The CATalyst: Does Loews Love or Loathe Pets? We?ll Find Out.

Steve Dale, CAT FANCY writer and syndicated newspaper pet columnist, provides a weekly cat news roundup.

By Steve Dale, CABC | Posted: January 31, 2012, 3 p.m. EDT

Steve Dale
Author Steve Dale

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I am confused. I know the Loews Hotel chain to be very pet-friendly. After all, Loews say so itself with the tagline: Loews Loves Pets.

When the hotels first established and promoted their dog-friendly ways years ago, I was enlisted to offer advice. Loews currently touts “Woofie Weekends” on its website.

So, I was surprised to hear that three stellar Loews properties, all at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, had hired a pest control company to combat feral cats at these facilities. Volunteers had been participating in successful trap, neuter, return programs previously, and I wanted to know what went wrong. Blog reports varied, so I sought an accurate account from Loews. I wanted a logical explanation for its call to do away with (exterminate) the cats.

Beginning Jan. 24, I fired off emails to the Loews corporate PR office and telephoned several times. Not a single email or phone call has been returned.

Alley Cat Allies had sent out an action alert, and I contacted Alley Cat co-founder and president Becky Robinson. She said she didn’t just jump at sending out the alert – she also sought a conversation with Loews’ management, and was also ignored. Alley Cat is, of course, the go-to organization when it comes to advocacy for feral cats, especially TNR related issues.

I can’t explain what Loews is thinking, because it’s not talking. Perhaps Loews believes we’ll all just go away. I don’t think so. I know I am not going way. Alley Cat Allies isn’t going away. Numerous passionate bloggers aren’t going away. Only cat lovers could stay away – by not staying at Loews.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort and Loews Hard Rock Hotel, all at Universal Resort in Orlando, Fla., have feral cats at their neighboring properties. Feral cats are common in Florida, in general and at hotels around the world, because staff and visitors sometimes feed them.

According to reports, a local TNR group has done the best they can to oversee the feral cats’ care. It reportedly first began with George Ricci, a bellman who inspired TNR at the hotel about five years ago. Everything seemed to be going fine; while reports vary, all agree the number of cats is half that of when TNR first began. TNR works (when appropriately managed), and appeared to be succeeding at these properties.

Still, according my source, several innocent cats were taken to a shelter from Hard Rock, and summarily euthanized. Loews seemed intent to do the same to all the remaining cats, but the public outcry likely adjusted its plans.  

Reportedly, Loews management told the local TNR group that they remain committed to their “business decision.”

Business decision? I am curious as to whose decision this really is: Loews or Universal? I believe Universal owns the land. It doesn’t really matter to the cats what the answer is.

Loews did offer this response on its Facebook page: “Loews Hotels is a pet-friendly hotel brand and we support the humane treatment of animals. It is important to share the facts surrounding this issue. Feral cats at our Orlando hotels are being humanely trapped and taken to a local shelter. For liability reasons, we were advised not to maintain a cat colony in our hotel environment. All cats that were part of an established colony on property are being safely relocated. Our commitment to addressing this issue in a humane and responsible way will continue.”

If liability really is an issue, I have an idea. Alley Cat Allies has managed colonies in high traffic places; for example, on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. And Robinson assured me personally that Alley Cat is willing to offer advice to Loews. Robinson says there is a way to humanely manage the cats with minimal exposure to guests at the hotels.

If Loews refuses guidance from Alley Cat, the premier national experts on feral cats, that tells me — well, it’s obvious — that they really don’t want help.

My sources offer that Loews management suggests their only “solution” will be to find another place for these cats to live out their lives. I’m not sure where that place would be. And I’m even not so sure why they need another place to live out their lives.
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Reader Comments

Cindy and Betty Boop!    Oak Creek, WI

2/7/2012 3:01:05 AM

"Safely relocated"??? Then why were some safely relocated to a kill shelter that euthanized them? That isn't a safe house I want to go to! Grrr!

Anon    City, CA

2/6/2012 7:23:33 PM

Great article.

k    cheektowaga, NY

2/4/2012 1:00:34 PM

^..^

i    i, ID

2/2/2012 11:57:45 PM

interesting

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