An animal-welfare activist attempting to round up a colony of cats living among the rocks at a popular Ventura beach claims that a contingent of cat feeders there are trying to sabotage his efforts.
"I've asked the feeders for cooperation," said Leo Grillo, founder of a nonprofit group called DELTA (Dedication and Everlasting Love to Animals), which runs three private animal shelters. "Now I'm demanding it. We're playing hardball."
Grillo and officials of the state Parks and Recreation Department, which controls the beach, said this week that citations will be given to people found interfering with the trapping.
Permission From State
The two-dozen cats who live in the beachside rocks along the Promenade outside Ventura's Holiday Inn are sick, and some are dying, Grillo contends. He has received permission from state park officials to trap the animals and take them to his 150-cat shelter in Acton, where they will live either until they are adopted or until they die.
But Grillo said his efforts have been partly foiled by a small crew of people who for years have been devoted to feeding the cats.
Since his trapping efforts began last month, Grillo said, cat feeders "have been literally shoveling food onto the rocks," apparently in an effort to keep the cats away from the morsels inside Grillo's traps.
Jeff Price, a spokesman for the department, said the action violates park regulations that prohibit the feeding of any animals there.
"We've had to let people know that what they're doing is in violation of the law," Price said.
Food left for the cats has also drawn cockroaches and wharf rats, he said. "They're making the area into a little bit of a garbage dump," he said. "We've had some complaints."
Grillo and park officials said news stories about the trapping have prompted people to abandon kittens on the rocks, in hopes that they will be taken to Grillo's high-desert cat sanctuary, rather than the county pound, where they would probably be put to death.
But he warned that newly abandoned cats will be taken to the pound, and he claimed that "undercover volunteers" will give authorities information on people they find abandoning cats.
'Hunting You Down'
"We'll be hunting you down," Grillo said. "I'll have a literal army patrolling."
Cat feeders have contended the animals are not sick, as Grillo claims. They view the cats as something of a Ventura institution, and have said they resent the intrusion of outsiders.
But Grillo, who so far has trapped seven of the cats, said his veterinarian has found evidence of feline leukemia, mange, worms, upper respiratory disease and other potentially fatal ailments, most of which he blames on the cats' outdoor life.