Since he decided he could no longer justify the idea of TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) for urban feral cats, Paul Zhang has seen a lot of cats put down. How many? "I did five cats from a few other people," he told us, before describing taking 62 cats—25 from his own home—to three different vets in Queens to be freed from their mortal coil. "People keep calling me crazy now and won't talk about my solution" he says, "but I told the three vets I used exactly what it is. I am trying to prevent or reduce colony cat suffering. Why would I go through this trouble, to do this? What sick reason could I have?"

Paul Zhang

"I can't bear the thought of my animals getting out or being abandoned," Zhang explains. "So I did the best thing I can consider: For them to never experience any suffering. So I put them all down. Because I also think Animal Care and Control does shit adoptions. I'm sorry, I'm a little prejudiced but I've seen the people that come in to adopt there and I would never let my cats go with them."

Since the story of Zhang's euthanasia spree started making the rounds, he has stopped trapping his colonies to be put to sleep (for now) but hasn't stopped feeding them—with the exception of two colonies in Bushwick near where Anthony was found because "I fear for my life." He says he is desperate for someone to take them over from him and says he has asked multiple groups for help and heard nothing in return. He wants to be clear that he wasn't just picking up kittens off the street but was only going for cats in "his" colonies—which he defined as ones he's been feeding, trapping and neutering for the past few years—and that Anthony the orange tabby's death was an anomaly. In an e-mail he explained: "I can't continue feeding my colonies and I'm choosing to euthanize them to prevent suffering. Trapping Anthony was an unfortunate incident (Hopefully pet owners will keep their pets in from now on from this ordeal)."

Still, it may not be quite the anomaly that Zhang says. We spoke to a vet at one of the animal hospitals which Zhang was using before Anthony was trapped and killed. The vet described Zhang coming in a number of times with truly feral animals (he denied Zhang's claims of having 26 cats killed there). When Zhang came in with one that was clearly tame and had no diseases, he refused to the let the vet put the animal up for adoption one vet finally balked. "I wanted to help him put it up for adoption since it was healthy and didn't show any aggression. It was against our ethics to put that to sleep, I wouldn't do it," the veterinarian said. After that Zhang stopped coming by. Zhang also admits he turned down offers of a cat sanctuary from a third vet he went to for help because he "didn't trust them."

To Zhang, euthanizing the colonies of cats he has been feeding is the "best solution" for how to keep them safe now that he can no longer care for them (he recently left Queens to live in Manhattan and may soon leave the city entirely). "The bottom line is there are more and more stray cats every year on the street. Besides, even if all the cats can be TNRed, people move, people die, people lose their jobs and can’t afford to keep feeding these cats. What then happens to all of these cats?" he asks. "I wish there was a service where we can trap these outside cats and put them to sleep, but it’s not available since it’s considered 'Politically Incorrect.'"

"Putting cats to sleep is very sad, but it is a hard reality we have to face," he argues. "There are just not enough homes and sanctuaries for most of these street cats out there. As sad as it is, it must be done in order to prevent much suffering on the street. Not wanting to put cats to sleep is an emotional response, not a logical one if you really know what’s going on out there."

Meanwhile, the legality of Zhang's actions in a city where we routinely kill geese and rats are not totally clear—despite being incredibly upsetting to many animal lovers. The cats he has had put to sleep have been killed humanely, so charging animal cruelty is difficult. At the same time, with at least one exception, legally they were not "owned" by any people, despite Zhang's claims of ownership (vets here are not supposed to euthanize strays without a waiting period). If Maria Nasta wants to file charges for theft of property (Anthony the cat) she probably can, but without a body to show for it, getting anywhere will be hard—despite Zhang's admission of guilt. And in any event, Nasta has made clear what she really wants is for Zhang to stop putting animals to sleep and receive help.