Town hall leaflet causes controversy among animal lovers

Antonio Fernández Arcas feeds the cats every morning.
Antonio Fernández Arcas feeds the cats every morning. / J. R:
  • British and Spanish residents in Benamocarra are concerned that the council's attempts to clean up the village will threaten local cat colonies

Animal lovers are up in arms in Benamocarra following the publication of a leaflet by the town hall which threatens fines of up to 750 euros for feeding the local cats.

Antonio Fernández Arcas, who says he has been feeding the felines every morning “365 days a year” for over 20 years with bags of dry cat food, which he says he buys with his own money from local supermarkets, and Diana Golledge, a British painter who has lived in Benamocarra for 13 years, say that the town hall needs to provide an answer for the cats, which “neither involves them starving to death or being taken away and killed.”

The pair, along with other foreign and Spanish residents who also regularly feed the animals, are hoping to get councillors on board with a programme of sterilisation to control numbers but also to allow them to continue to feed the cats. “One of the British residents has sent letters to the town hall with research done in the USA about how controlled cat numbers is good for villages,” explains Diana.

Deputy Mayor, María Leonor Muñez, told SUR in English that the leaflet wasn't designed to scare people but that the town hall has “received complaints from neighbours about people feeding the cats with raw meat and other left over human food” in public spaces in the town centre. Muñoz went on to say that the leaflet was part of a wider campaign to encourage people to “keep the village clean” and to “clean up after their dogs.”

Both Antonio and Diana as well as town hall officials and politicians recognise that the issue of feeding the local cats is controversial with people “for and against” and that a balance needs to be found.

The cat feeders hope to be able to raise funds to start a sterilisation programme; the likes of which have been successful in other villages including Periana, where the town hall collaborated with animal rescue associations.

Councillor Muñoz also said that while feeding cats in the centre of the village should be prohibited, the town hall is considering identifying feeding points around the outskirts of Benamocarra where residents could give the cats “dry cat food in a controlled way.”