Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Protest Against Loews Universal Orlando Hotels

Yes I am a modern cat woman!

by Christine Michaels

This past Saturday, April 14, 2012, Alley Cat Allies led a protest against Loews Universal Orlando Hotels for their irresponsible, ill-informed decision and inhumane trapping of the Loews Hotels outdoor cats.

Close to 70 people drove to the site and protested, armed with signs and photos of the injured cats-- Houdini with blood on his forehead and down the nose, Shadow with a deep gash on the top of her head...[for a history of the cats, click here]

Shadow with deep gash on her head

Interesting, there was a man with a hard-to-miss-looks-like-missile-weapon camera milling about who was believed to be working for Loews.  He was discovered by the organizers upon arriving  at the parking lot. He was sitting in a white SUV, the same white SUVs that all the Loews security drive. (We know this because we had a chance to walk the grounds of both properties the night before and the day of the protest).  He got out of the car as protesters arrived.  He took photos and never carried or displayed a sign. I questioned him nonchalantly and he said he was dropping off his wife at work at one of the offices there at the office park  and saw the protest and thought he would "check it out".  I asked him "Do you always carry that big expensive professional camera?" He answered yes. The problem with his story is that a protester saw him with another man in the SUV. And the offices were all closed that day. But we had nothing to hide and I politely educated him on the plight of  homeless cats, how Loews had a model program, that each cat had a name and story and were truly traumatized and badly injured through this process.

Suspected Loews Infiltrator and Christine

Alas my cat cohorts and I arrived the night before and pretended to be tourists walking the grounds at 1am--yes 1am--hey South Floridians stay up late! (We live in Miami and drove to Orlando after work). I didn't see any of the cats nor any traps but I learned of the feeding spots from former caretakers and dumped piles of dry cat food. The cats had been starving for over two weeks and Orange County Animal Services did NOT take down my complaint of animal cruelty. (I tried three times--hugely disappointed in OCAS). After five hours of sleep (adrenaline was pumping when working undercover), I dressed in black and went by myself for an early morning stroll (7:30am) and proudly with the stealth and grace of predecessor panthers, I climbed, I crawled, and I dumped more cat food inside the bushes of where the cats reportedly resided, at least the ones that still remained to be captured at the Portofino. No surprise that Bonnie & Clyde have not been caught and are elusive. Like their namesakes, it may take awhile to capture these clever cats.

Deb, Christine, Dorian
 Then after a morning shower, we dressed up as tourists and headed to the Loews Royal Pacific.   We ambled around the grounds snapping photos like tourists. While my partners- in -cat- crime -prevention kept up the acting role, I disappeared into the bushes and found a beautiful white and black cat. Sure enough he scurried away but I left him an appetizing pile of dry and salmon canned food. Time for brunch! We repeated the process throughout the property. Mission accomplished! Now off to the protest.

Two TV stations, Channel 2 and Channel 9 sent cameramen and reporters. Unfortunately these were not seasoned reporters and missed the essence of the story and many important facts. The Public Relations Director for Loew Orlando Hotels, Jennifer Hodges, in her response, told reporters  that the number of cats were increasing. Jennifer Hodges knows this is not true. Like all the other employees, she was impressed with the TNR program and used to visit the designated room for post surgery care for the spayed/neutered cats and hold the kittens. She even invited her husband to visit the cat room.  Hodges' response to media was different from earlier TV reports. Apparently reporters had not done due diligence otherwise they would have easily connected the dots.  Here is the link to the WESH Channel 2 TV report. Please leave a comment on their site to share your disappointment in their gross lack of homework and reporting. 

Our fight has just begun! There is little to zero awareness that outdoor cats that are TNRM'd (Trap-Neutered-Returned to outdoors- and Managed) pose no threat to people. If anything more companies, communities, and neighborhoods are embracing TNRM as a successful means to address rising stray cat population.  It worked at Loews for years.  Therefore our efforts are focused on education as well as keeping up pressure on Loews.

We love this sign that was created by Vox Feline.

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More action steps to come and we need everyone's support!

These cats were healthy, spayed/neutered, and received rabies vaccination and lived peacefully for years on the grounds of the Loews Portofino Bay and Loews Royal Pacific hotels at Universal in Orlando, Florida. They were fed, cared for and managed by employees at their cost. Many employees were proud to make a difference in controlling the cat population and enhance their chain's slogan "Loews Loves Pets". It was a win-win-win for the cats, the community, and Loews. Cats were rarely seen by guests due to the expansive grounds and lush landscaping.  There was never a single incident of injury or disease due to the cats. Of course we know that outdoor cats are skiddish of strangers and only come close to caretakers. Loews management didn't care. Or should we say one person didn't care--David Bartek, Regional Director of Operations.


  1. Excellent summary of the situation! Good job everyone!

  2. Christine - thanks to you, Deb and Dorian for representing all of the Cat Lady Coalition! I was supporting you on Facebook and Twitter, and I only wish I could have been there in person. We will not change Mr. Bartek's mind regarding TNR, but that shouldn't stop us from making a BIG stink about his decision to starve the cats rather than allow experienced feral cat management groups do the trapping the right way!

  3. Great write up Christine - I could not be prouder of our efforts and only pray it will make a difference one day in the perceptions our society has about outdoor cats. Bartek may think he has won the battle, but compassion and kindness always trumps evil and cold-heartedness...

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