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CAT HOLOCAUST IN SEA BRIGHT?

cat1One resident says there’s a cat holocaust in Sea Bright. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Kathleen Kalaf says there’s a cat holocaust happening in Sea Bright.

That is something Webster’s might classify as hyperbole. But in Kalaf’s book, the term fits.

“If you’re poisoning cats and loading them off to die, that reminds me of a holocaust,” she said. “I wanted to get people’s attention. I want people to know about the situation.”

So what exactly is the situation?

For background, Sea Bright has been dealing with a cat problem for years. Large packs of feral cats have made their home along the Shrewsbury River and the ocean to the point that local government has taken steps to bring the clowders under control. But a dispute with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, over the beach’s plover population, has halted progress on an ordinance to enter an agreement with the SPCA for a trap-and-release program.

While the borough council wrangles with the service, Kalaf says there’s a group of people who are poisoning and killing local cats, then carting them off to Colts Neck and Earle Naval Base for interment.

It happened to her two cats, Simba and Asha, she said.

The cats went missing within a week of each other; one from the yard, the other taken from her porch, Kalaf said. And Simba and Asha aren’t the only victims. Kalaf said that over the years, hundreds of cats have been taken, and more recently, about 50 cats were rounded up and delivered a horrible fate. By who, she doesn’t know.

“A lot of people here know what’s going on, but a lot of people aren’t talking,” she said. “They’re afraid to speak.”

Kalaf isn’t. On Wednesday morning, Kalaf, who has lived in the small beach town for 10 years, sent out a press release alerting locals to what she characterizes as Sea Bright’s “cat holocaust.”

Councilwoman Dina Long, who has led the council’s initiative to control the borough’s cat population, has mixed feelings on Kalaf’s full-court press. On one hand, Kalaf has endured a tragedy. On the other, there might be a bit of misinformation out there, Long said.

“She’s got a heartbreaking story. There’s always been talk of people doing bad things to cats,” Long said. “I’ve never been able to substantiate it. For me, it’s always had a bit of an urban myth quality to it. God forbid it’s true.”

Long said the council will look into Kalaf’s claim. Meantime, the council continues to struggle with the Fish & Wildlife service, which came down heavy on the council earlier this year for introducing an ordinance to set up a spay/neuter-release program in the borough. The service said it would fine the borough if it went through with the ordinance because the Piping Plover population would be harmed. The council is split on whether to go forward with the ordinance, Long said.

“We’re in between a rock and a hard place,” she said.

Still, something bad is happening in Sea Bright, Kalaf says. And Long is taking it seriously, whatever it is.

“I’ve been on the council for eight years — it just doesn’t happen, unless there’s this covert, vigilante-style cat haters in Sea Bright just taking them. But what happened to her cats doesn’t make sense either,” Long said. “To say ‘holocaust,’ that’s loaded language. What we might have is an extreme case of animal cruelty, which would be horrible.”

Kalaf knows her words are loaded. But that’s the point, she said.

“I don’t want people to think I’m some backwards Sea Bright resident. I’m well-educated,” she said.

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