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St. Elizabeth Place: Cats in middle of dispute between residents and management

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

In the end, Fat Head may have been a lucky cat.

Residents at St. Elizabeth Place had him put to sleep after he developed cancer.

Now, some residents of the 48-unit senior citizen community that is part of Baskervill Outreach at Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, say they are being forced to stop feeding their beloved community cats by apartment management.

The cats are starving, they say, and cry at their windows for food.

“There has been a change in management from someone who enjoyed and loved the cats to somebody who wants to get rid of them by starving them,” said a spokesman for the residents. “There’s no compromise in sight.”

None of the residents wanted to be identified, fearing retaliation, because the issue has stirred up such strong emotions in the community of homes for moderate- and low-income elderly renters.

“Concern from management’s point of view,” said Suzy Jayroe, executive director of Baskervill Outreach, “is these are feral cats they have taken to feeding. There have been complaints of ‘droppings’ on porches and in planting areas and people tripping over the cats. The food bowls draw in other animals too, raccoons and ’possums.”

St. Elizabeth Place residents say the cats are tame, not feral. They raised over $1,000 to have them spayed and neutered with the help of a resident’s daughter. “God sent her to us,” a resident said.

“The cats are loved by a major majority of residents,” another resident added. “This is one of the few things we have left to enjoy. This has changed the community from a place that held happy get-togethers to one of constant stress.”

After complaining to the complex manager about being asked to take a water bowl off her porch, a woman said she was told that she should move. “Most of us have no place else to go,” another woman said.

Jayroe said rules against feeding animals outside apartments are not new. They were not being enforced previously. Residents signed agreements that said they are allowed to have small dogs, cats, birds or fish as indoor pets if they pay a security deposit. Other pets are not allowed on the property. “Wild, stray or feral animals are not considered pets,” the agreement says. Members of the community say there are 17 cats living on the property — there have been as many as 30.

Residents said a sign was posted saying there would be a $1,000 fine for anyone caught feeding the cats. It has been removed, they say, but it was effective. Residents are afraid to take the risk. There was a hand-written letter from an individual posted in the laundry room ending with the words, “Someone wants to take away one of our few pleasures.”

“I feel for them,” Jayroe said. “I can see their side, but we are trying to make everybody as comfortable as we can.”

Meanwhile, the cats are getting thinner and residents’ hearts are breaking for Pretty Girl, Buddy, Little Bit and the others. They fear their cats will be joining Fat Head all too soon.

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