NEW YORK (Reuters) - Authorities at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport began rounding up wild cats and kittens on Monday as part of a plan to get rid of them, despite an outcry by animal rights groups.
Professional animal handlers started to trap cats living near the airport’s cargo area, said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport. The cats will then be handed over Animal Care & Control, a city agency that put to sleep nearly 12,000 unwanted cats in the past year.
An estimated 75 cats live at the airport, feeding mainly on rats and scraps of food provided by airport workers. The food in turn attracts a variety of animals including birds, which especially create a hazard for jet engines, the Port Authority says.
“An airport with 50 million passengers and countless takeoffs and landings per day is not the place for a large wild cat community,” said Pasquale DiFulco, a Port Authority spokesman. “They are a safety hazard and a health hazard.”
Animal rights advocates called the safety hazard claims exaggerated and said the captured cats most likely would be euthanized. Several animal rights groups protested near Port Authority’s headquarters in New York on Monday.
“Adult wild cats hardly ever adapt as pets and we know what happens to animals lingering on unadopted in shelters,” said Nancy Peterson, director of the feral cat program at the Humane Society of the United States.
A cheaper and more humane alternative, she said, would be to neuter the cats and return them to the airport.
“If these animal rights groups accept to adopt the cats, we would agree to pay for their neutering,” DiFulco said. “But their return to the airport is out of the question.”