Couple, East Northport CVS at odds over feral cat colony

This handout photo provided by Bill and Mary This handout photo provided by Bill and Mary McDonnell, of Huntington, shows a feral cat colony the couple cares for behind an East Northport CVS store. CVS officials say they want to relocate a feral cat colony behind the store because of liability concerns, a move opposed by the couple who cares for the colony. Photo Credit: Handout

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CVS officials say they want to relocate a feral cat colony behind an East Northport store because of liability concerns, a move opposed by the couple who cares for the colony.

Bill and Mary McDonnell, of Huntington, say they have been feeding and taking care of about a dozen feral cats at the Jericho Turnpike site since October. They say the colony has been there for at least eight years.

CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said the corporation became aware of the cats a few weeks ago and that it wants to move them, but added that the company is not going to take action now.

"They will remain there until, if or when we determine and identify the right partner to safely relocate them," DeAngelis said.

An online petition started by another advocate for the colony had received more than 2,400 signatures by Sunday afternoon.

Mary McDonnell said she would like to have an "open dialogue" with CVS and hopes to meet with the company to "try to resolve this in an amicable way."

But the bottom line, she said, is that the cats should not be moved.

"We want the cats to stay there and live out their lives," she said in a text message, citing her fears the cats would not survive if they were moved.

Removing a feral cat population also opens up the space to an influx of new cats, the so-called vacuum effect, according to the national advocacy group Alley Cat Allies.

Removing feral cats is "futile, cruel and costly," said the group's president, Becky Robinson. Feral cats are unsocialized outdoor cats that have lived around people for hundreds of years, she said.

Robinson said there has been a "sea change" in dealing with feral cats. Many municipalities and animal organizations, on Long Island and elsewhere, now use "TNR" programs -- trap, neuter and release -- which she said has helped stabilize feral cat populations. Some colonies, she said, cease to exist. She said the goal of the TNR approach is "to see the cats coexist peacefully with the people."

The McDonnells say they had the colony's cats spayed, neutered and vaccinated. They have named many of the cats, provided beds and feed them twice a day. They also built a wood house-like structure that offers the cats a place to eat, play and some protection from the elements.

"They bother no one," Mary McDonnell said in a text message. "We just hope we can work with CVS to make this work out."

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