Local cat-care charity Catcuddles has been ordered to cease fostering operations at its Greenwich hub in Howarth Road SE2 within 7 days by planning enforcement officers at the Royal Borough of Greenwich council. This follows the unexpected rejection of their application to continue the mixed use of the property as both a dwelling and for fostering cats.
Catcuddles volunteers have started a campaign to reverse the decision, including a petition to Greenwich Council to “Allow the Continued Fostering of Abandoned and Unwanted Cats In SE2” and a crowd funder to raise the money needed to appeal to the planning inspectorate to reverse the decision. The campaign has started well, with over 3500 signatures on the petition and over £3000 raised in just a couple of days.
The large team of volunteers at Catcuddles have helped many cats and people in the local area. They take in and foster cats that need a home. For example: when their owners are being evicted or are emigrating and facing the prospect of euthanizing their cats; families whose children have developed allergies and asthma from their cats; people whose parents have died and left cats behind; those who have found stray cats or have even had them give birth in their gardens; and local vets who’ve had cats dumped on their premises. They also neuter hundreds of stray cats in the area to help to keep their explosive numbers down. The cats they take in are not all housed at Howarth Road; they have a network of fosterers around the area.
And of course they are best known for pairing hundreds of formerly unwanted cats with loving adoptive families.
The dedication of the volunteers in rescuing cats is quite inspirational. One recent rescue here on Shooters Hill was of a mother cat and her 5 kittens: the Shooters Hill Six. This was a five day rescue operation which saw volunteers staked out in freezing temperatures tending traps to capture the cat and kittens. Catching them was only half the story. The tiny kittens were riddled with ticks which volunteers had to remove by hand. Also the kittens were feral because they had had no human contact, so, as with other feral cats, volunteers had to handle them every day to prepare them for adoption. Happily all but two of the six have now been adopted or reserved for adoption.
The council planners’ reasons for refusing Catcuddles application are difficult to understand. They say that “retention of the property as a cat sanctuary creates excessive noise and odour”, but this just isn’t true. I’ve visited the Catcuddles’ Greenwich Hub myself and noticed no noise or odour. The council’s own environmental health officer has said that there was no problem with odour, and the daily care volunteers are meticulous in their hygiene. There have never been any complaints about noise, and captured cats are known to be quiet to make themselves less conspicuous. The planners also say that it “would result in the loss of the property as a dwelling house”, which is simply untrue as Catcuddles founder, Evina Koroni, lives in the house. The final reason is that it “has involved the creation of numerous structures in the rear garden which have a detrimental impact in terms of design, appearance and scale.” But the cat pens in the back garden are low key and unobtrusive, as the photographs on the charity’s web site show. From the outside the house is indistinguishable from all the other houses in the street.
There are some positive signs for Catcuddles. A group of volunteers had a very constructive meeting with one of their local counsellors, Council Leader Denise Hyland, who told them she would look into the application. The strong support on the petition and crowd funding initiatives are also encouraging. If you would like to help you can sign their petition, contribute to the appeal costs or send them your stories about adopting from or working with Catcuddles.