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Studios Hope to Cast Out Feral Cats : Animal Lovers Fear Traps Will Harm Wild Felines

May 20, 1989|GREG BRAXTON | Times Staff Writer

"Cats" is no longer playing at the Shubert Theatre in Century City. And if the management of the Burbank Studios has its way, cats will no longer be playing at the studio either--to the dismay of animal lovers.

Executives at the studios--home to Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros. and many independent movie companies--have ordered that scores of feral cats swarming over the studio's 35-acre ranch lot, where outdoor scenes for movies and television shows are filmed, be trapped and taken away.

Feral cats--house cats gone wild--have lived at the ranch and on the studio's main lot on Barham Avenue for several years. Some workers at the studio say the cats were deliberately introduced by executives to reduce the rodent population.

But studio officials have complained to the Burbank Department of Animal Regulation that the lot is overpopulated with felines.

Caring for Cats

The orders to trap them have upset studio employees as well as a group of volunteers who have fed, spayed and cared for the animals. They fear that once the cats are in an animal shelter, they eventually will be put to death. They also fear that the cats will be inhumanely trapped, and that scores of kittens may die if they are left behind after their mothers are removed.

Burbank Studios executives did not return phone calls Friday.

The volunteers said they have been told not to continue feeding the cats, and non-employees who have come to the studios to take care of the cats through the years have been banned.

"Who are these cats hurting?" asked Mary Kanias, an employee at the studios. "It hurts me so much that they want to destroy these animals. They are so loved. It's really horrible."

Methods Criticized

"The cats may be a problem, but there must be a better way to do this," said Marcia Bessacini, a Warner Bros. secretary. "If the cats go to the shelter, they're going to die. The studio should let the people who have been caring for the cats go in and save the kittens."

Bessacini fears that studio executives will next try to eliminate cats from the main lot, about a mile away.

Fred De Lang, Burbank Animal Shelter superintendent, said he had been talking with studio executives about removing the cats.

"I've been over there to the ranch, and the stench was awful," De Lang said. "I wouldn't allow the smell at the animal shelter to get that bad."

Even though he acknowledged that many of the cats receive care and treatment, "you defeat the purpose when they're healthy and they reproduce," he said. "You just can't keep on top of the situation."

De Lang said the cats would be lured into box-type traps, and that his staff would make great efforts to find kittens if a trapped cat showed signs of having recently given birth. Captured cats will be taken to the shelter and put up for adoption after five working days if they are not too wild, he said.

Unclaimed animals are eventually put to death.

Dorothy Luke of Van Nuys, one of the non-studio volunteers who have cared for the cats, said the problem was compounded by employees who abandoned their unwanted cats on the studio grounds.

"It's real sad that this is happening, because we've spent thousands of dollars caring for the dear animals," Luke said. "There just should be a more humane way to do this."

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