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Loews removing feral-cat colonies

March 30, 2012 at 12:39 PM

ORLANDO, Fla., March 30 (UPI) -- Animal-rights activists have criticized Universal Orlando's Loews Hotels for a decision to remove feral-cat colonies from hotels' grounds.

Loews said it plans to move wild cats to the Orange County Animal Services Center, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Loews, which advertises its hotels as pet-friendly for guests with animals, issued a policy this week forbidding hotel employees to feed or handle wild animals.

"While our hotels are pet-friendly, there are important distinctions between owned pets and feral, undomesticated animals," Loews stated in a memo.

Jennifer Hodges, a Loews spokeswoman, said the company had reviewed its policy on feral, free-roaming cats and consulted with agencies.

"The Florida Department of Health states that feral cats pose a continuous concern to communities due to the persistent threat of injury and disease," Hodges said. "The priority at our hotels is the health and safety of our guests and team members."

But animal-rights activists said the cats are too wild to be adopted as pets and would be euthanized if taken to shelters.

Kat Kennedy, a spokeswoman for Orange County Animal Services, said cats such as those at Loews, which are sterilized, could be identified with a marking on their ears. Then, if such cats are impounded, the agency notifies a non-profit group, CARE Feline TRN, which coordinates cats' relocation to colonies. If a cat is familiar enough with humans, it could be a candidate for adoption, Kennedy said.

"We always do everything in our power to ensure healthy, sterilized community cats are promptly and safely released from our shelter," Kennedy said.

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