The (feral) felines have been introduced, to great effect, at several stations with rodent problems. Parker Center may get them too.
By Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
One animal welfare group has figured out a way to save their (feral cats) lives and put them to work in Los Angeles. The Working Cats program of Voice for the Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal advocacy and rescue group, has placed feral cats in a handful of police stations with rodent problems, just as the group placed cats in the rat-plagued downtown flower district several years ago -- to great effect.
Six feral cats were recently installed as ratters in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Police Department's Southeast Division, and another group will be housed at the Central Division early in the new year.
Their reputation as furtive and successful exterminators grew after feral cats were introduced to the parking lot of the Wilshire Division nearly six years ago. Rats had been burrowing into the equipment bags that bicycle officers stored in outside cages; inside the facility, mice were sometimes scurrying across people's desks."Once we got the cats, problem solved," said Cmdr. Kirk Albanese, a captain at the Wilshire station at the time. "I was almost an immediate believer."
After Albanese moved to the Foothill Division in the northern San Fernando Valley, he introduced feral cats to the building's mice-infested basement in 2004."I think it's a very humane way to deal with a very stubborn problem," said Albanese, now assistant to the director in the office of operations at Parker Center, which has its own rat problem.
The cats don't generally solve the rodent problem by killing rats and mice -- although the cats are game for doing so if they catch them. Rather, the cats simply leave their scent. Once rodents get a whiff of feline presence, like gangsters under a gang injunction, they move on."It's the smell of the cat and the cat urine," said animal rescuer Jane Garrison, a member of Voice for the Animals' board, who selected the half dozen feral cats for the Southeast station.
Less grisly than glue traps -- and usually more effective -- the cats go about their "work" naturally: "They prowl, they eat, they sit in the sun," said Melya Kaplan, founder and director of Voice for the Animals, who was responsible for putting cats in the flower markets.Sometimes they rest under police cars or on top of the warm car hoods. When the cats are new to an area -- as they are at Southeast -- they spend much of their time hiding from view.
Garrison said the Working Cats program can be used anywhere. "We are willing to put cats in any safe area -- businesses, hotels, industrial parks, even residences -- and we will do that for free."
Soon the ferals may get a chance to work their magic on the legions of rats that make their home behind Parker Center. "They're coming out of everywhere," said Officer April Harding, who works in media relations. "One time I stood in the parking lot and just watched in horror, like it was a movie."
Thom Brennan, commanding officer of facilities management for the LAPD, said he was still figuring out the logistics of placing cats at Parker Center. "Nobody was more skeptical about it than I was," he said. "It sounds like too easy a fix. But everywhere it's been done, it's worked. . . . I think I'm convinced it's a viable program that will help us."For more information on "working" feral cats, go to http://vftafoundation.org/workingcats.