortable at all.

And, more than likely, it’s one-way.

Resort to Killing?

Last week, the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort reversed its position on TNR and on-site managed colonies, citing what the Orlando Sentinel calls “liability reasons.” According to the paper, Orange County Animal Control considered Loews’ past efforts a “model program”—exactly what one would expect from a chain of “18 distinctive luxury hotels and resorts” that’s gone out of its way to appeal to vacationing pet owners through its Loews Loves Pets program. (The Loews website mentions only their Woofie Weekends offer, but a 2009 Examiner.com article refers to “gourmet room service options like roasted salmon and tuna delight for cats.”)

Not surprisingly, Loews’ decision sparked an uproar among TNR supporters, and, indeed, cat lovers in general. (The comments—overwhelmingly in support of TNR—continue to pile up on the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Loews Royal Pacific Resort Facebook page.) On Friday, Jennifer Hodges, Director of Public Relations for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando, issued the following statement:

“The cat colony remains unharmed and on property. We are working to find a solution that keeps the health and safety of our guests a priority while taking the most humane approach possible. Loews Hotels welcomes any viable suggestions. If you’d like to make a recommendation or can provide a safe sanctuary for these feral cats, please contact: input@loewshotels.com.”

A sanctuary? We’re still entertaining that fantasy? Clearly, the folks at Loews aren’t as well-informed as one would expect, given their previous support for TNR.

Hodges never replied to my e-mail and telephone inquiries requesting details about the alleged heath and safety risks. What’s changed recently to warrant this about-face? I’d also like to what Loews plans to do going forward, though I think that’s pretty clear: “relocate” (trap-and-kill apparently doesn’t do well in focus groups of affluent travelers) any cats found on the properties.

Something else that’s pretty clear: all the unwanted attention is making a difference. Hodges’ statement on Friday was itself a reversal from Loews’ position just a few days earlier, as posted via Facebook:

“Loews Hotels is a pet-friendly hotel brand and we support the humane treatment of animals. It is important to share the facts surrounding this issue. Feral cats at our Orlando hotels are being humanely trapped and taken to a local shelter…”

And the story continues to get traction, picked up by animal advocates (including Best Friends Animal Society, The Conscious Cat, and Bunny’s Blog) and others (see, for example, Flyer Talk and DIS). There’s even an online petition (2,657 signatures so far).

All of which puts Loews in a very awkward position. How does this “pet-friendly hotel brand” defend a position aligned with the mass killing of this nation’s most popular companion animal?

So far, Loews doesn’t have much of an answer.