SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hundreds of stray cats that roam a historic seaside tourist area of Puerto Rico’s capital where they are considered both a delight and a nuisance will be removed over the coming year, under a plan unveiled by the U.S. National Park Service.

The agency said Tuesday that it will contract an animal welfare organization to remove the 200 cats estimated to live on 75 acres surrounding a fortress at the San Juan National Historic Site that the federal agency operates in Old San Juan. If the organization fails to remove the cats within six months, the park service said it would hire a removal agency.

Cat lovers responded to the plan with dismay, but the agency noted that the felines can transmit illnesses to humans. “All visitors will benefit from the removal of a potential disease vector from the park,” the park service plan stated.

The six-month timetable to remove the cats is unrealistic, said Ana María Salicrup, secretary of the board of directors for the nonprofit group Save a Gato, which currently helps care for the cats and which hopes to be chosen to implement the plan.

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