Key Lie Kitties

It was easy to miss,* what with all the media attention devoted to the Smithsonian/USFWS’s “killer cat study,” published less than 24 hours later, but on January 28th, the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex (managed by USFWS) released the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex Integrated Pest Management Plan. Regular readers will recall that the draft version, released two years earlier, proposed the roundup of any free-roaming cats found on Refuge lands, but failed to offer any evidence whatsoever in terms of their estimated numbers, location, or diet.

In other words, evidence that the cats are the threat USFWS claims they are.

Two years later, that hasn’t changed. Indeed, there’s actually more to object to, not less.

I’ll dig into some of the science in future posts, but for now I want to focus on how this whole thing is being presented to the public.

Although the Plan’s authors acknowledge that “some cats may be euthanized,” USFWS refuses to take full responsibility:

“…the cats’ ultimate fate would be up to the shelter or group receiving the cats and their ability to find homes for the feral cats. Some cats may be euthanized by animal shelters because feral cats are often difficult to adopt due to their wild nature.” [1]

From there, it only gets worse. USFWS suggests that it’s partnering with animal welfare organizations in launching “two initiatives—Our Animal Family and Key Lime Kitties… to engage the local communities in achieving the common goal [of “no homeless pets”] through public education and individual stewardship.”

“A foster network coordinated through the Our Animal Family and Key Lime Kitties initiatives… may reduce the number of cats that may be euthanized.” [1]

Although Appendix V of the Plan (PDF) contains “sample materials,” these initiatives—from what I can tell, anyhow—don’t actually exist in any meaningful way. Our Animal Family, for example, has a website,** but its content doesn’t suggest that there’s any foster network in the works. Or that there’s much interest in re-homing cats among its current partners. (Frankly, the content reminds me of the disingenuous “let’s keep our cats safe” messaging used by the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation to justify TNR opposition.)

And Key Lime Kitties? It appears that this “initiative” is more of a wish than anything else.

While I’m relieved to know that cats trapped on Refuge lands will at least have a chance of surviving their ordeal, USFWS owes it to the public—whose tax dollars are funding this roundup—to be honest about the likely consequences of the agency’s actions. Which, for any cats not immediately identified as pets, probably means death.

It’s time for USFWS to stop hiding behind local animal control providers and sketchy “initiatives” and own this thing.

And when their misguided roundup fails to protect the Key’s endangered species, they need to own that too.

* One wonders if this wasn’t intentional. After all, the Plan is dated December 2012, and the most recent approval signature on the final version is April 20, 2012. Why wasn’t it released to the public sooner?

** Or maybe not—as of this writing, it appears to be down.

Literature Cited

1. USFWS, Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex Integrated Pest Management Plan. 2012, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Big Pine Key, FL.