National coalition of animal health and welfare organizations responds to recent article highlighting cats’ predatory prowess
(ANNAPOLIS, Maryland) February 1, 2013—A recent study and corresponding media reports have cast a negative light on cats by suggesting that they may be responsible for killing perhaps billions of birds and mammals. Dr. Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council, a national initiative comprised of animal health and welfare organizations working on behalf of cats, and a feline practitioner in Maryland today expressed concerns that the study and corresponding articles may hamper the ability of shelters to place cats in adoptive homes.
“We regret the fact that the articles written about the study have maligned cats as a whole, when in fact, the vast majority of the estimated destruction to wildlife was reportedly by feral or stray cats,” she said. “This works to discourage prospective cat owners from adopting one of the hundreds of thousands of healthy, enjoyable cats that are held in shelters across this nation.”
In response to these disparaging articles the CATalyst Council offers the following observations:
1. Responsible cat ownership is best supported by keeping your cat indoors. This is not only for the protection of wild birds and mammals, but also for your cat’s own good. Cars, dogs and people pose a threat to your cat while it roams, as do parasites, fleas and ticks, and chemicals. Part of being a responsible cat owner is keeping your cat safe from harm.
2. Support your local Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) program and the development of other non-surgical ways to sterilize large numbers of animals. Unfortunately, articles written about the study are unclear about the study’s report that feral cats and not pets were responsible for the majority of the estimated deaths. Whether you’re a pet owner or an animal lover, by ensuring feral sterilization programs have the needed local funding, you will be helping to reduce the number of future feral cats in your community.
3. Remember that some of the killed mammals cited in the study are pests, including mice and rats, which reproduce quickly and pose a public health concern when their numbers are allowed to grow unchecked. By helping to reduce the number of rodents, the cats are performing a valuable service.
“I think this study presents an opportunity for discussion about what responsible cat ownership entails and what people can do to help all the animals in their community, including feral cats,” Dr. Brunt continued. “But what we don’t want to see is inflammatory media coverage that discourages cat ownership and portrays cats in a negative light. Because of the millions of cats sent to shelters each year, CATalyst Council has worked hard to enhance community relationships between shelters and veterinarians to solve problems in individual communities, and cat population is a significant one. Commentary in response to the report does nothing to help our shelter population or the people who work so hard to place these wonderful pets in forever homes.”
The CATalyst Council is a national organization which includes a wide variety of animal health and welfare organizations as well as corporate members of the animal health industry that are working together to improve the health and welfare of America’s favorite pet. It was founded in response to troubling statistics released by the American Veterinary Medical Association that indicate an increase in our nation’s pet cat population coupled with a decline in veterinary care for those cats. More information about the CATalyst Council is available at www.catalystcouncil.org.
“Open letter” in Florida Today notes that TNR is effective and saves lives; offers help addressing concerns
BETHESDA, MD – Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats, today published an open letter to county commissioners in Brevard County, Fla. asking them to stop “chipping away” at a longstanding Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) ordinance. The TNR program has benefitted the county by effectively managing the feral cat population and has saved cats from certain death in animal shelters.
“Brevard County has served as a model for humane care for cats since 1999, when it was one of the first U.S. counties to adopt TNR, the only effective and humane approach to feral cats. Since then, thousands of communities across the nation have embraced TNR in place of catch and kill,” said Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies.
Robinson said Alley Cat Allies has offered to provide community education to address any residents’ concerns, and will continue to press on the county to maintain the program. It is also rallying supporters to oppose any efforts to weaken TNR in Brevard County.
“The commissioners have started to dismantle the program, putting cats’ lives at risk,” she said. “This is the wrong direction for the county, its residents and cats.”
The letter, published in the July 18 issue of Florida Today, can also be downloaded at www.alleycat.org/BrevardCounty.
Full text of the letter as published follows:
In 1999, Brevard County recognized the need for a program to address feral cats. County officials knew that endlessly trapping and killing cats was a waste of taxpayer dollars and costing healthy animals their lives.
A pioneer in the United States, Brevard was among the first counties to support and encourage Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) for feral cats, a lifesaving program that keeps feral cats out of shelters—where they are inevitably killed, because they are not socialized and therefore unadoptable. In a TNR program, feral cats are trapped, neutered and vaccinated (boosting community rabies prevention efforts), eartipped for identification and returned to their original outdoor home.
The community came together in support of this humane program. Residents, animal control employees, and county commissioners all wanted to stop killing healthy animals. I know, because I worked alongside the animal control director to help create Brevard’s sustainable TNR program.
For 13 years now, the TNR program has successfully kept feral cats out of shelters, decreasing the amount of tax dollars spent killing healthy animals. Neutering the cats ends the cycle of reproduction and benefits the community. There are no new kittens. The colonies stabilize and reduce over time. Behaviors associated with breeding cats—like yowling, roaming and fighting—stop.
Alley Cat Allies, our 300,000 supporters nationwide, and hundreds of concerned citizens in the county ask that you not lose sight of the reason this program was created—to save cats’ lives. The benefits to the community from this program are vital—fewer calls to animal control, fewer taxpayer dollars spent housing cats only to then kill them, and more time and money available to find homes for adoptable animals.
We understand that some issues have arisen that need to be managed, but in our experience these concerns can be addressed through public education, reminding residents that feral cats are not a threat. At your meeting on May 15, 2012, you barred volunteer caregivers from growing TNR in the county, and announced intentions to chip away at the program. The proposed changes would discourage participation and TNR will suffer countywide. This is the wrong direction.
Brevard County has served as a model. Today, thousands of communities nationwide have embraced TNR. As trustees of your county, we ask that you continue to stand behind your program. We ask compassionate citizens in Brevard County to continue to oppose any changes to county law as those changes would put cats’ lives at risk.
We know that by working together we can address any concerns without compromising the long-standing TNR program and continue to save cats’ lives. Please accept our offer to help you.
# # #
About Alley Cat Allies
Alley Cat Allies is the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats. Founded in 1990, today Alley Cat Allies has more than 300,000 supporters and helps tens of thousands of individuals, communities, and organizations save and improve the lives of cats and kittens nationwide. Their web site is www.alleycat.org.