In the weeks just ahead of Thanksgiving last year, the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) in Oakland, California, sent armed teams out in the dead of night to hunt and kill cats in a tiny slip of park land bordered by car dealerships and office buildings. They have admitted to having shot and killed cats in Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline park (MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline park) during a series of hunts in October and November 2020. A public records request reveals they shot and killed 13 cats during those hunts.
Alley Cat Allies is working to see that justice is served. The cruelty inflicted on these cats should not be allowed to happen to any cats, anywhere, ever again.
The Caregiver and The Cats
On discovering a colony of community cats near her workplace, a compassionate animal lover in Oakland decided to help them. She and another caregiver trapped dozens of cats living on the grounds of a large office complex in the concrete industrial strip nestled along Nimitz Highway, just west of the Oakland Airport.
They had most of the cats spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped, and microchipped. They were committed to sterilizing them all. They fed the cats daily, cared for them, and cared about them deeply. Through hard work and persistence, the caregivers stabilized the population of cats living there to 30. By undertaking TNR, they engaged in the best cat population management practice and the only effective means of stabilizing cat populations.
Park Voices Desire to Have Cats Removed
One day in late July, one of the caregivers received a phone call from EBRPD staff telling her to stop feeding the cats and to remove them from the property on which they lived. The park district staffer said the cats could potentially harm the birds who nest seasonally along the marshes of the nearby bay.
The property on which the cats lived and were fed is not owned or managed by EBRPD. The caregiver explained she had not brought the cats there, but instead found them already living there. She explained that she trapped the cats, had them sterilized, rehomed those who were adoptable, and returned the others, vaccinated and no longer able to breed, to their outdoor home.
After the call, the caregiver migrated the cats’ feeding stations even further away from the fence abutting the edge of a bike and jogging path that runs along the small park’s inland periphery. She and the other caregiver continued doing TNR.
Months passed. The cats showed up like clockwork for feeding time.
Then the caregiver arrived one day to find that cats were missing. She was alarmed. In the following days, more cats were missing. She and the other caregiver conferred. They looked for the cats, growing more worried each day. They went to the shelters. The cats were not at the shelters. With a growing sense of dread, she recalled the phone call from EBRPD back in July.
Park District Stonewalls and Lies
What followed was a harrowing month in which the caregivers made calls, visited EBRPD’s administrative office, and emailed EBRPD staff. At first, the EBRPD told them that park staff had trapped a few of the cats and had taken them to area shelters.
Calls and visits to the shelters soon proved that story untrue.
The Grim Truth
After weeks of sticking with their original story, an EBRPD staff member finally admitted that EBRPD had killed some cats in MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline park by gunshot. In the following days, more information was shared with the caregivers in a piecemeal fashion.
Sounding the Siren – ABC7
Award-winning journalist Dan Noyes and the ABC7 I-Team broke the story wide open. In a segment that aired on December 8, 2020, Noyes got EBRPD to admit that they had shot 12 cats in MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline park and another six cats in other parks in 2020.
An EBRPD spreadsheet, obtained via a public records request, shows that EBRPD shot and killed 13—not 12—cats in the MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline park in October and November 2020.
As of today, at least 17 cats from the office complex are missing. Given the shifting stories and persistent lack of honesty displayed by EBRPD on this matter, it seems entirely possible that all 17 were killed in EBRPD hunts.
Advocating for Change
Alley Cat Allies has been involved since the story came to light. We are working to see that not a single cat is ever killed again by—or on behalf of—the East Bay Regional Park District. Not in MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline park or anywhere else in their extensive system of parks.
Killing the cats was and is inexcusably cruel, and it needs to stop.
In 2021, Alley Cat Allies is prioritizing a complete rooting out of the entrenched thinking and outdated policies that underpin the systemic cat killing programs undertaken by far too many government agencies – local, state, regional, and national. EBRPD is not alone in the wrong it has done. It should take no comfort in the company it keeps on that score. Killing animals should not be normal operating procedure in our parks or anywhere else.
We will work to see that tax dollars are never again spent inflicting pain and suffering on animals. We will fight until protection and compassion are the cornerstones of policies impacting both endangered species and cats going forward.
To learn more, visit the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) Cat Shooting page.