Report: Hawthorne on the Wrong Paw With Cat Caretakers

by | 11.03.2014 | 6:34pm

According to a report by local news blog Chicago Now, animal rescue workers are being blocked from feeding certain parts of the feral cat colony at Hawthorne Race Course. Carrie Gobernatz has been caring for the track's population of feral barn cats for seven years, and has placed a number of the track's stray animals in rescue homes.

Per the online report, Gobernatz was recently informed that her activities have been restricted to two areas on the track's backstretch, which cuts her off from several groups of cats. Gobernatz also reported that track owner Tim Carey told her in a meeting that she needed to trap all remaining cats and remove them from the property.

“If I can't trust them to let me on the property to feed the cats, we need to set up a program to move the cats from the barns and backside,” said Gobernatz, who is a registered caretaker of feral cat colonies with Cook County. “It can be done, but it's not an easy proposition. We need to find a place that can take the colonies and take steps to make sure that goes smoothly.”

She also pointed out that once the native population leaves the track, the rodents they've kept at bay may entice a new group of strays into the facility. She is working with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and local rescues to brainstorm a solution.

The situation is a contrast to the situation at Saratoga, where NYRA continues to work with local non-profits to spay, neuter, and vaccinate the feral population, and has allowed the set-up of feed/shelter stations. We learned more about the Saratoga backstretch cats earlier this year.

Read more at Chicago Now

Hawthorne released the following statement regarding the situation on Tuesday morning: 

We operate in a highly regulated industry and have a legal, statutory obligation to provide a safe and secure facility for licensed race horses, their owners and their caregivers.  Hawthorne often hosts as many as 2100 horses and thousands of licensed professionals on its backstretch (barn area).  Ms. Gobernatz is not licensed to be on Hawthorne's backstretch. 

Nonetheless, we empathize with Ms. Gobernatz's cause and we met with her recently to discuss these concerns.  At this meeting it was determined that she would continue to be allowed access to the facility once per day to provide care and food to the wild cats, but that she must only provide food in (2) areas that we designated as safe to do so.  Ms. Gobernatz agreed to these conditions and has provided care within these guidelines.  However, recently Ms. Gobernatz has again tried to leave food throughout our facility, raising new concerns from horse owners, trainers and State Veterinarians.

Hawthorne has been a stalwart business member of the community for more than 100 years.  We have been working with the Villages of Stickney and Cicero, as well as the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture and the Illinois Racing Board to address the concern of wild cats on our property.  These organizations are well aware of our intentions and our compassion for these animals and have praised our efforts as such.  Our guidelines have been very reasonable but Ms. Gobernatz's demands for more access and her accusations against our company's character are counter-productive to finding a solution that will benefit these animals. 

We appreciate and share the compassion that many have for these animals.  Please know that we are working with local animal control authorities and rescue facilities to relocate and care for these wild animals.

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