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Belgian town rings alarm: ‘We have more stray cats than people’

20:04 09/03/2020

The district of Doel, part of Beveren in East Flanders, has a plague of stray cats and are seeking volunteers to help feed them. And there’s a reason: The town has been nearly completely abandoned by the human variety because it was meant to be demolished for the expansion of the port of Antwerp.

The people of Doel fought the Flemish government and the port for more than 50 years, eventually winning the battle. But by then there was almost no one left: Most of the residents were bought out in the lead-up to the planned expansion.

There are a handful of residents and talk of research plans for the area, which is rich in marshland. But in the meantime, seven volunteers with Heartbeat, a cat shelter in nearby Saint-Gilles-Waas, need reinforcement to take care of Doel’s huge number of strays.

It seems that some Doel residents who moved neglected to take their feline family members along with them. And then area residents took advantage of the abandoned nature of the town to dump unwanted cats in it. “They have been multiplying like crazy,” Rita Jalon of Heartbeat told VRT.

Heartbeat is working with Beveren’s city council to sterilise all the cats. But people continue to dump cats and kittens in Doel, so it’s been difficult to decrease the number of strays.

Heartbeat is trying to find homes for Doel’s strays. They bring them to the shelter, but space is limited. “If we cannot find them homes, we have to just put them back in Doel,” says Jalon.

Serval attacks fireman

Meanwhile, a firefighter in Brussels had cat problems of his own at the weekend, when he was attacked by a serval, a wild cat that is illegal to keep as a pet in Belgium. During a routine domicile check, a police officer discovered the cat and contacted the fire department to confiscate it.

All did not go well. The serval injured the firefighter’s hand and completely destroyed his capture net. “We’re looking into the equipment used to capture animals,” said the department’s spokesperson Walter Derieuw, “as well as the methods used to capture them.”

The animal is now safe and sound in a specialised shelter in Opglabbeek, Limburg. The shelter’s motto, by the way, is: “Only an idiot keeps an exotic animal as a pet.”

There are six more servals in the shelter, all of them confiscated from homes in Brussels. The shelter is arranging their transport to a nature reserve in Africa, to where servals are native.

Photo ©Arina Bogachyova/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Written by Lisa Bradshaw



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