AENA, the Spanish airports’ governing body, is investing 180,000 euros to help the “ethical control” of wild-cat colonies in terminals across the country.
The public-sector company sparked a public outrage when it levied a ban on feeding feral cats at its airports.
Animal-lovers throughout the country protested that it was cruel, because the homeless cats would not be able to survive.
But AENA clarified that it had introduced “controlled” feeding plans and its main aim was to keep them off the runways and out of hangars for their own and passengers’ safety.
Now, it is seeking animal shelters to take on the job of feeding and sterilising the cat colonies, which AENA will fund.
They aim to move the cats to safer places – if possible, within shelters, although this cannot always be done because mature feral felines struggle to adapt to living outside their ‘natural’ habitat.
The cats may settle in to their new environment, but unless they are young kittens, it is unlikely they will be able to be rehomed.
AENA insists it is ‘sensitive’ to feral cats’ needs and mindful of regional legislation in Madrid, Law 4/2016 of July 22 on Pet Protection, and will comply with its provisions even outside its area of jurisdiction.
This and other regional laws consider feral cats to be ‘pets’ for the purposes of welfare and protection, although they are also covered by Fauna Management rules for conservation of wild animals.
AENA has had no choice but to respond to the needs of feral cats and ensure their wellbeing, given the public pressure it has been under.
The Madrid Airport Feline Management (GFAM) association, made up of airport workers, has been feeding and caring for the animals for many years.
And members announced a revolt when AENA said they could be disciplined for setting up feeding stations, even though they followed regional government health guidelines and funded a trap, neuter, return (TNR) programme.
A petition on Change.org netted over 110,000 signatures in support of their cause.