Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

Looking back on another year behind us, cats once again were in the spotlight in 2010. Numerous stories touched our hearts and proved progress is being made, especially for feral cats. More communities and even entire states took to adopting humane methods of controlling cat populations and embracing TNR programs in 2010. We saw several animal-related bills passed, including the Truth in Fur Labeling Act and the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act; (but with many more bills still waiting to be passed, don’t forget to contact your Senators and Representatives to ensure animal welfare legislation is passed to protect our furry friends!) The US Postal Service released “Adopt a Shelter Pet” stamp series and social media tools like Facebook and Twitter helped animal rescue groups across the world connect with one another to save more animals and raise more funds to keep up the good fight.   

As we ring in a new year, we must remain strong and dedicated in our fight for animals, for 2010 also had its share of setbacks in the cat world. From Richmond International Airport to the San Francisco Police Department to Australia and New Zealand to China and Korea, cats were targeted, tortured and killed. Some were killed for their fur and/or meat, while others were killed as part of pest control management plans. But no matter the reason, cats continue to be exploited by humans for some sort of profit or gain. Wildlife conservation groups like the American Bird Conservancy, the Audubon Society and the Urban Wildlands Group, continue to bombard the media with false information about cat predation and its effects on the environment in an attempt to outlaw TNR programs and feeding community cats. Even PETA, the largest animal rights group, has lost its way in protecting cats and believes that dead cats are “happier” cats.

So as we head into a new year, let us remember those who we have lost and those we continue to fight for. Let us not dwell on the things we cannot change and have the courage to stand up and fight for the things we can. At times it will feel like an uphill battle and we may want to give up, but at other times small victories will be celebrated and our spirits renewed. It is those victories that remind us to push forward, up the mountain, so that we may reach the top and gaze out over the vast horizon of possibilities and enjoy our sense of accomplishment. So hang in there, all of you who work so selflessly in the trenches, fighting the good fight, and know there will come a time when activists get our due and cats will receive the compassionate treatment they deserve. Have a Happy New Year!      

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Call to Action: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Releases Report that Suggests Shooting Feral Cats

If you have not already heard this week’s buzz in the cat world, here it is. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln released a report entitled “Feral Cats and Their Management.” This so-called “new” report is nothing more than the same old MISinformation, plagued with errors, exaggerations, glaring omissions, and inexcusable bias. The research and data they refer to in their report can be traced back to a handful of deeply flawed studies. The report goes onto dismiss fertility control or TNVR as an effective management practice and suggests lethal control, like shooting.

In suggesting non-lethal methods of control, the report mentions how habitat modification, sprinklers and chemical repellants can help (but that does nothing to address reproducing, they simply keep cats away) before going onto discuss fertility control. Here the report ignores statistical information regarding the effectiveness of TNR, saying “no real-world example of eliminating a colony through TNVR exists” and calls any evidence “anecdotal.” Did they even bother to talk with the university’s feral cat management group that TNR’s the campus cats? I don’t think so. The report then suggests shooting cats or using leg-hold traps, body-gripping traps and snares to manage their populations. The document goes into detail on how cats should be shot with a shotgun or rifle “between the eyes” or “in the heart/lung area.” Have these people not heard of animal cruelty laws? It is illegal in the US to shoot a cat, whether it is owned or not.

The authors of this report might as well come out and say they do not like cats and think eradication is the only solution, because it is clear that they have little understanding of the key issues surrounding TNR—never mind the relevant science. Hildreth, Vantassel, and Hygnstrom misinterpret and/or misrepresent nearly every bit of research they reference; some of what they include isn’t valid research to begin with. And by the way, Mr. Hygnstrom is a pest specialist and Mr. Vantassel, wildlife damage expert, is the author of “Dominion over Wildlife: An Environmental Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations;” which he dedicates to “thousands of sports-people who continue to be connected to the earth in an environmentally responsible way. In particular, this book is dedicated to fur trappers who, every winter, brave the harsh weather in continuance of America’s oldest industry. Regrettably, they must also endure the ravages of urban sprawl and the derision of an ungrateful and ignorant public. It is my ardent hope that this book will help Christians and non-Christians alike appreciate the vital role that trappers play in the responsible management of our natural resources. May the traps of these great sports-people be always full.”

Reports endorsed by academic institutions carry a great deal of weight with the public and, as this week has shown, the mainstream media. It’s generally expected that the conclusions and recommendations presented in such work are the result of carefully considered “evidence.” In this case, “Feral Cats and Their Management” has shown no real evidence to the public, but rather the complete opposite. There’s nothing ethical—either in terms of the research itself or its obvious implications—about what Hildreth, Vantassel, and Hygnstrom have done here. I’ve read that Vantassel considered that some people would be “very offended that we offered any type of lethal control method,” but felt that because it was written for public consumption rather than for a scientific journal, publication of the report was somehow acceptable. Apparently, Vantassel didn’t consider that some of us would actually look into the science underpinning the work.

There are legitimate issues to be debated concerning feral cats, but attempts at an honest, productive debate are hampered, if not derailed entirely, by researchers who put their personal agenda ahead of professional integrity.

Alley Cat Rescue is urging our members to please contact the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and express your concerns regarding this report. This report is insulting to those of us who actually work everyday to help manage the feral cat population. We could be protecting both birds and cats (all wildlife) if we could just have an honest and accurate conversation.

(Vox Felina takes a good look at the report in his blog posts Adult Supervision Required, Adult Supervision Required II, and Adult Supervision Required III.)

Contact Information:

Donald A Wilhite (faculty, volunteer)
Director School of Natural Resources, Agronomy & Horticulture

Tala N Awada (faculty, volunteer)
Assoc Professor School of Natural Resources

Ronald D Green (faculty, staff, volunteer)
Vice Chancellor Animal Science

Steven S Waller  (faculty, volunteer)
Dean Agronomy & Horticulture, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

David A Wedin  (faculty, volunteer)
Professor School of Natural Resources, Agronomy & Horticulture
Also: Member of the Faculty Leadership Committee

Mark E Burbach  (faculty)
Assoc Geoscientist Survey Division - School of Natural Resources
Also: Teaching Coordinator

Monday, December 06, 2010

ACR Hosts Santa Paws at Local Petsmart Stores this Weekend

Alley Cat Rescue is once again joining Petsmart to celebrate their annual Santa Paws fundraiser. The holiday season is a time to create warm memories with loved ones and to enjoy the company of family. However, for many, the holidays are as just a reminder of hopelessness and homelessness. Countless cats wander the streets with no cozy home to return to and no family to smother them with hugs and kisses. Fortunately, some cats are lucky enough to end up at Alley Cat Rescue, where they will be given a second chance to experience a loving home with a family who will cherish them forever. So this holiday season, please remember those who may not be as fortunate, by stopping by a local Petsmart store to help those in need. 

Bring your animal companions to Petsmart in the next two weekends and have their picture taken with Santa Paws! For only $9.95 with your Pet Perks Card, you will receive a color photo of your pet(s) with Santa in a festive holiday frame. For each photo purchased, Petsmart will donate $5.00 to ACR.

Alley Cat Rescue will be at the Laurel, MD Petsmart store located at the intersection of Route 1 (Baltimore Ave) and Contee Rd on December 11th and 12th from 11am to 4pm, and at the Calverton, MD Petsmart store located on Cherry Hill Rd on December 11th, 12th and 18th from 11am to 4pm.   

Bring a kitty home for the holidays! Alley Cat Rescue cats and kittens looking for forever homes are always available for adoption at the Calverton Petsmart store and can also be viewed online. So if you have room in your home and your heart, there are plenty of furry friends awaiting a warm devoted family to overwhelm them with the love they deserve. For more information on our cats, please contact Alley Cat Rescue by email at or by calling 301-277-5595.