Dispute about feeding cats living near local Walmart

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For the past three years, every morning Loretta Schmidt, 86, goes to a wooded area near the Normandy Boulevard Walmart to feed stray cats.

"Everything has to be feed," said Schmidt. "We are trying to find homes for them."

For the past year, every afternoon Dot Smetzer, 85, goes to the same area and feed the same nine cats. She said on Thursday Walmart management told her to stop feeding the cats.

"The manager was very nice," said Smetzer. "But it is her job to protect her property."

She was told the cats were crawling into Walmart's garden center and have become a nuisance; we saw a kitten caught in a trap that was in the center, not in the woods.

"They say the cats make a mess," said Schmidt. "But it is the customers that make a mess I come out here an clean up their garbage."

Pam Forlines runs Paws for the Cause, a cat rescue, and was called in to resolve the issue. A Walmart employee gave her the trapped kitten.

"I'm going to take him to No More Homeless Pets to be spayed or neutered," she said. "Then I'm going to put him in a foster home."

Forlines said she plans to remove the cats one-by-one. She would prefer one or two of the cats to stay in the wooded area.

"You take them all out and it becomes a vacuum," she said.

Since the two women were told to stop feeding the cats, Forlines has reached an agreement with store management to allow them to continue to feed them as long as is it's in the woods and not in the parking lot.

"What I have learned is you educate the property owners," said Forlines."You don't confront them."

The feeding restrictions are something the women can live with for now. Forlines said she will continue to work with the women, the store management and the folks at No More Homeless Pets to save the cats.

Kayla Whaling a spokeswoman with Walmart said they are working with a third party team to remove the cats.

"For the safety of our customers and we don't want the cats to be able to get into the store," said Whaling.

She said the cats would be taken to a shelter to be adopted out.


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