Racetrack owner want them gone: Save the Hawthorne Racetrack cats

Racetrack owner want them gone: Save the Hawthorne Racetrack cats
Carrie Gobernatz has been feeding barn cats on the backside of Hawthorne Racetrack for seven years. This week she was told she could only continue to feed half the colony.

Please read the updated story here.

For seven years, Carrie Gobernatz has been heading out to the Hawthorne Racetrack on a daily basis – not to bet on the horses but to care for the 40 stray and feral barn cats that call the backside of the racetrack home. That was until five days ago when she was met at the track by the Hawthorne Security team and told she had to limit her feeding areas to two spots. Now her fight is on to save the Hawthorne Racetrack cats.

“I’ve been limited to just two areas to feed the colonies. Half of the cats are in other areas and don't come to those feeding stations.   I’m worried about the cats not being fed,” says Gobernatz. “I’ve rescued over 100 cats from the property and helped rescue other animals - dogs, rabbits, goats. The track ownership just doesn’t care.”

Gobernatz is a horsewoman that also is passionate about cats and rescue. She was first notified by horsemen at Hawthorne Racetrack about seven years ago about the stray and feral cats living on the property. During race season, many people working at the track and their families live there. When they move on at the end of the season, cats and other pets are often left behind. Gobernatz stepped in and started to trap the cats and take them to PAWS for free spay or neuters and vaccinations.

Carrie Gobernatz is worried about the 20 cats she's not able to feed since she's been limited at Hawthorne.

Carrie Gobernatz is worried about the 20 cats she's not able to feed since she's been limited at Hawthorne.

She helped find homes for the friendly strays and set up colonies on the backside of the track around the barns for the other Hawthorne Racetrack cats after they had been altered. Gobernatz is a registered colony caretaker and working legally in Cook County with her colonies. Along with her daughter, they’ve cared for the cats for seven years, shelling out around $130 a week for food.

“Earlier this week, I had contacted the race track to talk about the work being done at other tracks with TNR programs and feral cat colonies,” she said. “I sent them links and wanted to set up a meeting to see if we could do the same thing, maybe take donations and get me some help. When I arrived at the track the next day, I was told that I was now being restricted to two areas.”

She met the following day with Tim Carey, the track’s owner, to plead the case for the Hawthorne Racetrack cat colonies. The meeting didn’t go well.

Black Jack was trapped at Hawthorne Racetrack. The friendly stray now has a home. thanks to Gobernatz.

Black Jack was trapped at Hawthorne Racetrack. The friendly stray now has a home. thanks to Gobernatz.

“I was told that I needed to trap and get the cats off the property, but I could only go to the two areas they had designated,” Gobernatz said. “I asked them – how was I supposed to trap the rest of the cats. They told me they didn’t care. It makes no sense for me to be able to go to just half the cats.”

“I have a blind, sick cat named Cheeto that I’ve not been able to get to for help and they told me I couldn’t go there. I was working with Tree House to get him medical care. It's the time of year to prep the areas for winter and I am so worried about the cats now that this is going on.”

In Cook County, registered colony caretakers have monitored and fed hundreds of colonies in Chicago and it’s suburbs. The cats living on the backside have been vaccinated and either spayed or neutered. In areas with colonies, the rodent population drops off and the cat population stabilizes through colony management.

“It has been such a good thing for the backside of Hawthorne. There are no longer any rats or mice,” she adds. “That is what really has had me worried. There are no rodents for the other cats to eat and I’ve not been feeding them. It’s not good.”

Gloria the goat was rescued from Hawthorne. Carrie Gobernatz had her placed at a farm sanctuary.

Gloria the goat was rescued from Hawthorne. Carrie Gobernatz had her placed at a farm sanctuary.

Since her story has started to get out, investigators from The Anti-Cruelty Society have stepped in to investigate. The Illinois Department of Agriculture is involved. She has a good working relationship with the animal control officer in Stickney, but his team isn’t allowed on the property either.

“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,” adds Gobernatz. “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.”

Once that cats are gone, other strays and ferals will probably move in, creating another situation. Gobernatz is encouraging people to reach out to the management at Hawthorne Race Track while she works to get her story out in hopes that the track’s ownership will change it’s mind.

Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie, Stickney/Cicero, IL 60804 - (708) 780-3700

When I talked to her on Saturday, she was preparing to head out to the track to see what she could get done...if she's allowed back on the property at all. You may follow her efforts on this Facebook page - Save the Hawthorne Kittys.

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    I am a crazy cat lady and puppy mill warrior that blogs to advocate and educate about pet issues. In American animal controls, millions of pets are abandoned each year and an estimated 4 million die just because there are not enough homes. It truly seems like it’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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