Save Hvar's Cats!

Published in Animals

Eco Hvar has come up with a possible solution to the problem of cat killings. Seeing cats tortured to death by poison or other methods is a tragedy for animal-lovers on Hvar Island, and indeed all round Croatia. The law to protect animals from harm exists, but does not function efficiently.

Chum, Gingie the Princess with their kitten, Pitve 2007. Chum, Gingie the Princess with their kitten, Pitve 2007. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

We have set up a Change.org petition in English to garner support for our initiative. Our recomendations, together with the results of the petition, will be presented to the four local authorities on Hvar when the new local governments have been formed following the elections on May 15th 2021. We hope the suggestions will be implemented successfully, and, if so, will be a blueprint for other parts of Croatia.

Note: the three much-loved cats in the lead picture died by poison in Pitve in 2008, but their spirit lives on!

PLEASE HELP BY SIGNING THE PETITION.

Recommendations for a peaceful solution to the problem of cat poisonings on Hvar

Introduction: The image of a tourist destination depends on many factors. One of them is the attitude of local people towards animals. For over a year a group of people in Hvar Town has been mercilessly poisoning cats, causing immeasurable harm to the town's image: in the summer of 2020, guests left because of the horrifying sight of cat corpses floating in the sea by the bathing beaches. Sadly, cat poisonings also happen in other places on Hvar Island.

Why save the cats? Image is not the only or even the main reason for trying to find a way to put a stop to the cat killings. Cats are very useful creatures: they hunt mice, rats, snakes and other potentially harmful pests. Given the right conditions, they are independent and clean. We accept that not everyone is an animal-lover. Despite differences of opinion, we have to live together in peace within our society. For this, each of us has to respect society's laws: Article 205 of Croatia's Criminal Law (Kazneni zakon, NN125/2011) states that the killing and maltreatment of animals are illegal punishable acts.

In a rational law-abiding society it is not acceptable for owners to suffer because of the violent loss of their pets; nor for guests, especially children, to be faced with the horrifying sight of animals in torment; nor for renters to lose their clients because of other people's illegal actions; nor for the police, local authorities and individuals to have to spend their time, nerves and resources trying to prevent killings, and to gather the evidence needed to prosecute the suspected killers.

Why do people kill cats? Some people simply hate cats and other animals, often without a specific reason. Others have no patience to tolerate certain habits among wild, homeless cats, specifically uncontrolled breeding; the noise created by males fighting over the females; and the smell of their faeces.

The Project to Save the Cats

The main priorities:

1. The sterilization programme. This programme already functions on Hvar and is succeeding in gradually bringing down the number of homeless cats. (Sadly, some of the cats poisoned in Hvar Town during the last year were sterilized, making the trouble taken over the sterilizations a meaningless waste of resources.)

2. Set up feeding stations at different convenient points in each locality, alongside toilet facilities (sand or soil, in a litter tray if there is no natural alternative).

3. Provide incentives for firms and individuals who participate in the project.

4. Create an educational campaign for young people and adults, emphasizing how and why cats can be looked after for the benefit of all.

5. Publish warnings through posters and media announcements that the local authorities will participate in actions to bring suspects to justice when they break the law and kill the cats.

6. Establish a slogan / logo for the project (In English, on the lines of 'Hvar cares for cats', or whatever seems suitable)

How Will the Project Function?

1. The sterilization programme will continue. At the beginning of the project an increase in numbers might be expected, as it will be easier to catch the street cats.

2. The local authorities will choose the places for the cat feeding stations, and will be responsible for keeping them clean, with the help of animal-caring Associations and individuals.

3. Finance will be raised primarily through donations and sponsorship. For instance, monetary donations will be handled through the local authority accounts, and/or special accounts of the Animal Associations; firms, especially shops, will be encouraged to donate cat food; shops can place boxes by the check-outs for customers to leave gifts of dry or tinned cat-food.

4. Everyone interested in promoting their island in the most positive way will be able to participate in the project, including hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, tourist agencies etc., besides individuals. Everyone who has contributed to the project should be given a special certificate for the given year, for instance when the local authorities celebrate their Annual feast day.

5. The educational campaign could be through workshops or volunteer work with the street cats.

6. Local authorities will advertise the project on public noticeboards and via the internet on their websites and Facebook pages.

7. The slogan / logo could be the subject of a competition in local schools.

8. There will be a steering committee for each place to co-ordinate activities, led by the local authority.

1st May 2021.

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    Max Marcovitch is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates. Also, please consider supporting our critical work

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