The signs read "Prevent a Cat-astrophe" and used stock images of impossibly cute kittens with the words, "Please Don't Move Us."
Dozens of animal welfare advocates staked out a busy street corner Sunday to escalate their protest of a Hempstead Town decision to relocate a long-standing feral cat colony.
Town officials say the cats' fenced-in habitat, along Bellmore's Newbridge Road Park, is eroding into an adjoining river, and that residents are complaining of odor and animal waste in nearby public spaces. Tuesday, the town will begin slowly moving the cat shelters and feeding stations elsewhere in the park, about a quarter-mile away.
But the protesters who gathered in a Sunrise Highway parking lot in Bellmore said the town is needlessly putting animals at risk. Moving an established colony where cats are fed, spayed and neutered, they said, will end in them scattering and starving.
"That's absolutely the last resort for a well-maintained small colony of feral cats," said Elizabeth Stein, a New Hyde Park lawyer who has sued the town over animal shelter issues. "Right now, they're not a nuisance, but by doing this, they may become one."
Jennifer Jones, 67, of Merrick, and Joyce Christie, 71, of Bellmore, say they've cared for the cats at their own expense for 12 years with no complaints. They claim the town took action in recent months only after hearing from a well-connected resident.
"This has never been a safety problem," Jones said.
Hempstead Town spokesman Mike Deery said claims the town only acted on behalf of a powerful complainant "couldn't be further from the truth."
More than one person has "expressed displeasure with odors and safety concerns," he said.