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Rancho Los Amigos cat saga continues ...

October 31, 2008 | 10:37 am

a feral siamese cat

Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control officers have begun the trapping of cats--feral and friendly--who make up the colonies roaming through the old buildings of the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. For years the cats have roamed, fed by volunteers. Some, such as the arresting Siamese above, find shelter in the roomy nooks and crannies of the old buildings' foundations.

But after months of controversy over the cats supposedly leaving feces and attracting fleas near more populated buildings -- including a childcare center -- on the center's campus, the county has declared they must go.

They're not going too fast though. County officers set humane spring-loaded traps--cats walk into the cages and a door shuts behind--last Saturday as well as Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

So far, they've gotten six, according to David East. He and his wife, Linda, both retired, have devoted themselves to the cats over the past few years and would like the county to just leave the trapping task to them and other members of a group called Fail-Safe 4 Felines. County officials said they tried that and the colonies only increased to more than 150 cats with evidence of five new litters.

"That's just not true. We're there every day," said David East. "There have been only one or two litters this year that we pulled out and got adopted."

He also said they estimate there are 130 cats remaining. And he also said he believes the sources of the fleas are the dogs he observes people walking and allowing off-leash on the grounds. "They're trying to blame the cats."   

Rancho_more_cat_trapping_2

So now, a little dance has developed. The animal control officers, pictured right, set the traps while the Easts--who are there every day--observe. They follow around the officer, take photographs of the traps, and wait for the cats to appear.

"We're not allowed to interfere or make noise," said David East. "We usually just stay across the street from wherever he's trapping."

The cats that are captured are taken to the county's Downey shelter. In the past, many of these cats had been trapped by Fail-Safe 4 Felines volunteers who had them neutered and then returned them to Rancho Los Amigos (a common strategy for feral cats which are nearly impossible to adopt out as house pets.)  So if the officers trap those cats, once they scan the cats' microchips, the volunteers are alerted and can pick up the cats within a day. The volunteers can also place holds on the other trapped cats and get them, too, after five days.

But they can't be returned to Los Amigos. So the challenge is to find homes for them all.

One has already been bailed out. "Tomorrow we are going to bail out another three and they will go to fosters," said Linda East.

One possibility they're looking into--a winery vineyard near Pasadena that wants nine feral cats. (Ferals are great ratters.)

Meanwhile, the Easts and other volunteers are doing their own trapping as well. "We've pulled out 12 to 13," said David East. The county animal control officers, he said, not only don't hassle them but ask when they will be back. "They want us to help," said David East.

We'll keep you posted on the cats' progress.

-- Carla Hall

Photos: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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