HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new animal policy on Army bases in Hawaii has cat lovers in an uproar, but the Army says it's not out to get cats.
Cat caretakers are often very passionate about their colonies, so much so some are willing to fight back against a new Army policy.
Nancy Harrison has cared for a colony of cats at Fort Shafter for nearly 15 years. She spends thousands of dollars on food and neutering the cats.
"Now that my children are gone they're my babies," said Harrison.
So when she got a signed memo from the Army about a policy shift she was panicked. The memorandum says feeding feral cats is prohibited. It also says the trap neuter and release program will be phased out. Colony caretakers will be given three months to remove the cats. After that animal control could trap them and cats not micro chipped or not claimed in three days would be euthanized.
"I just always felt like the Army takes care of its own and no one is left behind and I couldn't just leave them. I couldn't just abandon them," said Harrison.
She has already trapped about 40 cats and moved them from Fort Shafter to a facility in Nanakuli. She says she has about a dozen more to move.
"It's expensive, its time consuming and its stressful but I am doing everything humanely possible to remove the cats I've cared for for so many years from this situation," said Harrison.
However an Army spokesperson says there is confusion saying the policy letter does not reflect a change to the overarching enforcement approach.
"At this time we are not taking a proactive approach to control the general population of feral animals on our installations," wrote the letter.
That message hasn't been made clear to cat caretakers like Harrison who also warns if the Army does remove the cats they're going to have a bigger problem with rodents.
"It's just a little disappointing that many of my friends who are civil service employees are being furloughed 14 days without pay and the Army can take a mission and move cats that have been cared for and maintained," said Harrison. "It just doesn't seem practical or a cost effective use of resources to do that."
Below is the full statement attributed to Stefanie Gardin, External Communication Chief, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs:
"The animal control policy memorandum was developed partly due to concerns regarding the health and safety of the men and women on our Army installations; these concerns include flea infestations and exposure to fecal matter. The policy letter was also developed to reinforce the importance of responsible pet ownership and animal control, and to support long-standing Department of Army regulations and U.S Army Hawaii policies. The policy letter does not reflect a change to our overarching enforcement approach.
There appears to be confusion regarding our enforcement approach. For clarity, the Army in Hawaii will act when there are situations that present a life, health, environmental or safety concern for the community, or where there is flagrant violation of the Army's regulations and policies, as we have done in the past. However, at this time we are not taking a proactive approach to control the general population of feral animals on our installations.
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii supports the humane treatment of animals and will continue to do so. The garrison will also continue to use education to promote responsible pet ownership and stop animal abandonment."