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ANOTHER CAT CONTROVERSY

BGC residents protest ban on feeding stray cats

/ 05:02 AM September 26, 2018

FEED AT YOUR OWN RISK One of the signs posted at Serendra asking people not to feed stray cats in the area. —PHOTOS COURTESY OF SHAWN FRASER, CATS OF BGC FACEBOOK PAGE

Months after a luxury hotel took a lot of flak for ordering the roundup of stray cats at a nearby park, residents in another part of Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig are protesting several circulars banning them from feeding cats in the area.

In a notice sent to its merchants on Aug. 28, Serendra Retail cited the need to uphold its “brand of lifestyle and leisure” and warned that employees or customers would be fined P1,000 each time they feed a stray animal.

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Notices were also sent out to Two Serendra residents on Aug. 8 and Sept. 6, barring them from feeding and releasing or bringing strays to common areas. The second offense carries a fine of P10,000 per violation while those caught feeding them face up to P10,000 in fines plus a month-long suspension of their privileges.

The Sept. 6 circular also informed residents of management’s right to surrender stray animals to Barangay Fort Bonifacio for impounding.

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A resident who regularly fed the cats accused guards and a board member of verbal harassment while others said the guards immediately radioed each other whenever they saw cats approaching residents. “It feels like feeding the cats is a serious crime,” one of them told the Inquirer.

CCTV footage evidence

A notice sent to one of the “violators” by Two Serendra managers informed her that she was seen by a guard feeding stray cats, even citing the date, time and place where she was spotted.

It was accompanied by still images of her taken from closed-circuit television camera footage. She was reminded of the prohibition and warned she would be fined P1,000 for a second violation.

Animal rights group Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (Cara) Welfare Philippines confirmed that managers of Serendra’s retail and residential areas in BGC, which operate separately, had issued warnings against the feeding of strays, a longtime community practice.

Cara Welfare volunteer Gem Faisan said an agreement had been reached between their group and Serendra Retail management to ensure that the cats would be fed only by “designated feeders.”

However, efforts to reach a similar agreement with the board of Serendra’s high-end residential properties have so far been unsuccessful even as Cara Welfare sent at least two letters and also reached out to the Taguig City Veterinary Office and Mayor Lani Cayetano.

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“We remain hopeful that [the] Serendra board will accommodate a dialogue for the residential area,” Faisan said.

Repeated requests for comment sent since Sunday by the Inquirer to Serendra through e-mail, phone calls and text messages have yet to be answered.

A Two Serendra resident who requested for anonymity said that multiple letters and requests to management for a meeting on the ban on feeding strays have so far been ignored.

The resident noted that management rounded up stray cats in 2017, adding: “It’s scary. What could be brewing?”

Shawn Fraser, who has lived at Two Serendra since 2017, said the “calm and sweet” cats in the posh condominium complex had been spayed or neutered to keep the population down. They were also accustomed to being fed well by residents.

In July 2018, Fraser was reprimanded by a guard for feeding four stray kittens and their mother.

Change in cats’ appearance

“The cats started to look completely different” after residents started receiving citations, Fraser said, adding that they looked less healthy. “They were not the Serendra cats I knew.”

A security guard and board member also verbally harassed another resident, who spoke to the Inquirer on the condition of anonymity. The resident, who has lived at Two Serendra for over two years, said that she was with her young daughter when the board member yelled at her, telling her to stop feeding the stray cats.

“From Aug. 29, I have been singled out and [been] the focus of security [guards],” read a letter she sent to management on Sept. 6, following the incident. “They have been constantly following me. If this harassment continues, I will be forced to take action.”

Two Serendra replied to her, saying it had discussed the matter with the property’s security manager, but added that the board member had denied being verbally abusive.

The impasse between tenants and management was similar to a controversy which erupted in February when Shangri-La at the Fort Manila hired a pest-buster to remove stray cats living in an adjacent park, just a 10-minute walk away from Serendra.

The cats suddenly disappeared, angering residents and office employees who had been looking after them for years.

The hotel later apologized and reached out to Cara Welfare after being bombarded with 1-star reviews on Facebook and accusations that it had violated the Animal Welfare Act.

“I think this order [that bans feeding] is stupid and ill-advised,” said Xavier Lemaire, a 30-year-old BGC resident who had adopted a stray cat from the park near the hotel.

“The cats are going to bother people even more to get food. They will not leave the area but may start going through the trash and get sick,” he said.

Marketing manager Tara Valencia, 37, told the Inquirer that she would feed the cats at Serendra at “every opportunity I got,” adding that the felines never bothered other merchants and shoppers.

Compassion for animals

“Allowing the cats to stay [and] be cared for by a group of volunteers only magnifies one thing: that the community values compassion for animals of any kind.”

Cats of Manila, a Facebook group composed of volunteers who care for strays, said an affiliate, Cats of BGC, was “trying to foster and adopt out all the remaining cats in Serendra” in light of the ban on feeding.

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TAGS: BGC stray cats, Bonifacio Global City, Serendra Retail
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