Thursday, April 29, 2010

More from American Bird Conservancy on TNR

Besides trying to use the “cats kill birds angle” to stop the practice of TNR, the ABC also says feral cats are a public health concern. These wildlife groups claim that TNR promotes cats to congregate in particular spots, which allows for disease trans-  (Photo: Don Northup - mission. They say that this increases the likelihood for diseases like rabies to be transmitted to humans because TNR puts cats and humans in close contact with each other.

According to a recent press release by the ABC, President George Fenwick says that feeding stations artificially concentrate animals, which increases the risks of disease transmission. George Fenwick said, “feral cat colonies present an ongoing hazard to human health in communities where they are established as well as birds and other native wildlife.”  The Wildlife Society Blog also adds that rabies is not the only disease potentially transmittable to humans–there’s also toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever, and a variety of other maladies.

The Wildlife Society Blog also says, “If TNR advocates aren’t concerned about the future of our native wildlife, then perhaps human health concerns will get their attention–especially when feral cat colony managers themselves start getting bitten.” The writer goes on to say that us cat activists “reject science and conservation in [our] short-sighted focus on the ‘rights’ of individual cats…”

The ABC constantly tries to convince the public and the government that because cats kill birds, we should kill cats. They also insist that cats are “disease carriers,” providing another reason why we should kill them. Obviously these statements are incorrect, so I will be preaching to the choir, but I will anyway. I will start off by commenting on this last sentence that cat activists “reject science and conservation.” We only reject science when it is “fake” and when wildlife activists refer to studies that have limited data and have not been published. To make a general statement that cats kill “billions” of birds each year when these same “scientists” say they don’t really know how many birds are killed is ridiculous. They want us to believe their “science” when they themselves say that are unsure?? Gary J. Patronek, VMD, Ph.D. Tufts University says this about bird predation statistics, “Whittling down guesses or extrapolations from limited observations by a factor of 10 or even 100 does not make these estimates any more credible, and the fact that they are the best available data is not sufficient to justify their use when the consequences may be extermination for cats…What I find inconsistent in an otherwise scientific debate about biodiversity is how indictment of cats has been pursued almost in spite of the evidence.”

And to say that cat activists are opposed to conservation and that we simply do not care about other animals is absurd! The majority of individuals fighting for cats loves and respects ALL animals. For the ABC to imply that because we support cats that we don’t care about birds is irresponsible. We advocate TNR to not only assist cats but to help improve the situation for all animals (including humans). Those practicing TNR are NOT killing animals; the organizations that are killing animals are the ABC and other so-called wildlife conservation groups. Those who promote TNR reduce cat numbers over time by stopping the breeding cycle; we are not killing anyone. It is the conservationists and the wildlife biologists who support and advocate the eradication of one species over another, when deciding how the natural world should “look.” The game of “cat and mouse or bird” has long been the ways of nature; cat rescuers cannot control this and neither can conservationists. In reaching a compromise both TNR advocates and wildlife conservationist can live with, we all must ask ourselves “why are we (humans) so obsessed with managing the natural world?”

Finally, to claim cats are disease carriers and contact with them increases our chances of contracting a disease is just a scare tactic. I am not denying cats get certain diseases, some which can be transmitted to other species, but the same is true for other animals (squirrels, raccoons, birds, etc). Caretakers, trappers, and veterinarians take precautious when handling feral cats; they wear gloves, use traps, tranquilizers, and some, especially vets/techs/rescuers, have had pre-exposure rabies vaccines. Not to mention, TNRed cats are healthier cats because they are feed, vaccinated and sterilized, reducing the risk of disease transmission. This actually decreases the risk that residents will encounter an unvaccinated cat. PLUS, most feral cats avoid humans and only come in contact with them during the actually trapping and sterilization process…so I say nice try when the blogger says it will get our attention when we start getting bitten.

If anything, cats should be rewarded for their assisting us with public health and safety. Thanks to cats, rodent populations are naturally kept in check; which assists in preventing the spread of certain diseases. Australian Environmentalist Frankie Seymour explains the important role cats have in preventing disease as seen in history. Due to the Witch hunts, “by the late Middle Ages, cats in Europe had been hunted, hanged and burned almost to extinction. Then, of course, the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) arrived in Europe and 25 million people…died in five years because, for several hundred years before, there hadn’t been enough cats to keep the rat population healthy. For the next couple of centuries after ‘the Death’ – centuries which just happened to coincide with the Age of Exploration - cats became popular again. Ships traveling to Asia and Africa were particularly vulnerable to pick up Plague – so cats on ships were considered lucky and necessary.” This is why travelers used to keep cats aboard ships and take them to whatever new lands they were discovering—to control rodents and prevent disease. And they do it naturally; they don’t use poisons or traps like humans, and they get a meal out of it. 

People who strongly oppose cats act like those of us who handle cats get bit ALL THE TIME and that cats go out of their way to “attack” people. It’s a good thing we know the truth and that is why we must continue to spread the truth about cats and TNR!


Zach Feris said...

Interesting arguments. I don't aim to get in the middle of a fight between crazy cat people and crazy bird people, but I do aim to offer a link to further information, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose facts can hardly be cast aside as junk -

Among other interesting facts therein, "More than 90% of all animal rabies cases reported to CDC each year occur in wild animals. The main animals that get rabies include raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. However, most people are exposed to rabies due to close contact with domestic animals, such as cats or dogs."

Greg said...

I understand, appreciate, and even share your compassion for animals. However, you have a lot of misinformation in your blog. But instead of going through it all, I'll just address what you say we all must ask ourselves: "why are we (humans) so obsessed with managing the natural world?

Wildlife management is an absolute necessity if we are to save endangered wildlife and keep common species common. We live in a highly fragmented world, where natural habitats are scattered in patches and it is nearly impossible to find any place not impacted by humans. (Feral cats being just one of those impacts.) Gone is the luxury of just letting "wildlife take care of itself." We are the cause of wildlife declines, and managing what remains is the responsible and ethical thing to do.

Your statement makes me realize how poorly wildlife professionals have promoted their successes. Few people realize that Whitetail Deer, Wild Turkey, and River Otter were eliminated (or nearly so) throughout much of their range prior to our adoption of science-based wildlife management. Whether we like it our not, we have all benefited from the management of wildlife and it is here to stay.

At the heart of wildlife conservation is science-based management to ensure the survival of populations and species. TNR is rooted in emotion and compassion, both admiral, but not effective.

Now for my one question that I believe we all must ask ourselves: "Are we willing to do what is responsible, ethical, and right, even when it is emotionally difficult?"

Anonymous said...

You are missing many important points, but the most important is this -- ALL feral cats are a result of people being BAD pet owners. Letting your cat roam "because it's what they do" is a poor excuse for a pet owner or alleged cat lover. Straying cats are subject to being hit by a car, getting in a fight with other cats, being hurt or killed by wild animals, contracting (& then possibly transmitting) diseases such as Lyme, rabies, etc. These irresponsible pet owners don't even neuter their cats, which then create more stray/FERAL cats. Therefore, your group should focus on educating cat owners AND enacting cat laws at least as strong as those pertaining to dogs (license, vacciante, spay/neuter, AND LEASHING among them).
Your "arguments" against scientists who state the fact that feral & stray cats are not a significant problem for birds is not based on any science and is simply emotional. I have personally seen my neighbor's stray cats in my yard killing birds. All my attempts to educate my neighbor, including asking him to keep his own pets in his yard, failed; his excuses included "it's the country" (it's actually suburbs) & "I've never heard of cats hunting birds". In the space of 5 months, at least 1 of his cats was killed in traffic. Animal control also trapped 5 cats in my yard; 3 were definitely his cats, the others were feral but likely offspring of them based on coloring etc. One of them had large open bleeding sores behind each ear. If you think that's not preventable by requiring cat owners to be at least as legally responsible for their pets as dog owners, then you need to rethink.
Personally, I resent that my tax dollars are being used to fund TNR, especially when these cats are being released again & they then create problems for private homeowners who don't want cats in their yard. A local friend told me that she has over 32 cats congregating in an old barn on her property because of the TNR program; no one has come to feed them but her. She is elderly & can't afford this, but she can't watch them die.
The reality is that PEOPLE are the root of the problem, and TNR does nothing to solve it. I also feel it is NOT humane to simply neuter a cat & then release it again, as it will be subjected to all the other problems that stray cats face (cars, disease, predation, etc.). If you're not willing to put your money where your mouth is and ADOPT the trapped cats, then you show your true colors as well - just another person who might mean well but is actually contributing to the continued cruelty to, & poor pet ownership of, cats in the end.