Here in MD, Baltimore County used to be one of the safer places to be a feral cat, with countless cat rescue organizations practicing TNR and thousands of adoptable cats finding homes, but that might all change, thanks to what is happening in California. The City of Los Angeles recently suspended their TNR policy, due to a court decision favoring the Audubon Society and other conservation groups saying: TNR is causing the decline of bird populations.
Bird and wildlife organizations are propagating that if TNR is promoted by the City, fewer cats will be killed in shelters, meaning more cats will be left in the environment to kill birds. This information is not only false, but it is and WILL cause the unnecessary killing of thousands of cats.
An ACR supporter and rescuer sent a letter to the Baltimore County Health Department to express her concerns over their recent decision to stop supporting TNR, and the response she got was disappointing. The Baltimore County Health Department’s stance is that feral cats are disease carriers and transmit rabies. According to Della J. Leister, R.N. and Deputy Health Officer, “We don't favor feral cat colonies, because it is impossible to make sure that all cats receive annual vaccinations when living in feral colonies. In counties with an active rabies threat such as Baltimore County, to vaccinate a cat once against rabies is NOT sufficient.”
Ms. Leister goes on to say, “The City of Los Angeles recently suspended their trap-neuter-release policy, following the issuance of a court injunction as the result of a lawsuit by the Audubon Society and other bird and wildlife groups, who felt that the TNR program was responsible for greater numbers of bird deaths in the wild. In the face of this sort of crossfire, we find it best to avoid the problem by not encouraging feral cat colonies in the first place.”
So in a county where TNR was once embraced and rescuers and feral cat caretakers were humanely combating cat homelessness, officials have now decided to follow LA’s example and stop supporting TNR. They, too, are buying into these false impressions that TNR promotes feral cat colonies and contributes to the demise of bird populations.
Fortunately, there has been some good news for feral cats and it comes from our nation’s capitol. The local Washington Humane Society (WHS) Animal Control and Animal Care providers all support TNR. In fact, the District of Columbia has finally recognized TNR as the best means of controlling stray and feral cat populations – the City Code was amended in December to read that TNR must be the course of first response when answering constituent inquiries related to stray and feral cat challenges.
According to Bridget Speiser, Director of the National Capital Area Spay & Neuter Center, “all cats that come through CatNiPP (and get spayed/neutered and eartipped) are entered into a spreadsheet and their location is then mapped. If an eartipped cat enters the shelter, CatNiPP is alerted and address of pick-up/surrender is given to us. We then plot that address and look for known colonies in that area. If there are several, we use the cat description to help narrow down which colony s/he belongs to. We can then contact the associated caregiver and work to get the cat returned. If a non-eartipped stray/feral is brought to the shelter by a citizen (in a trap) we make every effort not to intake the cat and to talk TNR right then. Sometimes that works. Sometimes we “do” intake the cat, but then CatNiPP is alerted and we reach out to the citizen to really work to explain the program and get them to believe in taking the cat back to their community – after spay/neuter, of course; we can route the cat(s) straight from the shelter intake to our Center and then release the cat back to the citizen, usually within 24 hours.”
That my friends is how every county-run shelter should operate! There is no need to kill feral cats, when models such as this and countless others across the US are clearly working. Taxpayers are tired of their money being used to trap, process, and kill feral cats, when rescue groups are using private money to implement a humane alternative.
ACR is asking our members to contact LA City Council and the Baltimore County Health Department and urge them to reinstate TNR as the most effective and HUMANE method of controlling feral cats. Also, please contact conservation groups like the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society & the American Bird Conservancy and ask them to STOP making this a cat VERSUS bird issue. Ask them to STOP using false information to scapegoat cats as the reason for the decline in bird populations. Tell these groups, us cat rescues want to work WITH them not against them on protecting ALL animals.
Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa
Los Angeles City Hall
200 N. Spring Street
LA, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 978-0600
Fax: (213) 978-0750
Carmen A. Trutanich, City Attorney
200 N. Main Street
LA, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 978-8100
Fax: (213) 978-8312
Link to list of LA City Council Members:
Della J. Leister, R.N.
Deputy Health Officer
Baltimore County Department of Health
National Wildlife Federation
National Audubon Society
American Bird Conservancy