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A cat advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the East Bay Regional Park District for a controversial policy allowing feral and abandoned cats to be killed or relocated in order to help protect endangered animal species at the district’s parks.

Alley Cat Allies, which advocates for the protection of cats and kittens, filed suit July 21 in Alameda County Superior Court, arguing that the district’s policy is inhumane and fails to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act by changing the physical environment without a full review of the consequences.

Alley Cat Allies requested the court to vacate or suspend the policy, which East Bay Parks has not enforced since December, and issue a temporary restraining order.

“Cats have been part of the natural environment in California for hundreds of years and cannot realistically be removed permanently from the environment.”

Becky Robinson, Alley Cat Allies

Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, argued that culling or relocating feral cats would only lead to new cats moving in and the population rebounding.

“Cats are part of the environment in East Bay and are critical to the complex web of life,” Robinson said in a statement. “Cats have been part of the natural environment in California for hundreds of years and cannot realistically be removed permanently from the environment.”

A park district spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment. On June 16, district spokesman Dave Mason said the agency “could have done better regarding the removal of abandoned and feral cats that were threatening endangered wildlife at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline last year.”

At that time, Mason also said district officials had been meeting regularly with local animal shelters since suspending the policy in December to safely rehome or relocate cats rather than killing them. According to Mason, 48 cats had been safely rehomed or relocated from park grounds as of June 16.

Park district staff members killed at least 13 cats last year at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline without seeking non-lethal alternatives, according to Alley Cat Allies.