NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. - It took a lot of time -- and a lot of money -- for Danielle Coogan and her team of volunteers to help the feral cats of Tonawanda Island.
A few years ago, after Coogan noticed more than 100 of these cats roaming free on the island, she raised thousands of dollars to neuter and vaccinate them. It was called "Operation Island Cats," and it was intended to ensure the cats could return to the island and live healthy lives.
A portion of "Operation Island Cats" involved purchasing more than a thousand of dollars in shelters and feeding stations.
This week, Coogan got a phone call-- somehow, a majority of the shelters and feeding stations had been bulldozed on part of the Tonawanda Island property, owned and operated by The Shores Waterfront Restaurant and Marina.
"We were able to salvage about three of them," Coogan said. "The rest were completely destroyed."
The cats are safe. But Coogan and the group Pets Alive Western New York are now helping raise donations to replace the shelters. In the mean time, they are attempting to relocate the colony of feral cats to another part of the island.
The owners of The Shores Waterfront Restaurant and Marina insist this was an accident. Through a statement issued via Facebook, the owners said the cats' equipment was destroyed as crews worked to remove old boats from the property (due to a massive fire at the marina last year).
"The cats are still living on the property. We never agreed to the houses on the property but always allowed them to be there. This was all an accident. We are animal lovers. The restaurant itself has no involvement in this situation," the statement reads.
Coogan said she just wants the equipment replaced.
"Why it was done, or how it was done, is really irrelevant to me. The cats are my main concern, and they always have been," Coogan said. "I have no issue with the restaurant, the owner... I don't know these people personally. I just wanted to help cats."