When the first cat (Niece) went missing in early December, we assumed after a day or so that she had become locked in a neighbor’s garage. This is not an uncommon occurrence, particularly in cold or inclement weather, and it happened as recently as September to another cat (White and Black) who was locked in a garage for 10 days.
We called daily for Niece, walking up and down the alley, hoping to hear a little mew from one of the garages. About a week after Niece went missing, Old Man Grey disappeared. Mr. Grey’s absence also did not set off an alarm because we knew he had at least one other residence in the area (this is where he retreated last winter when he disappeared for a full three weeks).
We do not know when Big Stripe disappeared because she was an infrequent visitor (often appearing just once every few months). After Grey and Niece, the other cats seemed to disappear very quickly—all during the latter part of the week of December 8th. On the morning of Friday, December 13th, there were only three or four cats at breakfast (and they appeared skittish). When my husband put out food for dinner—there was only one cat left, Little Blackie.
Over the course of that weekend, my sister and I commenced a rigorous foot search of nearby streets and alleys. We knocked on numerous doors and spoke to neighbors. There was no sign of any of the cats. It had become painfully obvious that something terrible had happened.
Because this colony was registered with Neighborhood Cats, we would have received email alerts if a cat was picked up by Animal Care and Control. We did not receive any notifications. However, we also learned that we would not have been notified if a cat was brought to one of the ACC centers. Consequently, on Monday morning (December 15th), we drove to NYC’s Animal Care and Control shelters in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, looking at dozens and dozens of caged, homeless kitties trying to find at least one familiar face. We didn’t find one.
Monday morning (December 16th), I called 311 to find out how to report my missing cats. The 311 operator told me that I had to contact my local police precinct and she transferred my call. The local police precinct told me I had to call 911. I then called 911 and the dispatcher told me that police would not respond to this call. I couldn’t believe this was happening!
My sister and I started contacting friends and animal-advocate organizations to seek advice. A fellow caretaker put us in touch with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Cats. The person at Mayor’s Alliance urged us to call the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) office. We did, but HLE told us they couldn’t do anything without more solid evidence (i.e. a cat’s body).
This is when we began our own search efforts. Over the course of the next few days, we posted flyers all over the neighborhood, offering a $500 reward. We also began posting missing cat ads and alerts to the community on Craig’s list. These efforts yielded many calls and emails, and we were urged by other caretakers and animal welfare organizations to report this to the police.
So we tried again, this time going in person to the local precinct (someone suggested this might be more effective). The officer at the front desk of my local precinct would not take a report and instead told me to call 911. I did and waited an hour with no response. I called again, and discovered that they did not have a record of my earlier call. The dispatcher apologized and said someone would be respond shortly. No one ever responded.
A heart-breaking situation—the loss of 7 beloved cats—was made that much worse when it seemed like none of the authorities would—or could—help.
To learn more about our initial experiences with authorities, as well as our discovery of many other missing cats in New York City, please see our letter to the Mayor and other city offiicials.