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Activists sue US National Park Service over plan to remove Puerto Rico's famous stray cats

FILE - A stray cat sits on a wall in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov. 2, 2022. The nonprofit organization Alley Cat Allies said on March 28, 2024, that it sued the U.S. National Park Service over a plan to remove stray cats from the area surrounding this historic seaside fortress in Old San Juan. (AP Photo/Alejandro Granadillo, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A nonprofit organization said Thursday that it sued the U.S. National Park Service over a plan to remove Puerto Rico’s famous stray cats from a historic district in the U.S. territory.

The lawsuit filed by Maryland-based Alley Cat Allies comes four months after the federal agency announced it would contract an animal welfare organization to remove an estimated 200 cats that live in an area surrounding a historic seaside fortress in Old San Juan.

The organization would decide whether the trapped cats would be adopted, placed in foster homes, kept in a shelter or face other options. It wasn’t immediately clear if an organization has been hired.

At the time, the National Park Service said it would hire a removal agency if the organization it contracted failed to remove the cats within six months.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tourists and locals have long considered the cats both a delight and a nuisance, with the National Park Service stating in 2022 that the population had grown too much as it noted the smell of urine and feces in the area.

Activists have decried the plan, saying six months is insufficient time to remove so many cats and worried they would be killed.

In its lawsuit, Alley Cat Allies requested additional environmental statements from the federal agency and asked that a judge finds its actions allegedly violate acts including the National Environmental Protection Act.

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