An Open Letter to The Management, BOD and Powers That Be at Sandy Pines

Hello President, Security and Board of Directors at Sandy Pines.

I’d like to begin by introducing myself.  My name is Carol Manos.  I am the Director and Founder of Carol’s Ferals. We are a Trap Neuter Return organization operating out of Grand Rapids, MI. Our mission is to end feline overpopulation in West Michigan through community education and empowerment.  In the 12 years that we’ve been working in Kent, Allegan, Barry, Ottawa, Montcalm and other surrounding counties, we have assisted over 3,000 different individuals with Trap Neuter Return (TNR) culminating in the sterilization of close to 12,000 stray and feral cats and kittens.  

I’m writing this letter today to extend some information that will hopefully clarify the backlash you are receiving from the recent story about a cat who was found frozen to death in a Sandy Pines trap on January 25, 2018.  People are angry and upset that this cat suffered and died in this manner, and with good reason.  Despite what you might think about cats, they are some of the most revered animals in the world.  In the United States, there are 36 million cat owning households.  78 million felines are considered not just pets, but family members.  So even if they are seen as a nuisance animal by you or some members of your community, there are far more that consider them beautiful beings that deserve respect and care.  While you may have a couple people who are ok with the idea of trapping and killing cats, or allowing them to die in unattended traps in weather far colder than any humane trap should be employed, you have at least a hundred other people who are very much against this so called method of animal control.  This is why your necks are in a proverbial noose right now.

What you need to know about me is two things.  1.  I am not someone who wants to see a bunch of cats roaming around outside.  I want the outdoor dwelling cat population to cease.  I’d like to see cats be an endangered species actually.  I am the person who is doing what she can to safely, humanely and effectively control the feline population.  I promise you, if I didn’t believe TNR worked, I’d not have dedicated the past 12 years of my life to it without taking any sort of monetary compensation.  I have invested over $35,000 of my own personal funds to start Carol’s Ferals.  I am invested in the outcome for all cats in West Michigan, probably more than any single other person in this state.  2.  I am probably the one person who can get you out of this mess you are in.

Make no mistake, the situation you are facing is not good AT ALL.  You are going to see more and more news stories circulating around what is going on at your park.  This will not be swept under the rug.  Social media has a hold of it now as does the TV media and other outlets.  You will not see this forgotten.  Gone are the days when we can just do what we want.  Look at what is happening in Hollywood right now.  James Franco has been denied an Oscar nomination for a Golden Globe winning performance just because someone has alleged that he coerced sexual interaction with a woman.  This is not even proven. It’s ALLEGED.  And his career is OVER!  And he’s just a guy.  A guy that I personally like for his talent, but he is not of a species of felines that are adored by millions of people in this country and billions world-wide.  I am bringing this up because it is way more serious than you can imagine.

Here is some background so you know who I am.  I started doing TNR in Sandy Pines with Amy Pietras D.V.M.  (yes, she has gone on to become a veterinarian) in 2006.  At that time Sandy Pines had a group of caring rangers that understood the principles of Trap Neuter Return and practiced it correctly.  Friendly cats were removed and found forever homes while feral (wild, not-socialized to humans) cats were sterilized and returned.  They understood The Vacuum Effect.  Simply put, if you keep a colony of sterilized cats on the property where they came from, they will guard their food source and keep other cats from coming in.  It’s easy to grasp if you think about it like this.  A cat that is intact will want to attract mates, so they will allow other cats to come eat at the smorgasbord because they want to have sex with them.  Plain and simple.  But if all the cats are sterilized, they no longer engage in breeding behaviors and will keep other cat away.  Just like humans, they are sorta like “I’m not going to buy you dinner if you’re not going to put out”.  So if you can understand that simple logic, you will understand that leaving a managed colony of fixed cats on premises is a good way to go.  Eradication of cats does nothing unless you live on an island, because if there is nobody around to guard a food source, there will be new cats coming in.  This is illustrated here within this link: http://www.carolsferals.org/free-resources-on-feline-overpopulation/the-vacuum-effect/

I know you are probably thinking…..oh phooey.  What does she know?  Well…. A lot.  I can tell you story after story about how TNR works.  Two summers ago a woman named Rita showed up with a cat that needed to be fixed.  She was familiar to me.  Four years earlier I had fixed 12 cats for her.  Over time, the cats either wandered off, were tamed and taken into homes or died.  This is called attrition.  And when her colony of 12 got down to only 4 cats, they somehow allowed a friendly one into the mix.  Rita fixed that cat and now she has a colony of just 5 cats. Had she not done that, she’d be in the situation of a couple from Caledonia who watched three cats turn into 45 in just two years.  We worked with those folks and fixed every single cat within a week.  It was a long week, but we got the job done.  And now, they at least don’t have any more.  

Your plans to rid Sandy Pines of cats will never, ever work. I wish it did.  If we could control the population through humane trap and euthanasia, I’d look into it.  But I can tell you this.  Nobody will fund such a program.  There would be 1. Nobody willing to do it without great cost of a “pest” control firm and 2. You would have tremendous backlash.  Kinda like what you’ve got right now.

I know people who spend their summers at Sandy Pines.  They are willing to do TNR.  But they have been threatened with fines if they feed cats. This is counter productive to the TNR model.  Cats need to be fed so that they stay around and protect the food sources that are there no matter what (like dumpsters and unattended garbage).   Simply put,  TNR is the only thing that will control your feline situation.  PERIOD!

So here is your choice.  Stick to your guns and try to get away with what you are doing.  Or allow Carol’s Ferals or any other TNR organization of your choosing to help you get your feline population managed and healthy so that you don’t have to live on this hamster wheel of endless cycling of trapping new cats and taking them to be killed, leaving them to die in traps and causing you more public headache.  I can tell you this.  You will never get away with this sort of behavior again.  Social media is aware.  All you will be able to do is impose more fines and treat good decent people like criminal for caring for animals till they leave the park and all you have are a bunch of low-life types that don’t care about anything but themselves.  Those are not good neighbors. Those are not the type of folks that will bring other good people to Sandy Pines.  If you allow only folks who have no regard for animals, you will end up with people who have little or no regard for other human beings.  You can easily turn Sandy Pines into something more like Smarmy Pines.

I know you are thinking about the skunks, raccoons and opossums.  You are going to blame feeding cats on bringing them into the park.  It is true, if you make people who like and respect the cats feed in a cloak of darkness, they will surely bring nuisance animals around.  BUT…. If you allow the TNR folks who know what they’re doing feed in the daylight hours and pick up food at dusk, you won’t draw these types of critters.  Basically by making people sneak food to cats, you are causing more problems for yourself.

You need to know that I understand your situation.  I understand that intact cats can be a problem. But a healthy managed colony of fixed cats won’t be.  And the longer you resist, the worse things are going to get for Sandy Pines.

A quick story.  Oxford Place apartment complex in Kentwood threatened to evict an 80 year old woman for feeding cats in the woods alongside the property.  The media got wind of it.  We stepped in and talked the the management and they gave the green light to do TNR  The woman was allowed to feed cats per our prescribed schedule (only in daylight hours) and the cats were all fixed, the friendlies were taken into our adoption program and everything is wonderful.  And the complex avoided further negative press.  

I know you must care about your business.  Even if you don’t like cats, you should LOVE me. Because I’m right there with you.  I want less cats.  But there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything.  When you want to do things right, I’m happy to come talk to you in person or by phone.  I will happily speak to your Board of Directors and any property owners who need to better understand the merits of a good TNR program.

Thank you for your time.

Carol Manos
Director & Founder, Carol’s Ferals

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