A BRITISH animal lover has been left exasperated by a threat to fine him and volunteers up to €600 if they carry on feeding a Costa Blanca feral cat colony- something they have done for several years.
Retired police officer Derek Hepple, 81, enjoys early morning walks with his rescue dog Markie on a route taking in Santa Pola’s Salinas Salt Flats that is home to around 30 cats.
Derek joined the volunteer feeding team a few years ago and obtained a permit registered with the Policia Local to legally authorise his help.
He would even dig into his own pocket to pay for over €128 of food each month.
“Most of the cats were abandoned by people who just packed up and left the area,” said Derek.
He religiously fed the colony on his own every day at 6.00am until January 28 when a council work team appeared on the Salines bordering onto Avenida de la Virgen.
Derek told the Olive Press: “They cleared out and destroyed all of the feeding area including the resting huts along with the small bowls and containers where I put the food in.”
“I am now not allowed to feed them as they have put a huge sign on the fence expressly stating that anybody doing so could be fined €600,” he added.
The sign has the Santa Pola Ayuntamiento logo on the bottom and the Olive Press has reached out to the authority for comment.
The workers chopped down trees used for shelter by the cats and no communication has been sent about the move to Derek or his fellow feeders.
His feeding permit dating back to 2020 was validated by the Ayuntamiento.
“Why didn’t they let us know? “It is disgusting that people in charge can do this and let 30 cats purposely starve to death,” he complained.
“It appears that there is nothing that I or others can do about this.”
Derek’s crusade to help the cats in recent years has not come without some personal cost.
Two years ago a resident living close to the colony objected to the cats and kicked some of the food away and verbally threatened Derek.
On another occasion, he suffered a serious injury to his right calf while building a hut for the cats.
Derek ended up with his leg in plaster following 100 stitches and two hours of surgery