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Animal activists want to save feral cats at Veterans Stadium from wrecking ball

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

By The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Animal rights advocates hope to rescue the legendary feral cats that roam Veterans Stadium before the ballpark is razed next year.

The wild critters stalk the cavernous stadium, munching on potato skins, nachos and whatever else fans leave behind.

"They just get bigger and bigger," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said last year.

More than one athlete has found the cats a nuisance.

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt complained about the "cat stink" in the tunnel between the locker room and dugout when he played third base for the Phils.

The 32-year-old stadium is expected to be razed in February, perhaps by implosion.

That concerns animal rights activists, who recently set traps in a mostly futile effort to rescue the cats. The plan calls for the animals to be spayed and neutered in an effort to control the largely unchecked population.

"It's a huge problem," said Becky Robinson, the national director of Alley Cat Allies, a Washington group that attempted to rescue Vet stadium cats last month.

"We don't know how many stray and feral cats there are, but truly there are millions," she said.

Sports stadiums, with their promise of food and shelter, are a natural draw for homeless cats, much like restaurant and apartment trash bins. At Garden State Park in Cherry Hill, N.J., developers had to relocate a colony of 100 wild cats two years ago. Wild cats are also known to make homes for themselves under the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

The weekend before Easter, rescuers at the Vet laid out 30 cage-type traps garnished with sardines, mackerel and cat chow.

Perhaps hot dogs and beer would have worked better. Only one cat gave in to the tempting treats.

"It could be that they just need to set up baiting stations where they have really tasty, delicious morsels seven to 10 days before they set out the traps so the cats figure out, 'OK, every night at 10 near this men's room they put out that really neat tuna,' " Robinson said. "The key is to get them wanting to come. They're creatures of habit."

The Eagles move into a new stadium this fall, while the Phillies open their new ballpark next season.

"It's the Phillies' responsibility to handle the demolition of the stadium, and they'll handle it in the proper manner if there is a large animal population," stadium director Greg Grillone said. "It's a little bit early at this point to get worked up about it."

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