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Non Lethal Control
There Are Effective Alternatives to Trap and Kill!
© Laurie Goldstein www.StrayPetAdvocacy.org
Animal Control. The most commonly employed method of animal control for feral cat population management is to capture and euthanize feral or unowned cats (often referred to as "trap and kill" versus an alternative, "trap-neuter-return" or "TNR"). No one knows how many feral cats there are in the U.S. and estimates are wide ranging (credible estimates range from 13 million to 87 million). Given that cities and towns throughout the United States have employed the method of trap and kill for decades, it is clear that this method of animal control is not effectively addressing the "pet overpopulation" problem.
Eradication Does Not Work. In her article, "Feral Cats - Extermination is not the Answer" (©1994, 1995, 2000, 2002, see link below), Sarah Hartwell cites the example of Marion Island, a small "inhospitable" island (12 miles x 8 miles) off the coast of South Africa. In 1949, a group of scientists left the island, leaving behind five unsterilized cats. By 1975 there were 2,500 cats on the island preying on ground-nesting seabirds. Deliberate infection with feline enteritis killed about 65% of the cats. The remaining 35% developed immunity and continued to breed. Jack Russell terrier dogs were used to flush out the remaining cats, and between 1986 and 1989 further cats were exterminated by hunting. At that time, it was determined that further poisoning was necessary. Poison that also killed the birds was used to eliminate the balance of the cat population. No cats were seen in 1991.
It took 16 years to eradicate 2,500 isolated cats from a small island with "rapid" methods of eradication that could not be used in populated areas. How can euthanization be successful as a method of animal control anywhere that new animals can move in and recolonize cleared areas?
There Is an Alternative. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is becoming recognized as an efficient and cost-effective tool for controlling and reducing feral cat populations. The concept is simple. Trap the cats, test them for lethal disease, euthanize those that test positive; for those that test negative, vaccinate, spay or neuter, then return those cats to the colony/area where they were found. As the cats can no longer reproduce, the colony diminishes in size over time. Additionally, by reducing or eliminating mating, the behavior of unsterilized animals that includes fighting and wandering (looking for mates) is eliminated. TNR not only controls the unchecked growth of unsterilized animals, it improves the health, behavior and quality of life of the affected animals.
TNR Works. According to the Feral Cat Coalition based in San Diego, since implementing a TNR program, the number of cats impounded and killed was 50% lower after five years. The reduction in the trap and kill rate was achieved with an adoption rate from shelters that remained constant and despite area (human) population growth. Prior to the implementation of TNR, the rate of cats impounded and killed was rising at a 15% annual rate. TNR works.
TNR Does Not Create the Cats - They Are Already There. Many communities throughout the U.S. have implemented TNR programs, however they cannot do it without state and local legislative support. For instance, it cannot be a crime to feed feral animals. Feeding feral animals must not make the caregiver solely responsible for them as an "owner." Further, many communities throughout the U.S. have tried to implement TNR programs, but have faced stiff argument by those who fear the "establishing" or "encouraging" of feral cat colonies. These arguments are ridiculous for a very simple reason. The cats are already there. The concept of TNR is to manage the population of cats that is already in your neighborhood, on your block, or wandering your farm. TNR does not create the cats. In fact, a strong argument against trap and kill methods of animal control is simply the large number of feral and stray cats in shelters or that remain homeless across this country. The trap and kill programs have not worked and are not working. According to Karen Johnson in "A Report on Trap/Alter/Release Programs" © 1995 (see link below), "Cats are territorial. They don't allow other cats into their territory to steal their food. Altered cats will stand their ground and guard their food source, will not have kittens, and will die in a few years. Remove the cat(s) from the habitat without changing the habitat and another cat will move in."
In a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association (see link below), Karl I. Zaunbrecher, DVM wrote: "the presence of feral cats in a place indicates an ecologic niche for approximately that number of cats; the permanent removal of cats from a niche will create a vacuum that then will be filled through migration from outside or through reproduction within the colony, by an influx of a similar number of feral cats that are usually sexually intact; and removal of cats from an established feral colony increased the population turnover, but does not decrease the number of cats in the colony.
....Furthermore, the repeated influx of new cats into the colony increased territorial and hierarchic fighting, increased the probability that new diseases will be introduced into the colony, and generally exacerbated the very behavioral patterns for which feral cats are usually labeled a nuisance.(1) If population numbers could be stabilized and turnover could be reduced, territorial behavior within the colony would discourage migration into the colony from outside, resulting in a group of cats that should be healthier, quieter, and more acceptable to their human neighbors." ((1) See article in link below for reference material).
There IS a Solution! Your city, your county - YOU - pay for the handling of the feral cats and their offspring through your taxes. The math is simple. Reducing the population growth of feral cats substantially reduces the number of animals handled by animal control each year, it impacts the rate of required euthanizations and cremations, and thus reduces the tax burden of your community.
Please use the links below to access studies, reports and articles written on trap-neuter-release programs. We include links to successful TNR programs implemented in cities, counties and on college campuses throughout this country. TNR has worked for those that have tried it. Your community can do it too!
Articles & Links
Alley Cat Allies are the foremost experts on feral cats. The organization promotes non-lethal control for feral and stray cats with Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs that effectively reduce their population by sterilization - not euthanasia. They have created and host extensive resources for organizing and advocacy in addition to resources for implementing TNR programs and caring for feral colonies. If you have trouble with any of the above links, please visit the Alley Cat Allies' Resources page directly at: http://www.alleycat.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=191
"A Report on Trap/Alter/Release Programs," ©1995 Karen Johnson, National Pet Alliance. If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.fanciers.com/other-faqs/feral-trap.html
Feral Cat Coalition (San Diego) "Is spay/neuter/release working? Statistics from the San Diego Department of Animal Control as of 6/30/97 show that while the number of cats adopted or claimed by owners has remained fairly constant over the years, there has been a decrease of almost 50% in the number of cats impounded and killed as compared to 1992 (when the FCC clinics started). Before the FCC was formed, the number of cats impounded and killed had been going up 15% per year!" If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.feralcat.com/
"Neutering of Feral Cats as an Alternative to Eradication Programs," Karl I. Zaunbrecher, DVM, and Richard E. Smith, DVM, MPH. This article was printed in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Volume 203, Number 3, August 1, 1993 and is hosted on San Diego's Feral Cat Coalition site ( www.feralcat.com ). It comes from the Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. As the Feral Cat Coalition points out, "though this study was on a rather small population, it was well designed and executed and the results can reasonably be taken to represent other populations." If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.feralcat.com/zaunbrecher.html
"Feral Cats - Extermination is not the Answer" ©1994, 1995, 2000, 2002, Sarah Hartwell. "...It took 16 years to eradicate 2,500 isolated cats from a small island with "rapid" methods of eradication that could not be used in populated areas. How can euthanization be successful as a method of animal control anywhere that new animals can move in an recolonize cleared areas?" If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.messybeast.com/eradicat.htm
Trap, Test, Vaccinate, Alter and Release Program of the National Pet Alliance. "Free roaming and feral cats account for the majority of animals euthanized at humane societies and animal shelters each year. Two studies, one in Santa Clara County and one in San Diego County, have shown that stray and feral cats comprise 36-41% of the entire known cat population. These unowned cats are fed by 9-10% of all households. Yet, few households will take the initiative to capture the cats and take them to the vet to be altered. As an answer to this problem, the National Pet Alliance has initiated the TTVAR Program. TTVAR means Trap, Test, Vaccinate, Alter and Release. The TTVAR program encompasses the trapping of the cats with humane traps, testing the cats for FeLV/FIV, euthanizing those cats which test positive, vaccinating (distemper, FeLV and rabies), altering and releasing those cats that test negative." If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.fanciers.com/npa/ttvar.html
AzCATS - Arizona Cat Assistance Team, includes TNR Facts and Frequently Asked Questions about TNR, particularly in Arizona. If you have trouble with the link above, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://azcats.org
Operation Catnip. "The plight of feral cats has captured the hearts of animal lovers for many years, but only recently has a non-lethal option for their control become available. Called a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, this humane alternative involves spaying or neutering feral cats, then returning them to their colonies were they are looked after and fed by caretakers. This solution successfully decreases the population, reduces birth rates and improves the overall health of the colony. Performed on a large scale, the success of such programs is felt at animal shelters where fewer cats are admitted for euthanasia. Founded in 1998, Operation Catnip-Gainesville is the second Operation Catnip chapter to join the national effort to reduce feral cat populations through free TNR programs for unowned, feral cats." If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.operationcatnip.org/ 10/31
Free TNR Mini-Course from Neighborhood Cats. This is also available in Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese from links on their homepage. If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/uploads/File/howto/TNRmini-courseENGLISH.pdf 7/18/04
A Property Owner's Guide to Feral and Stray Cats by TLC Online - For the Love of Cats; The Zimmer Foundation. Article to present to landlords or property owners dealing with possibly nuisance feral cat colonies on the benefits of TNR. The "How to Start TNR at Your Site" is targeted to the Ann Arbor, Michigan area with the organization available to help, but the article itself is pertinent in all areas. If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://tlconline.org/art/0007.html 1/29/05
Santa Clara County Report and Proposal for TNR. This report was presented to the Santa Clara County Animal Advisory Commission as an alternative to a proposal by the Department of Animal Control to establish cat rabies licensing as a method to fund feral cat trapping. In the report, the cost of the Test/Vaccinate/Sterilize program ($52) is compared to the cost of a 3-day required stay at a shelter ($70) and the handling of 3,200 offspring ($224,000). If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://cfainc.org/articles/trap-alter-release.html
Feral Cat Coalition Clinic Procedures. Complete details for running a Feral Cat Coalition type clinic practicing and supporting trap-neuter-release programs. If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.feralcat.com/pindex.html
"A Model for Humane Reduction of Feral Cat Populations," Michelle S. Chappell, DVM as published in the California Veterinarian, September/October 1999. If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.feralcat.com/michelle.html
How To Start A Feral Cat Program by Leslie Wilson A guide for individuals or rescue organizations on how to start and support a Trap-Neuter-Return program for local feral colonies. If you have trouble with this link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.maddiesfund.org/Resource_Library/How_to_Start_a_Feral_Cat_Program.html
Jazzpurr Society for Animal Protection's Feral/Stray Cat Spay/Neuter Program. (Then click the "Feral Fix Program" link) "To assist other communities who wish to implement a no-kill solution, we are posting all of our Standard Operating Procedures for our Spay/Neuter Program for Stray and Feral Cats." Includes the proposal to the City of Windsor, Ontario, Canada to control the feral/stray cat population. If you have trouble with this link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.jazzpurr.org/ then click the "Feral Fix Program" link. 1/25/04
Stray and Feral Cats in the State of Pennsylvania: Presentation to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, by Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance. This was a presentation to the Game Commission on a proposal that would essentially outlaw Trap-Neuter-Return programs in Pennsylvania as well as proposing the "solution" to the feral cat problem to be eradication. This proposal, which included other wildlife management issues, has since been amended and passed with domestic cats, feral or otherwise, not falling under the mandates of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. If you have trouble with this link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.pawsofpa.org/TNRPositionPaper.pdf 1/25/04
Feral Cat Colony Tracking System by Alley Cat Allies "This form will enable you to identify and track the individual cats in your colony and chart the progress of your trap-neuter-return program. Please send us a copy to help us gather statistics on feral cat colonies, which are vital to promoting the effectiveness of nonlethal control. Use the Trap-Neuter-Return procedures as recommended in Alley Cat Allies' factsheets." If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.alleycat.org/NetCommunity/Document.Doc?id=45
American Cat Project: Controversial Questions about Sterilization (TNR) If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.americancat.net/TNR.html 04/16/06
American Cat Project: Controversial Questions about Removal (Programs) If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.americancat.net/removal.html 04/16/06
TNR and The Law: What Feral Caretakers Need to Know Article by Heidi Bickel of Stray Pet Advocacy that examines legal issues that feral cat caretakers should be aware, how to avoid complaints, and how to deal with animal control. Also available in PDF Format for printing. If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.straypetadvocacy.org/PDF/TNR&TheLaw.pdf 4/2/04
"Cats: There Ought to be a Law..." Delineates the various ways that cities and municipalities have attempted to deal with the "nuisance" of feral and unowned cats, and the only logical solution of TNR. If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.naiaonline.org/body/articles/archives/catsthere.htm 10/20
MuniCode.com "Contained on this website are Codes for more than 1,100 local governments" Use this website to search for local codes and ordinances. If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.municode.com/ 3/20/04
To find out more about state laws and legislation pertaining to animals, visit www.animallaw.com and use the search tool.
Animal Protection Institute Legislation Stay up to date on state and federal legislation, the status of bills, and who to contact to support or oppose the legislation. If you have trouble with this link, please copy and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/b4_legislation.php