Feral cat issue settled, control project restarts

| 29/06/2022 | 81 Comments
Cayman News Service
A feral cat preys upon a hatchling rock iguana in Little Cayman

(CNS): Feral cat control has resumed in Little Cayman after an agreement between the Cayman Islands Government and two local animal welfare non-profit organisations, Feline Friends and the Cayman Islands Humane Society, which had challenged the programme in the courts. The NPOs managed to stop the control project for several years, placing threatened native and endemic fauna in even greater danger as the wild cats were slaughtering birds and iguanas, bringing some to the brink of extinction.

The dispute lasted for more than three years but the NPOs agreed to quit the fight earlier this year after the Cayman Islands Government agreed to pick up their legal tab of CI$25,000. Cabinet recently approved the settlement to ensure that invasive species management in the Sister Islands could resume in earnest.

Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn said the Ministry of Sustainability respected the important work local animal welfare organisations do to prevent animal suffering and reduce the number of homeless pets in our community but the conservation aims of the control measures are essential.

“At the heart of this matter is the urgent need to protect vulnerable species, such as the red-footed booby and the endemic Sister Islands rock iguana, from going extinct because of invasive predators,” she said. “A protracted battle through the courts would have only prolonged the suffering of our native species and the feral cats while amounting significant legal fees for all parties.”

A team from the Department of Environment (DoE) and Department of Agriculture (DoA) has already gone to Little Cayman and started registering and chipping domestic cats, prior to recommencing the feral control work.

After six nights of trapping, 40 cats were netted, including four registered pets. The trapped cats were attended by the DoA’s senior veterinary officer each morning, with assistance from the DoE. All trapped cats were carefully scanned to verify their identity. Registered pet cats that were trapped were scanned for a microchip, and after their identity was verified, they were released back to their owner’s care. A representative of the Cayman Islands Humane Society was also there to observe all aspects of the control operations, which were conducted humanely.

The invasive species management work has received international funding for this year after the DoE was awarded a CI$535,000 Darwin Grant in partnership with the DoA, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the University of Aberdeen. This money will help establish more solid biosecurity protocols and implement effective invasive species management in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman through increased capacity, improved knowledge and community engagement.

Although the legal dispute focused on feral cats, DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said there are a number of other invasive species negatively impacting the Sister Islands’ flora and fauna.

“While feral cats and green iguanas are perhaps the most obvious threats to our native and endemic fauna, other species like rats can also have significant negative impacts,” she said. “The Darwin Grant funding will allow us to improve our inter-island biosecurity efforts and safeguard our Sister Islands’ unique biodiversity.”

This will include estimating cat population density using wildlife cameras and a feasibility study to determine if the eradication of feral cats from Little Cayman is technically, socially and economically possible.

Director of Agriculture Adrian Estwick also encouraged pet owners to be part of the solution. “We each have a role to play as individuals to support local biosecurity efforts,” he said. “One example is not attempting to illegally or improperly import food or plants into the country that could bring with them invasive pests or harmful diseases. Another is responsible pet ownership. Please spay and neuter your pets to prevent the creation of feral cat colonies and reduce the burden on local shelters.”

The original control programme, a joint initiative between the DoA and the DoE, started in 2018 because of the increasing predation by feral cats. But the NPOs obtained a court injunction to stop it. Efforts to reach an agreement outside of the courts were unsuccessful, and in November last year government moved to have the issue listed for a hearing. In February 2022, Feline Friends and the Humane Society presented the opportunity to bring closure to the matter through payment of their legal costs to date.

Officials said the settlement will not impact the government’s forecast financial performance for the 2022 financial year and will not increase overall planned expenditure.


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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (81)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I used to have several iguanas come to my front yard for a treat. Some were quite small, others were fairly large. Then, the land owner of the neighbouring land decided to clear it. Leveled it entirely. I have seen only one small iguana since then.

  2. Carol says:

    So called humans are the most invasive species , but not all. It is the rich land takers that murder the environment. Cats have a right to live. Carnivores murder animals. I say let us get rid of you. That would REALLY reduce the threat to animals. I am vegetarian. Glad to see you go.i notice the cowards use words like ” cull ” or ” abortion ” when it really is murder? Why hide behind those words ? Killing unborn babies is murder. Some things have no conscience . I love all animals. They have the right to live. I do unto others as I want done to me. I do not eat or wear animals. No one has the right to do this. Sadly , tons of things get away with it. This , however , does not make it right. Please be human. One more point : if you had been born a cat , would you want to be killed ? No one has control over what species they were born. Think.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Government traps and slaughters cats because they are deemed to be a danger to endemic species, yet countless people are allowed to bulldoze down entire lots and haul away as refuse endemic species of flora and fauna, all with government’s blessing.For a real insight into how little government cares: In Grand, with the CPA’s full blessing, developers are allowed to flatten lots and leave nothing alive and even decimate mangrove stands and kill all the creatures who call that home. Take a trip to Cayman Brac, where almost everyone flattens their entire building lot, often without proper planning permission and even illegally remove rock and sand, beach ridge, protected species, everything. No problemo says the Development Control Board. This is a total effing JOKE! The Panton-PACTless Clown Car is in in full three-ring circus mode now folks! Yet the Clown-in-Chief, Panton, still has the audacity to spew his putrid tripe about how much he cares about the environment.

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  4. I am not a dog. Honest. says:

    Great news. Cats are evil.

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  5. Steven Quaynor says:

    I love cats. Owned at least one throughout my 55yrs.
    But they are expert hunters of anything/everything smaller than them. They will wipe out a tiny ecosystem in 2 cat generations. (1yr approx). Sad but they have to go. Catus domesticus is not endangered. Lets do better on the reboot. Licence and sterilisation for outdoor cats?

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  6. Anonymous says:

    I live on Cayman Brac and have a feeding station for a lot of feral cats. In February 2020 I had fixed all of them but 2 and then the country was shut down. The vets couldn’t travel to the Brac for about 1.5 yrs and by then I had 4 new litters of kittens born on my property. Last August I was finally able to get the remaining 12 cats fixed that were left thanks to the humane society. The vets had started coming over but weren’t doing any surgeries. Here we are 2.5 yrs later and people are wondering why feral cats are outta control on the Brac.

    For all of my 25 yrs on the Brac, we animal people have been begging for a full time vet here but our complaints and requests have fallen on deaf ears with govt. We now have a retired vet on island that wants to take on this responsibility but govt has blocked every attempt for him to get a work permit. Why? He’s perfect for the Brac as he doesn’t need to work full time to live here yet our MLAs have refused any help at all.

    The only solution govt has is to kill cats when they are the ones whom cut off travel to the Brac and refuse to give a credentialed vet a work permit to serve our community.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly. Another example of CIG patting the Brac on the head and expecting us to say, “Oh, golly gee, thanks so much for being so patronizing! We’ll trust you this time, for sure.” In the meantime, the Brac suffers and no one in the government will even acknowledge that we are entitled to the same services as those on Grand. And people wonder why we have a chip on our collective shoulder.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly right. I’ve been trying to say the same, but it falls on ears that are more than deaf.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Cat are an invasive species and should be eliminated from Little Cayman without prejudice.

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    • JTB says:

      Surely with prejudice?

    • Suga Mama says:

      How about we eliminate trolls, starting eith you ? ! 😒 As the ULTIMATE ” cat lover “, I have had ( at least 5 or 6 ) furry, darling feline angels to take care of.

      ( Keep in mind that the land owners does NOT permit animals, *especially* cats in the house, so we made an agreement that I could take care of / feed them outside / in the yard ).

      That said, I had ( at least 5 or 6 ) stray feline angels, between 2014 and 2015 that have visited me daily, just ’cause they know that I will feed them.

      Truth be known, I would much rather go out of my way to rescue a cat instead of another person, just being honest.

      In closing, your comment about killing off my best friends was beyond hurtful and angry.

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    • Anonymous says:

      @1:59:
      Humans are the ultimate invasive species. What do you propose we do about this apex predator and destroyer of whole ecosystems?

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      • Jah love these Islands says:

        Well you’re a human aren’t you, so lead by example then apex predator! What are you going to do about you?

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        • Anonymous says:

          @10:16:
          I am happy for your invitation to express my view as a member of the apex predator class: I have led by example and involvement in many areas of conservation in the Cayman Islands. If I could wave a magic wand, I would put controls into place–including sufficient funding, and strict and proper enforcement of–laws and regulations that place prudent and meaningful restrictions on the harm that humans including myself, can do to the environment in general, and our own environment in particular. I would oust the Panton-PACTless Clown Car from government on day one of possessing said wand. Their leader is a worthless pretender when it comes to anything other than spewing flatulence about the environment. Among the resources I use is going to public forums to raise awareness about the issue and lead people to the truth about their impotent and irresponsible governments. I am happy that you asked to be thusly led. What are you doing about the destruction that humans are daily inflicting on Cayman’s environment?

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  8. eliza harford says:

    Thank goodness this project is finally going ahead and common sense has prevailed. Well done to all those, inc Jay at the Min of Ag, for pushing this through.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Glad to know that someone will be watching to ensure the cats are euthanized in a humane manner. No doubt the cats need to be culled, but some lizard zealots in the Sister Islands have at times resorted to cruel methods of killing feral felines. Living things don’t deserve to be tortured to death in the belief that another living thing is more important.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Killing cats with a pickup truck, rock or rifle, is not torture. It is the inevitable and sadly necessary self help solution when trapping and humanely euthanizing is stopped by a bunch of yoga gear wearing Karen’s who do not even live in Little Cayman and wouldn’t know a rock iguana from an Anole, or a frigate from a booby. The harm the cats have done to the environment and to indigenous animals, at the insistence of so called animal-lovers is unfathomable – and now long past forgivable.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Your inflexible, one-size-fits-all thinking is as bad or worse than the people you have stereotyped. Killing cats with a pickup truck, rock or rifle is torturous — the same as if it was done to iguanas and birds.

  10. Anonymous says:

    CIG should put a law in place and start going house to house and if you have a pet un neutered or not spayed, then it will get spayed or neutered or seize the
    animal and euthanize it, STOP all breeders, we have enough homeless animals on the streets and in shelters, this is a pretty easy solution. now let me hear from the breeders,who do not have a license to breed. need laws and ENFORCEMENT.
    NO IMPORTING OF DOGS THAT ARE NOT NEUTERED OR SPAYED.

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  11. Spoken Truth says:

    This should never had been an issue….hadn’t these NPO’s hear that too much of anything is not good for anyone?! Not sure why they allowed this to go to court in the first, then stop something that the NPO’s had no way of helping with and adding insult to injury CIG pays out 25K to “win/stop” the legal fight and resume the same action they were already doing to control the pesky feral cats. I am still waiting for Feline friends to show up for some feral cats that were breeding and hiding their young in my attic space and totally disrupting my nights sleep with their running on the ceiling right over my bed and their fighting and bawling inside there. I couldn’t do nothing on my own because I am an animal lover too and it’s not in me to harm living creatures…moreover, I know too that I would be prosecuted if I did harm or kill any one of them by the same CIG or NPO’s that stopped the capture of and failed to spay and neuter the cats that were bringing me such distress in my own living space!! What an age we live in now…such ridiculousness, it’s baffling!!! Glad they can get on with the order of the day and they do get a handle of this problem asap!!

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    • Anonymous says:

      The waitlist for free surgeries is at 800 animals currently. There is nothing to stop you from reaching out to any of the charities to borrow a trap to set, catch said cats, and take them to the vet for free sterilising. You would of course also need to fix your roof so that they could no longer get in there. The charities are overwhelmed by decades of government apathy on this issue.

  12. My 2 cents says:

    We need to stop blaming the feral cats problem solely on irrespondible pet owners. Cats do escape their responsible owners care and just turn wild and end up reproducing. In Little Cayman and Cayman Brac there were no facilities available to spey and neuter cats before 2007 or there abouts. And from the 1980’s there were many cats living off wildlife on those two islands. The government is now doing what is right, and there are many pet owners that are making use of what facilities there are available. We
    must be careful that all cats are not be neutred and spayed otherwise we will kill out the cats altoghlether.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Feral cats were poisoned in the 80’s and 90’s on the Brac.

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      • Jah love these Islands says:

        Killing/destroying is the only permanent way to get rid of invasive cats, dogs, rats, lionfish, and plants etc., to reduce their destructive impacts on the environment they are in. Animal lovers don’t want to accept this fact, but look no further to Australia New Zealand and other Pacific Island nations to examine some of the challenging efforts they had to make in order to decimate feral cats, dogs and rats in some of their sensitive ecosystems. This method saved saved their native species from extinction. Poison was the preferred remedy in most cases and it worked significantly. The problem with neutering feral cats and releasing them back into the wild, or giving them to other pet owners is lots of pet owners in Cayman are irresponsible so the feral cats still end up back roaming the wild, continuing on with their insatiable appetite for the young iguanas and birds. Save our native species at all cost. Domestic cats will be around for another thousand years, but our iguanas won’t if we don’t protect them from the feral cats.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I live by entrance of patrick island…wee need to trap about 10 ferral cats there….they running birds and eating them…

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  14. Anonymous says:

    There only needs to be one clear animal policy for human owners in the Cayman Islands, to be encoded into law: all pets and livestock should be leashed/tethered securely when outside on tour, but otherwise kept indoors and under owner’s control and responsibility at all times. There shouldn’t be any loose dogs, cats, horses, or chickens! CIG has let it get this bad on all three islands. It’s inhumane and cruel to abandon domesticated animals outside without water, food, and shelter in furnace temperatures – those humans should be fined or jailed.

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    • Anonymous says:

      agreed! the chickens, dogs, cats running loose around the island is a HUGE problem – half the reason all the garbage areas look like crap because animals are digging through it all day – its gross. Streets would be cleaner of garbage (not perfect but would definitely improve) and would be far less road kill.
      We would see way more birds, lizards and snakes (animals that are meant to be here)

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Everyone just needs to do their part:

    – Chip and register your pets
    – Spay/neuter your pets
    – Obey the law on the importation of certain types of animals.

    No one is blaming the cats, but now that they’re a threat to local wildlife, they have to be dealt with. Unfortunate but necessary.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    There are a lot of feral cats on South Church Street as well. Please round them up too! Start at the house with the sandy lot across the street from Mercury Crescent. It’s crawling with feral pussycats.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    You can blame the feral cats all you want but this is a man made problem – if not for irresponsible pet owners, the colonies of feral cats wouldn’t exist. What measures are being put into place to ensure this doesn’t just happen again in a few years and another group of animals made to pay for human indifference with their lives? Seems relatively easy to ensure that ALL pets on Little Cayman are spayed or neutered.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Meanwhile stray dogs roam freely all over Grand Cayman mating and making more stray dogs whenever they can. Far too many “owners” have them in their yards just as guard dogs and let them out twice a day to go and make a nuisance of themselves crapping and pissing in neighbors yards.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic news. Congrats to everyone envolved!

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  20. Anonymous says:

    What about wild chickens ?

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Will cat owners also be required to keep their cats indoors now? Or will pet cats be allowed to still roam? Pet cats have a large impact on wildlife as they are made to be outdoors during the day and indoors with their owners at night.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Who decides if one wild animal is more desirable than another? Who decides which animal should die and which should live? Nature should be allowed to find its own balance.

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    • anon says:

      Cats are domestic animals.
      Kill all the feral cats.

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    • The Sandman says:

      If Nature was the only influence then these cats would never have been introduced to this environment.
      Mankind has upset the balance and it’s only fair that mankind play a role in rectifying it.

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      • Anonymous says:

        If mankind had not been introduced into this ecosystem, there would be no upsetting of the balance at all. How do we rectify this?
        Just sayin’.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ahm that’s true!!! But if it was up to nature there wouldn’t be any cats on Little Cayman… hence the term invasive species. I’m a cat lover and I can honestly say I am disgustingly disappointed that those two groups intervened in Government’s culling programme and even more disgusted that it took three years to get to this point, and extremely disgusted that Government agreed to pay the legal costs for the NFP’s despite those costs were only generated by them inappropriately intervening in the first place! Native species not found anywhere else in the world vs invasive cats should have been a no brainer!!!

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      • Anonymous says:

        I was wondering if I was the only person that had this exact thought. The NFPs jacked CIG for $25K and the Attorney General allowed it.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately nature didn’t bring cats to little cayman .

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    • Anonymous says:

      Nature did find its own balance, then we dumped our unwanted pets into the mix, and unbalanced it. Now we either need to remove the cats, or accept our unique species going extinct.
      For me that’s an easy choice: bye bye moggy

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    • Anonymous says:

      Troll much?

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  23. Anonymous says:

    Indigenous Australians in the area of Alice Springs roast feral cats on an open fire. They have also developed recipes for cat stew. Some other inhabitants of the area have also taken up this custom, justified on the grounds that felines are “a serious threat to Australia’s native fauna”.

    Come on Little Cayman.
    Do your bit.

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  24. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t we just move the cats to Grand Cayman to take care of the iguana that are coming back in swarms? would be cheaper than paying to have someone cull them

    Kill wto birds with one stone.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because of the non-selective nature of cat predation. Its not JUST iguanas they prey on. Otherwise the feral cats around my area would have eaten the green iguanas and started on the chickens but left the lizards alone. No such luck.

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  25. Wild Peace says:

    I live on the Brac. We have six feral cats who have adopted us. We have taken them all to be neutered/spayed and paid for it. I wholly understand this process, however DOE trappers will be unwelcome on our property.

    Two of the formerly feral cats sleep with us at night. There are no SIRIs in our area.

    I support this process, however I urge the DOE to be extremely cautious in the manner in which they approach the culling of “wild” cats. Take the time to canvass the neighborhood and talk with the people there. Find out from the people in the area you are looking at if they have cats. When you trap cats, make damn well certain that they aren’t loved by somebody.

    Anyone who kills one of my cats is in dire peril.

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    • Grim reaper says:

      Your cats are part of the problem and deserve to die.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Not sure any cat has much choice in irresponsible owner selection, but that owner certianly deserves to be fined! Responsibilities and consequences.

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    • Anonymous says:

      How about rather than threatening to kill people over your adopted cats you put collars on them so they are easily identified.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Get them microchipped. Then they’re no longer feral, but yours.
      Or don’t you want the responsibility? Maybe you want to be able to just walk away when you feel like it,and leave them as someone else’s problem?

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    • Anonymous says:

      That’s easy, the “loved” ones will be microchipped, and kept indoors. Nobody has a right to let their cat run loose.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Arrange for those cats to be caught and chipped.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If they are your cats then get them spayed & neutered and microchipped. Its very simple. Then you dont have to worry about anyone killing your outdoor lizard-murdering cat and the DOE can do their job and save native creatures.

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    • Anonymous says:

      So … pretty much exactly what they said they did on Little Cayman (not Brac) then. Right. That was helpful.

    • Truther says:

      If you’re letting your cats roam outside you are contributing to the problem of wildlife getting killed.

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  26. Anonymous says:

    Great news!

    I wish everyone would keep their cats indoors (so much safer for cats and saves so many of our native endemics).

    I find the senseless slaughter of our native birds and lizards caused by irresponsible cat owners to be almost unbearable. I just can’t understand why some cat owners (who let their cats outdoors) don’t see how selfish and irresponsible it is…

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  27. Anonymous says:

    Now get it going on Cayman Brac. It’s bad here!

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  28. Anymoose says:

    Great! Doesn’t matter if they are fixed or not. It’s their nature to kill or ‘play’ till dead their prey, the native wildlife…birds, lizards, turtle hatchlings, etc.

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  29. Anonymous says:

    Damn those two charities. They breached the fundamental principle – First Do No Harm. The damage and loss of animal life they have directly caused is beyond any financial measure. That they held out and let the loss of native wildlife continue over an issue of legal fees just makes it worse.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Neither will ever get another penny from me as a result.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The charities objected to the inhumane way in which the cats were going to be culled, not the culling. If you cannot support that, then perhaps your heart is not behind your donations

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, the sentient and indigenous birds and lizards certainly should have a right to life that exceeds those of the prohibited domesticated trespassing invader species. I don’t think either charity signs on to the Hippocratic Oath…maybe their vets? It’s likely their biased expat volunteers are not yet aware that the Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary site is designated for Cayman’s native wildlife only, hosts unique and critically endangered species, and brings in Audubon bird spotters from all over the planet.

      https://nationaltrust.org.ky/our-work/environmental/governor-michael-gore-bird-sanctuary/

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  30. Anonymous says:

    Where I was working in the mid-90s they had a problem with dogs that went feral after people dumped them in the desert when their owners got bored with them, couldn’t afford to feed them any more or they needed expensive veterinary treatment. The authorities didn’t waste time trying to rescue them. The dogs were simply lured into baited kill zones and taken out by army snipers as a training exercise. It was officially classed as ‘humane destruction’. Don’t remember anybody getting upset about that. It’s the same with these cats – they may look cute and furry but they’re simply another invasive non-native species that needs eliminating.

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  31. lil Bobo in East End says:

    Can we start on the chickens next?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Chickens are food. Eat them or build a coop and get some eggs. You get rid of those and I guarantee you will wish you had them when times get tough. Believe me when I say that government will waste out the surplus and dog will eat your supper. I am never wrong in my predictions so mark my word on this day.

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  32. M.ake U. GO Hmmm says:

    Excellent. Maybe this same strategy can be applied to invasive developers as well.

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  33. Anonymous says:

    Good, now get it done. No pussying out this time.

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