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June 21, 2013

California Prison Urged to Lift Ban on Feeding Cats

Best Friends Animal Society®

The California Rehabilitation Center, a state prison facility in Norco, Calif., has been withholding food and water from 80 to 100 cats and kittens since May 30 when the prison warden issued a memorandum prohibiting all staff from providing care for the cats, who have lived on the prison grounds for decades and had been properly cared for by staff and inmates.

Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “Cats at the California Rehabilitation Center are at serious risk and need immediate intervention to prevent more suffering. We strongly urge the CRC and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to immediately lift the feeding ban and allow staff to resume care of these cats, many of whom are getting ill, thin and weak from food and water deprivation, while a humane and effective plan to properly manage the cats can be made.”

According to prison staff, a subsequent memorandum on June 5 called for the eradication of cats and wildlife from CRC. Prison officials claim they were given a mandate by California OSHA to remove the cats for health hazard violations. Cal/OSHA confirmed to The HSUS and Best Friends Animal Society that it gave no citation, mandate or set of recommendations, and that it is not requiring the prison to remove the cats or withhold food from them.

“This situation is troubling for a number of reasons,” says Peter Wolf, cat initiatives analyst for Best Friends Animal Society. “There is the welfare of the cats, of course, which we’re deeply concerned about. But we’re also concerned about the prison administration’s failure to take responsibility here. Indeed, we know from our experience that populations of free-roaming cats on prison grounds can be successfully managed through a trap-neuter-return program, to the benefit of cats and prisoners alike.”

The HSUS and other animal welfare organizations, including Feral Alley Cats and Friends in Desert Hot Springs, have offered advice, assistance and resources to prison officials, as well as local and state officials, but to date those offers have not been accepted. Humane options for managing cat populations are available and The HSUS, Best Friends Animal Society, and other organizations stand ready to assist.

Media Contact:
HSUS: Raúl Arce-Contreras 301-721-6440, rcontreras@humanesociety.org
Best Friends Animal Society: Barbara Williamson 435-644-4408, barbara@bestfriends.org                

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