The community around the Naval Station Rota in the Province of Cádiz is the largest American military population in Spain.
But the base also has another sizeable, though more problematic, population: feral cats.
For months the joint US-Spanish base has been setting up traps to lure in and catch the cats whose multiplication has caused some problems on the base. The traps include signs next to them that say anyone attempting to let the cats out would be violating “both Spanish and American law”.
Images of the traps were sent by workers on the base to local animal rights group Siempre Contigo (Always with You), which has since been working to find out what happens to the cats after they are trapped.
“People who tried to open the cages to let the cats out were told there would be consequences… and the workers are outraged,” Siempre Contigo president Carmen de los Santos told The Local.
After the cats are trapped, they are supposed to be left inside the cages until a veterinarian comes by to pick them up.
“But we don’t know what is happening, where the cats are going,” de los Santos said.
For months, the group has been contacting the base to get answers and launched a petition two weeks ago to garner support, which has gained more than 500 signatures.
“This is not just, they haven’t told us anything,” de los Santos said. “This is mistreatment of animals and a very cruel method.”
Siempre Contigo is set to meet with Spanish officials from the base on Wednesday, but so far the group says they have only received messages from base officials stating that the cats were not being killed, though the officials still could not say what then happened to the cats.
Base officials also stated that all actions had been “with the authorization of Andalucia’s Ministry of Environment”.
The Spanish director of flora and fauna at the base told Siempre Contigo that they had worked upon the request of the US government and had given the cats to American officials.
The Local has contacted both Spanish and American officials at the base and is awaiting a response.
De los Santos said her group wants to work with the base to find the best solution, which they suggest is to catch the cats, sterilize them, and then set them back free on the base with their families, and with a marker to signal which felines have already been neutered.
The group organized a few years ago to catch, neuter and mark the cats – some of whom returned to the base and are now gone missing since the traps were set, according to Siempre Contigo.
“We hope that we will find a solution,” de los Santos said, “and that they understand that animals have rights and that we can collaborate for the future.”