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Peninsula 'cat patrol' on the lookout

Neighbors say someone is using baited traps to catch cats and send them to the shelter. Police contend the action is legal.

October 22, 2010|By Sarah Peters, sarah.peters@latimes.com
  • Kellee Fitzgeorge holds Sister at her home on the Balboa Peninsula on Wednesday. Sister was one of several felines trapped by a neighbor who considered the animals to be a nuisance. The cats were turned over to animal control, and one of them was put to sleep.
Kellee Fitzgeorge holds Sister at her home on the Balboa… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

NEWPORT BEACH — It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your cat is?

For several Newport Beach residents who live near the Balboa Fun Zone, having an "outdoor" cat isn't as safe as it used to be.

An unidentified neighbor has taken it upon himself to be the unofficial "cat patrol" that rounds up roaming felines, neighbors allege.

At least three cats have been picked up by the animal patrol, said Laura Thomsen, one of several caretakers of a neighborhood cat named Tuxy, who was euthanized by a Newport Beach shelter last week. Tuxy didn't belong to a particular household, but various people in the community have cared for him for three years, she said.

The cats are being caught in at least one animal trap, which neighbors reported seeing on the terrace of an apartment.

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"Everything is perfectly legal," Newport police Sgt. Steve Burdette said. "If an area has too many complaints about strays, then they may use traps."

Residents who've had repeated problems with animals on their property can pick up traps from Animal Control, which are safe and do not harm the animals. They can set them up on their own property, Burdette said.

For Kellee Fitzgeorge, who has lived in her Balboa Peninsula home for more than 20 years, trapping cats goes against the nature of the neighborhood, where the well-tended pets have been allowed to run free for years, she said.

"None of these cats are feral," Fitzgeorge said. "They're clearly all the neighbors' cats — they're well-groomed, well-fed, beautiful cats."

Fitzgeorge and her neighbor, Sharilyn Kleinebreil, hunted for Kleinebreil's missing cat, Sister, for days before hearing by word of mouth that the animal may have been trapped and transported to a shelter.

The women recovered Sister, but it was a close call, Kleinebreil said.

While she had the cat microchipped in case it were ever picked up by Animal Control, Kleinebreil said that no one called to report a rescue.

Sister had been at the Dover Shores Pet Care Center for seven days, which is about the time most facilities will either put the animal up for adoption or euthanize it.

Further upsetting the neighbors, they believe that the resident is using tuna to bait the traps.

"That's like setting out ice cream for little kids on a hot summer day," Kleinebreil said. "It makes no sense to me how this is OK."

Burdette could not confirm whether tuna had been used to bait the traps or if the resident had called Animal Control to pick up more cats this week.

Dover Shores Pet Care Center was also unable to provide information as to how many cats have come into the shelter from the neighborhood this week.

No one appeared to be home at the residence believed to be trapping cats when a reporter visited Tuesday and Friday.

"To be fair, I don't think he realized that [the cats] weren't being taken to a no-kill shelter," Thomsen said of the unidentified neighbors. "He honestly looked quite shocked when I told him — I just don't think that they thought this through."

Thomsen, Tuxy's primary owner, has created a small memorial for the 6-year-old cat.

"I wanted to put it outside, where they can see it up on their terrace, but it's been raining, so I have it inside for now," Thomsen said. "Looks like the cats and neighbors are all inside right now — probably a good thing."

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