SEOUL, Apr. 27 (Korea Bizwire) — An animal shelter accommodating stray cats is under threat amid growing calls from NIMBYs to relocate the facility.
Located on the rooftop of one of the Gangdong District Office buildings, the feral cat shelter is currently home to 15 stray cats that were found on the street and adopted by the district office.
The facility opened last February as a joint project between the animal rescue group Meucat and the Gangdong District Office.
Since 2013, when complaints about stray cats were first filed, the Gangdong District Office has been praised for setting an example in animal welfare policy in South Korea, having provided a soup kitchen and medical help for stray cats.
Over 270 cats have been adopted after being cared for by the shelter so far.
However, the feral cat shelter is now under threat as the labor union consisting of civil servants at the district office is calling on the facility to be removed from the building. The union has already given an ultimatum, threatening to use physical force after the second week of May.
The move comes amid growing NIMBYism in local communities across Seoul against public facilities including special-education schools, daycare centers and city-funded affordable rental apartments for young people.
The Gangdong District Office previously played a role in combating NIMBYism in local communities, but now faces its own NIMBYism from within.
Labor Union Up in Arms Over Rooftop Cat Shelter
The labor union at the Gangdong District Office sent an official letter earlier this month to both the office and Meucat, calling for the relocation of the facility.
“The rooftop of the Seongan annex at the Gangdong District Office used to be a space where workers could release stress, rest and communicate with others. Since the cat shelter was built, however, cat urine and feces have caused unpleasant odors, and shedding made it impossible to use that space anymore,” the labor union said.
The animal welfare team says the opposition has left them feeling disconcerted.
“Though we would like to find another building to operate the facility from, it will take time. I hope that workers can set an example by compromising a little and finding common ground, given the social stigma attached to stray cats,” said Choi Jae-min, the leader of the animal welfare team.
However, the labor union is continuing to argue for the relocation of the facility.
“The office is suffering from a lack of space to the point that some of our office appliances are being placed in the corridor to make room,” said Baek Nam-sik, who heads the labor union at the Gangdong District Office.
Continuing Efforts to Coexist
The animal welfare team at the Gangdong District Office is looking to create a space that could replace the rooftop feral cat shelter.
“I do understand where other workers who don’t like cats are coming from, and I don’t blame them. But instead of calling for the shelter to be removed immediately, we need to discuss what can be done to live together,” a worker at the Gangdong District Office said.
Last November, Gangdong District opened Reborn, a stray dog adoption center. As the social perception of abandoned animals is rapidly changing among local residents, officials say no complaints have been filed so far.
“It’s a shame given that Gangdong District’s animal protection policy used to provide a benchmark for other local governments. Considering the international status of South Korea, we can’t forever put down abandoned dogs and cats,” the head of Meucat said.
Up to 3,000 stray cats are estimated to be living on the streets of Gangdong District alone and 300 of them are abandoned or injured each year, often needing help.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)