I rarely leave my cave, but I’m doing it today for the Cats Of BGC

Cats Of BGC

I know this is supposed to be an art blog, but this is also, ultimately, MY BLOG, so… yeah sorry. Just deal with it for a while.

Okay. As the title of this post suggests, I rarely post nowadays. Life just simply happened, and I’ve been busy, I’ve been lazy, etc etc.

However, today I am sad and VERY ANGRY.

This is gonna be a long, unapologetic read, so buckle up.

[[ The TL;DR Version ]]

Recently (on Valentine’s Day, to be precise), Shangri-La at the Fort decided to call a pest control company called PetBusters Philippines to perform a service for them.

It wasn’t to get rid of bugs… or roaches… or mosquitoes… or even rats…

No, it was to get rid of CATS.

To be specific, they made the Cats of BGC disappear practically within a few hours in the dead of night, and as of this writing, no one knows what became of those cats. I will get into detail about this later on, but know that this qualifies as an act of animal cruelty.

Meanwhile, since this whole thing started, they have committed many serious errors in judgement that have so far only been making it worse… mostly for themselves. Instead of facing the music, they have acted like cowards, lied to the public, and harassed everyone who has been calling them out. And this has only made me and many people like me, angrier and angrier.

This is why I’m here today. To commit this to my and the internet’s memory. Waybackmachine and Google Cached Pages, COME ON OVER.

[[ Shangri-La at the Fort, and the Disappearance of the Cats of BGC ]]

First, let me tell you about the Cats of BGC.

The Facebook group itself is basically a bunch of animal-lovers who hang around the BGC area. Using their own time and resources, and paying for everything out of their own pockets, they have set about looking after the local homeless cat population.

As stated in their manifesto, their aim is “To give better lives to the Cats of BGC by making them suitable for adoption through TNVR (Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate & Return) programs, as well as finding their FURever homes.”

They have accomplished so much. They have been conducting successful TNR (trap, neuter, return), feeding, and vaccination programs. They have set up feeding stations, faithfully replenishing them to make sure that the cats stay fed and healthy (there are literally food and water bowls there for the cats). If one of the cats in the colony was sick, they would take them to the vet, and release them back into the area once it was well again.

Most importantly, these people worked hard to tame these once-feral cats, to the point when the cats would come when called… by name. They got these homeless, scared animals to trust humans again.

In short, all of the cats that the Cats of BGC group looked after were HIGHLY-ADOPTABLE AND WERE CANDIDATES FOR REHOMING. In fact, the members are always actively looking for adopters or foster homes.

And then the saddest Valentines Eve happened.

As I mentioned earlier, Shangri-La at the Fort, for whatever reason, decided that they didn’t want any cats around. So they hired a pest extermination company… let that sink in for a minute… to remove the cats from the premises.

Of course, the cats were immediately reported missing by the volunteers. How could you not, when you know each one by name? I mean, they have a freaking Facebook page! Profile pictures!

Nobody even immediately knew what was going on, and people had to piece together what actually happened. And that was how the sad truth surfaced, much to the anger and sorrow of local animal lovers.

[[ The backlash began. ]]

Outraged, people took to the Shangri-La at the Fort en masse to call them out on what they did. Many negative comments and one-star reviews were left, because nobody wants to give business to an establishment that condones… no… practices animal cruelty.

There were so many questions, but the biggest one was, “Where are the cats now, and what did you do to them? Are they safe?”

Finally having an “OH SHIT” moment, and realizing that the public was not happy with what they did, Shangri-La at the Fort issued this half-assed statement:

Shangri-La at The Fort posted this statement about the Cats of BGC's disappearance

“Last February 14, 2018, we received inquiries on social media regarding the cats from the park beside the hotel. We would like to assure everyone that no harm has been done to the cats that have been relocated. In fact, more than half of them have been adopted by hotel employees. The others were relocated to two locations within Taguig. The hotel management has met with CARA Welfare Philippines and Cats of BGC last February 15, 2018 and discussed a long-term cooperation to ensure the welfare of the cats at the adjacent High Street park.”

It sounds all nice and fancy… until you realize that it never really answered the most important question: “Where are the cats and can we be sure they are okay?”

In this statement, the hotel is yet to:

  • Actually pinpoint the locations where the cats were “relocated” to, in order to help the volunteers search for and retrieve the missing cats.
  • Actually provide proof that their employees have adopted these cats (and have they even been screened as qualified adopters?). No names of these supposed adopters have been released either, for the Cats of BGC volunteers to get in touch with, to verify that the cats are okay and have been sent to a loving home and not abused, sold for meat, or worse.
  • Seriously, not even a single photo can be provided as proof? In a country where smartphones with cameras can be very cheap, and almost everybody are heavy social media users, you’d think there would at least be a few pictures posted by the excited new cat parents, right? It’s practically our instinct to snap pictures of everything nowadays, and a new pet usually qualifies for at least one photo… but no. We get radio silence. (It should also be noted that Cats of BGC likes to collect photos of successful adoptions to help them in their promotions and adoption drives.)

On top of the whole lack of information, we also get this vague promise that they are now cooperating with CARA… something that they should have done BEFORE ordering pest control to take away the BGC cats… something that they only started doing AFTER the tremendous backlash they received/are receiving about this situation.

In short, there is no sincerity, and it’s obvious that they’re just simply trying to cover their asses when they realized too late that they messed up big time. This is damage control.

And it’s not really working, because again, the community has been calling them out on it.

Where did the Cats of BGC go, Shang BGC?

But the kicker is when we learn that Shangri-La at the Fort’s social media team doesn’t know how the internet works.

Amid this huge, loud backlash they found themselves caught in, their SocMed team committed one of the biggest sins in social media: deleting legitimate comments on their Facebook Page.

Because honestly, how low can you go? (Apparently they thought they needed to go even lower…)

I don’t know. I’m guessing it was the result of a panic back at HQ. After all, from a perfect 5.0 rating on Facebook, within 12 hours, it dropped to 2.3.

While understandable, #sorrynotsorry, Shang Fort SocMed and PR team, but it’s part of your job to keep your cool and know how to deal with the public, isn’t it? Isn’t that what being a professional is? So no, you don’t really get any sympathy from me.

As of writing, they have been caught:

  • Reporting legitimate comments as spam
  • Reporting the COMMENTERS on Facebook, which resulted in people getting locked out of their accounts for a short time
  • Hiding legitimate comments
  • Blocking specific commenters
  • DELETING BAD REVIEWS

Tsk. Again… how low can you go?

Here’s a small sample of people confirming that they were getting reported and/or blocked from the Shang BGC Facebook Page:

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[[ BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! ]]

February 19, 2018, at 1:10am Manila time (in the dead of night, like thieves, as usual…) today, Shangri-La at the Fort decided to release an official statement:

Shangri-La at the Fort's Official Statement about the Cats of BGC

After six days, they finally give out the locations we have been asking for. Possibly due to the overwhelming flood of angry comments on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Possibly because people were threatening to bring the issue to mainstream media (and it was starting to get there, too, as in this When In Manila article, and another one from MetroPets). Possibly because they were starting to see the effects of all the negative reviews people were leaving them on Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc.

This excuse of a statement simply reeks of desperate damage control once more.

I’ll let you read it for yourself, though, and see why this was still unsatisfactory.

Important questions are still unanswered. There is still no proof provided on whether the cats are safe (in fact, Google Maps is telling me that the locations the cats were abandoned in — YES, THIS IS ABANDONMENT AND CRUELTY — were FAR from ideal or safe). There is still no proof of the existence of these supposed adopter-employees of theirs. They still need to explain why a service such as PestBusters was necessary if they were so keen on having the cats adopted out. They are yet to tell us how they can be so sure that no harm came to the cats unless they assigned personnel to actually care for the cats at the new location… which they made no mention of.

This statement does NOT wrap up this issue. We’ll see what happens come morning, and if they’ll try to silence an angry public again.

I ask once more, how low can you go, Shang BGC? Because we’re watching you right now.

[[ Why I’m here, ranting. ]]

If you knew me, then you’d know that I am a certified cat lady and animal lover. I advocate and support pet adoption, spay and neutering, no-kill animal shelters, and the prosecution of those caught violating our animal welfare laws. So yeah, now you should also know why this whole thing gets my goat.

Besides the need to vent, I’m here for another purpose: Documentation.

This is one review, one comment they won’t be able to get their greedy little mitts on.

Let it be stamped onto the memory of the Internet (and we know how long that can last, no?) that in February 2018, one of the Shangri-La Hotels, specifically the one at the Fort, BGC, performed an act of cruelty and abuse towards tame, adoptable, companion animals.

And I hope this shame follows them around for years to come.

As my friend Rotch likes to say, “VOTE WITH YOUR WALLETS.”

Please stop patronizing establishments that do not value lives. Especially the lives of those that cannot make them any profit.

 

List of Links: (Updated as of Feb 19, 2:30pm MNL)

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