Friday, March 27, 2009

CATS VERSUS BIRDS: THE DEBATE CONTINUES

With a new report out from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the debate of bird versus cat continues. According to a statement from Darin Schroeder, Vice President for Conservation Advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy, “[all] across America, birds face a gauntlet of threats to their survival including pesticides, collisions, domestic cats, and habitat loss.” Schroeder says that the US continues to permit imported produce that has been treated with banned pesticides, and that the ever-changing skyline contributes to “hundreds of millions of birds [dying] each year by colliding with towers and buildings.” He also discusses unsustainable land use practices, such as the continued logging of old-growth forests as a contributing factor in the decline of bird populations. However, it always comes back to the cats. Schroeder says that cats take a “heavy toll” on wildlife when they are permitted outdoors, mentioning feral colonies that are “allowed to persist”.

Number one, two studies most often quoted are the Stanley Temple study and the Churcher/Lawton study. Some groups use these studies in misguided efforts to discredit work to humanely control feral cats. Over sixty studies have been done on different continents all showing three very important points:

• Primarily, cats are opportunistic feeders, and will utilize whatever food source is most prevalent, including supplemental feeding by humans, garbage and carrion (Berkeley, 2001; Winograd, 2003).

• Cats are rodent specialists. Of the cats that rely on hunting, the majority of their diet consists of mammals (Berkeley, 2001; Fitzgerald, 1988). The feline hunting style of wait and pounce is unsuitable for flying birds. Frequently, the flying birds consumed are injured or already dead (Berkeley, 2001).

• Cats may prey on a population without destroying it. If this weren't so, we would no longer have any mice around. Many international biologists agree with biologist C.J. Mead that “any bird populations on the continents that could not withstand these levels of predation from cats and other predators would have disappeared long ago...”

Number two, the combined efforts of rescue groups and individuals to trap-neuter-return (TNR) feral cats helps to manage the perceived problems associated with feral cat colonies. Removing colonies and total eradication methods are ineffective, plus highly costly. Where there are humans, there will be cats. Removing a colony of cats will only lead to a “vacuum effect” (Tabor, Roger. “The Wild Life of the Domestic Cat,” p. 183 (1983). The empty space created will allow for other cats to quickly move in and repopulate the area. And in some cases, eradication is counter-productive, and the removal of cats causes an explosion in the local rodent populations. (This simply creates another problem.) TNR cats are sterilized (and vaccinated); the reproductive cycle is stopped, a rabies buffer between wildlife and humans is created, and an established colony will keep out other cats by its presence.

Number three, more resources need to be put into low-cost spay/neuter programs to help individuals sterilize their pets and prevent unwanted litters in the first place. Prevention is a BIG part of the solution. We need to decriminalize the feeding of stray/feral cats, and provide public education programs to decrease the number of homeless cats. Working with cat organizations instead of against them is the key to solving the homeless pet population problem.

In 2003, an article published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association “evaluate[d] the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return program, with adoption whenever possible, on the dynamics of a free-roaming cat population.” The article states “at completion of the study in 2002, the population had decreased by 66%, from 68 to 23 cats.” With the following as their conclusion: “a comprehensive long-term program of neutering followed by adoption or return to the resident colony can result in reduction of free-roaming cat populations in urban areas.” (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:42–46) As more of these studies and observations are performed, TNR is becoming a more accepted method of controlling the feral cat population, and even cities, like Baltimore, MD, are adopting TNR as their preferred method of control.

In the end, ACR believes all animals, whether exotic, alien, introduced, non-native, or so-called pests, are sentient beings and should be given humane care and treatment. If a species needs controlled in order to preserve another, then all humane, non-lethal methods should be utilized. In this day and age, everyone should be trying to instill more compassionate ethics towards the earth and all of her inhabitants.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ACR's Response to Canadian News Article

According to an article in The Windsor Star, a Canadian newspaper, a local animal shelter has “banned” feral cats. The change has come after the new Provincial Animal Welfare Law was recently passed. The new law is tougher on animal cruelty and also requires shelters to keep cats for three days before euthanizing them. With shelter space already limited humane society executive director Melanie Coulter said, “We've had to make tough choices, and we have absolutely no option.”

The article goes on to say that about 500 wild cats were taken to the shelter last year and all were promptly put down. The shelter will continue to accept stray cats, but again The Windsor Star says, “even stray cats…have a limited shelf life at the local shelter.” The Humane Society received about 5,900 cats last year (strays, wild, and surrendered), and Coulter said “a disturbingly large number” of those, about 4,600, were eventually put down after new homes could not be found. The humane society says the large-scale cull is unavoidable.

Here’s a thought…why not implement a TNR program?! Ferals would not even go to shelters (unless they are helping with sterilization), and sterilizing free-roaming cats would prevent unwanted litters. But to say there is “absolutely no option” is absurd. The key to decreasing the number of animals ending up in shelters is to stop the cycle…the breeding cycle. The current process of taking in animals and killing them is not solving the problem; this ineffective and costly cycle must be broken if the pet overpopulation crisis is ever to make any head way.

Lastly, for the newspaper’s reporter, Doug Schmidt to equate animals to food items, suggesting they have an expiration date or “shelf life” trivializes the fact that these are living creatures not items that can simply be tossed in the trash when they “expire”. And for the shelter’s director to compare feral cats to raccoons and opossums, reiterates the ignorance individuals display when controlling “pest” animals. We do not round up all the raccoons and opossums to euthanize them, nor should we. The time is NOW for us to take responsibility…humanely.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hempfield, PA Cats Need Your Help

On Monday, a resident of Beech Hills in Hempfield, PA presented the township supervisors with a petition, requesting something be done about the feral cats in the neighborhood. The woman says there are about 30 free-roaming cats in the area; one of which allegedly clawed another resident. Neighbors complain of individuals feeding the cats, saying that is the reason for their breeding.

The supervisors voted to modify their contract with Hoffman Kennels in Delmont, the township's animal control officer, to allow the company to start trapping feral cats. Though there is no report of what will happen to the cats after being trapped, ACR encourages Animal Control to implement a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program. Rather than trapping and killing the cats, those who are socialized should be placed into an adoption program and those who are truly feral be sterilized, vaccinated, and returned to the neighborhood. Residents with particular complaints (cats on their property, fighting, attracting other wildlife) can alleviate these problems by following a few simple steps, with TNR being a big step.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Encourage the Hempfield Township Supervisors to implement TNR instead of trap and kill. Below is a list of contact information.

JOHN SILVIS
Chairperson
Phone: (724) 834-7232 or (724) 864-7378
Extension: 114
E-mail: jsilvis@hempfieldtwp.org

JOHN BOSSI
Vice Chairperson
Phone: (724) 834-7232 or (724) 864-7378
Extension: 116
E-mail: jbossi@hempfieldtwp.org

R. DOUGLAS WEIMER
Secretary
Phone: (724) 834-7232 or (724) 864-7378
Extension: 118
E-mail: dougweimer@hempfieldtwp.org

TOM LOGAN
Treasurer
Phone: (724) 834-7232 or (724) 864-7378
Extension: 117
E-mail: tlogan@hempfieldtwp.org

BOB DAVIDSON
Member
Phone: (724) 834-7232 or (724) 864-7378
Extension: 115
E-mail: bdavidson@hempfieldtwp.org

Hempfield Township Board of Supervisors
1132 Woodward Drive, Suite A
Greensburg, PA 15601
Phone 724.834.7232
Fax 724.834.5510

Monday, March 23, 2009

31 Cats, 2 Dogs, and 1 Rabbit

On February 24th and 26th, Alley Cat Rescue, with the assistance of the Brentwood Animal Hospital, participated in Spay Day USA, an annual event intended to provide low-cost spays and neuters to families around the country who want to have their pet fixed. Spaying and neutering is the first line of defense against pet homelessness. When an animal is spayed or neutered it gives other animals a greater chance of getting adopted, because there are not unnecessary litters taking up space. Spaying and neutering also provide health benefits, such as eliminating the risk of testicular or ovarian cancer. It also helps to curb unwanted behaviors, such as male cats spraying.

Our ability to participate in Spay Day USA is directly related to the support of our members, and ACR would like to thank each and every one of you!

A story about ACR’s Spay Day also appeared in the Maryland Gazette newspaper.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Town Votes for TNR

The Huntington (NY) Town Board has approved a TNR program to control the town’s feral cat population. The Department of Public Safety’s Division of Animal Control will perform the trapping/releasing and a local veterinary hospital will perform the sterilizations and vaccinations. Dr. Russell Fredericks of the North Shore Animal Hospital has also agreed to offer his services at a greatly discounted rate.

“This humane solution to the risks posed by feral cats will help protect our residents’ health and address what can be a significant quality of life issue,” Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said. Councilwoman Susan A. Berland added, “This measure keeps Huntington at the forefront of government’s efforts to control animal populations safely and humanely.”

According to the Huntington Local, the “program will continue to enhance the widely respected reputation of the Town of Huntington’s Division of Animal Control. The Town’s animal shelter is the only municipal shelter in the area that is open seven days a week until 6 p.m. It is also the only shelter that accepts cats.”

ACR is pleased to hear this news and is encouraged that by one more city implementing TNR, someday TNR will become the standard for managing feral cats.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cats in Petaluma, CA Still in Trouble

In February 2008, we posted a blog about the situation concerning feral cats residing in Petaluma, CA. Recently, we learned that the situation has not improved and the cats still need our help!

Since passing the feral cat ordinance in 2004, cats have been banned from most areas of the City of Petaluma and the situation remains the same―desperate! Each year, since the passing of the ordinance, hundreds of cats are trapped and killed, as Animal Control’s and the City’s method of handling the situation. Therefore, local rescue groups, like the Petaluma Coalition for Feral Cats, have been fighting to stop the killing and persuade city officials to implement TNR programs to control feral cat populations. And they can use all the help they can get.

HOW TO HELP:

Visit Care2’s website to sign the petition to stop the killing: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/5/stop-killing-the-feral-cats-and-bees-in-petaluma

Contact the members of the City Council to express your disapproval with their method of controlling feral cats:

Pamela Torliatt, Mayor
707-763-6825

Karen Nau, Vice Mayor
707-778-4521
KPetersonnau@aol.com

Mike O'Brien, Council
707-778-4525
petalumamike@aol.com

Mike Harris, Council
707-773-3196
mike4pet@aol.com

Teresa Barrett, Council
707-953-0846
teresa4petaluma@comcast.net

David Rabbitt, Council
707-971-0272
david@davidrabbitt.com

Samantha Freitas, Council
freitaspr@comcast.net

Eric Danly, City Attorney
707-778-4362
attorney@ci.petaluma.ca.us

Mike Bierman, City Manager
707-778-4345
citymgr@ci.petaluma.ca.us

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More States to Vote on Bills to Stop Gassing Animals

According to the Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia, the proposed Senate Bill 501 would amend the current state code to specifically forbid the use of a gas chamber to euthanize an animal. Kessler, who owns four dogs, introduced the bill last week after being approached by Betty Burkett, president of the West Virginia Federation of Humane Organizations. “I have seen the injections done,” Burkett said. “They just go limp. You don't leave them by themselves. Somebody is there with them...It would be less stressful on a person to see the way the animal goes down versus just putting them in a box and walking away.”

However, some animal control officials disagree, arguing that the carbon monoxide chamber can sometimes work better than lethal injection, particularly when handling vicious dogs and feral cats. “To put your hands on a dog like that and try to hold it and stick a needle in its arm, it's very tough,” said Lila Beth, executive director of Marion County Animal Control. She continued by saying, “what if you stick yourself?” Beth also added that other risks include the drug squirting out of the syringe into a technician's eye or an animal with rabies biting someone.

Georgia State Representative Tom Knox has also introduced House Bill 606 (“Grace’s Law”), which would ban the use of gas chambers by public animal shelters as a means of euthanizing cats and dogs in Georgia. The bill would also prohibit “heartstick” as a means of euthanization except on unconscious or comatose animals in certain situations and would mandate humane lethal injection or oral ingestion of sodium pentobarbital as the only means of euthanasia allowed throughout the State of Georgia. The Georgia Humane Euthanasia Act, which became law in 1990, mandates the use of sodium pentobarbital or a derivative as the exclusive method for euthanasia of animals in public shelters; however, there are exceptions that have allowed some shelters to continue to use animal gas chambers in Georgia.

Thirteen states currently ban the use of carbon monoxide to euthanize animals, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Let’s keep working to get the remaining states to do the same.

HOW TO HELP:

West Virginia Senate Bill 501:
Contact your local state Senate representative.

Georgia House Bill 606:
For more information and who to contact visit http://network.bestfriends.org/georgia/news/