LIDA at Its Best - A Page from the Dogwood Diaries
Lured into a trap, captured, and transported to a holding cell to await their fate - death by lethal injection. That would have been the tragic tale of the Dogwood cats if LIDA had not intervened. Because of LIDA's efforts their story is instead one of new beginnings.
Lives Are Threatened
Dogwood Meadows is a townhouse community in Edison, New Jersey. Developed in the midst of what was once farmland and adjoining the property of "Farmer Joe" the inevitable colony of stray cats appeared. Four years ago the Townhouse Association gave its blessing to the establishment of a TNR (Trap Neuter Release) Program. Aided by a rescuer schooled in TNR the program was implemented by a townhouse owner and spouse who then became the colony's guardians. Then in March 2006, after expressing increasing dissatisfaction with the presence of the cats, the Townhouse Association removed its welcome mat and hired a pest control company to effectuate the removal of the cats. To bring its point home it also requested that the municipal animal control officer charge the homeowner guardian with violating the municipal anti feeding ordinance and the Animal Control Officer so obliged.
After her overture intended to achieve an amicable resolution and avoid litigation was met by opposing counsel's "bring it on baby" response, a LIDA cooperating attorney filed a verified complaint on behalf of the guardian homeowners and against the Townhouse Association along with an Order to Show Cause seeking to halt the trapping of the cats. Despite the emergent nature of the relief sought, some 16 cats were trapped prior to the court hearing. A settlement reached in the Courtroom with the aid of the Judge brought relief in the form of a thirty day moratorium of any further trapping by the association or its hired pest control company trapper; but relief was only partial and short lived. Any cats not removed by rescue groups within thirty days would once again become the prey of the hired pest control.
Meanwhile efforts to reclaim the already captured cats had reaching a surprising impasse. The Town Shelter was refusing to turn them over fearing they would be released back on Dogwood Meadows property. LIDA again intervened. The organization reached out for the Municipal Department of Health and offered to take responsibility for the released cats. The Health Department agreed and after a seven day holding period the cats were released to LIDA's rescue liaison.
Rescue Operations Begin
The rescue end of LIDA then sprung into action. LIDA's rescue liaison coordinated efforts to relocate the released cats to a temporary facility for observation, veterinary care and evaluation as to where they could best be rehomed. These cats were soon joined by the balance of the colony who over the thirty day allotted period were trapped by the colony guardians. In total, thirty-six cats were shepherded through LIDA's caring hands.
LIDA's participation was still not over. Prior to the Court negotiated moratorium, the Shelter had advised the pest control company trapper to cease trapping until further notice that it had room to accept additional cats. Choosing to ignore that direction the trapper continued in his efforts and when the Shelter turned him away he "stored" three of the cats in their respective traps. After the cats had been held three days, the County SPCA intervened, seized the cats, and filed animal cruelty charges against the trapper. A LIDA cooperating attorney has agreed to serve as private prosecutor when the matters comes to trial.
We cannot boast a happy ending. That would have involved reversal of the eviction mandate and permission for the colony to live out its days at their home at Dogwood Meadows. Due, however, to the efforts of LIDA, a tragic ending was averted. The Court was educated as to the notion of TNR and the plight of ferals. The Association learned that the cats had a lawyer who could and would successfully advocate on their behalf. The cats remain traumatized by their eviction from their home and the breakup of their family but due to the incredible efforts of rescue people coordinated by LIDA's rescue liaison, they are learning about new beginnings. The many who still await a new home can be viewed at LIDA's rescue site at Petfinder.
The colony caretaker was represented by a LIDA cooperating attorney and the charges against him were dismissed. At trial the trapper was aquitted of the cruelty charges.
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