On July 21, Alley Cat Allies filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, to stop the East Bay Regional Park District’s (East Bay Parks) unlawful new policy that allows for the killing of cats, including with guns.

That is not the only threat the policy presents. East Bay Parks is also actively trapping cats found on parklands, impounding them in shelters, and relocating them far from their familiar setting and feline community.

“For years, East Bay Parks has been shooting cats, claiming that killing them is necessary to protect endangered species. They are disastrously mistaken,” says Becky Robinson. “These actions violate evidence-based science, the will of the people… and the law.”

Ever since East Bay Parks’ barbarism was exposed last year, Alley Cat Allies has been fighting for the cats who are its victims. Over three weeks in October and November 2020, a Parks employee hunted and shot to death 13 cats who lived near Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline in Oakland.

The public, and even board members, were stunned and outraged. East Bay Parks hides behind their mistaken interpretation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to defend its conduct and justify its new policy. But removing cats is NOT mandated by the ESA. And there is no hiding from another key law: the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Anne Lynch, a partner at Van Ness Feldman LLP who is representing Alley Cat Allies in our lawsuit, explains: “The removal of free-roaming cats will cause direct as well as reasonably foreseeable indirect physical changes to the environment. As such, East Bay Parks’ policy must be evaluated under California law, specifically CEQA. East Bay Parks has failed to comply with those requirements.”

Cats have been part of the California environment for hundreds of years. To remove them permanently is unrealistic and the attempt is dangerous to the complex web of local life. Disastrous harm has historically come to areas where cats were removed.

Without proper analysis of a given ecosystem and the role cats play in it, conservationists make very poor decisions based on bias. Their false perceptions unsupported by site-specific scientific evidenceresult in the suffering and death of cats AND of the very species they meant to save.

If there is one thing conservationists should know, it is that ecosystems are very complex. Less killing and more respect for life is essential.

Follow updates on this critical campaign, the outcome of which could impact how our entire nation treats cats.