CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Stickney woman who has been caring for a feral cat colony at Hawthorne Race Course says the track's owner has cut her access and wants the colony gone.
Every day for the past seven years, Carrie Gobernatz has gone to Hawthorne to feed the feral cats. She said there are about 40 cats right now, and for eight days, about half of them have had no food or water.
Feral cats are common at horse tracks, and some tracks have programs to care for the animals.
Gobernatz said she spends $130 a week in her own money on cat food alone. Over seven years that's more than $47,000. That figure doesn't count veterinarian bills from when she's able to capture cats and have them spayed, neutered or treated for illnesses or conditions.
She said never had a problem, until a little over a week ago when her feeding sites were cut from seven to two by track owner Tim Carey. She believes some of the cats are now starving.
"I was very, very upset," she said. "There is one sick cat back there that I was supposed to take to Tree House (Spay-Neuter Clinic). I had asked their vet if they could take a look at him, because he was a newer feral. He's blind and sick, and I was medicating his food. They would not let me take him. They wouldn't even let me feed him, and he was right there waiting for me, because the cats wait. They know I'm coming with food."
Gobernatz said the new rules came a day after she had a meeting with Carey, asking him to look at some articles on how other racetracks are handling their feral cat colonies.
"He wants all the cats out, and I can only feed in two areas," she said. "I said, 'I can help and remove the cats, but I can't just not feed half of the cats.' He won't even let me trap in the other areas, as well. I said, 'How can I remove the cats?' He told me, and his exact words were, 'They'll find food elsewhere.' He did not care at all."
About 5,000 people have signed an online petition under the headline, "Hawthorne Racetrack Killing Cats."
In a statement, Hawthorne said Gobernatz has placed food in the barn areas, which has attracted skunks, possums, rats, and raccoons; and has posed a serious disease risk to thoroughbred race horses.
Hawhtorne said they're working with local animal control authorities to relocate and care for the cats.
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