Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Important Meeting Friday to Support D.C.'s TNR Program

We're closely tracking the Washington D.C. Draft Wildlife Action Plan as it moves through the local legislative process. There is an important roundtable meeting this Friday with the District's Committee on Transportation and the Environment. We'll be there to read our letter of support below into the record, and you can attend too! You can sign up to speak in person, or write a letter of support that will also be entered into the official record. Just being in attendance is also a powerful statement in support of trap-neuter-return and community cats. The meeting will be held at:

John A. Wilson Building, Room 412
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20004
Meeting starts at 10 a.m.!

If you'd like to speak, you must reserve a spot by contacting Ms. Aukima Benjamin at (202) 724-8062, or by email at If you can't make the meeting or prefer to send comments in writing, you can email them to Ms. Benjamin at the address above. You have until the close of business on Monday, Sept. 21 to submit written comments.

Below is the letter we will read for the record on Friday. Feel free to use it as a template. Local government officials are always eager to hear about the unique experiences of their constituents. Relating your own personal experience with, and support for, trap-neuter-return and community cats in the District adds great value to your testimony, and we strongly encourage you to do so. If signing a petition is more your style, we've got one of those too. Click here to sign, and thank you for speaking out on behalf of community cats!

The Honorable Mary M. Cheh, Chair,
And Members of the Committee on Transportation & the Environment
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite 108
Washington, D.C. 20004

Re: DOEE Draft 2015 District of Columbia Wildlife Action Plan
Dear Council Member Cheh and Members of the Committee,
Before you today is the 2015 update to the District’s Wildlife Action Plan, which contains language calling to “revisit” the long-standing and successful Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program managed by the Washington Humane Society (WHS) and found in the city’s code, § 8–1802. Alley Cat Rescue and our 140,000 members, many of whom reside in the District of Columbia, call on you to strike this language from the plan as TNR is the most effective and humane way of managing feral cat populations.
TNR has a few advantages. First, it immediately reduces the number of community cats living outdoors by placing socialized cats and kittens into adoption programs. Second, it addresses the companion animal overpopulation problem. Every cat put through a TNR program, whether placed into an adoption program or returned to the outdoor trapping site, is spayed or neutered so that no new homeless cats are born. These two factors lead to a leveling off and eventual decrease of colony populations. The spay/neuter procedure also reduces reproductive hormones in cats, which has the added benefit to the community of reducing “nuisance” mating behaviors such as wandering, spraying, yowling, and fighting. Finally, Trap-Neuter-Return programs provide important vaccinations for rabies, feline distemper, and feline leukemia (FeLV). These vaccinations help to keep the cats healthy and form a type of barrier between wildlife diseases and humans. With more community cats vaccinated, there is a smaller chance a person or domestic owned cat will encounter a sick community cat.
By all measures Trap-Neuter-Return has been a success in Washington D.C. The live release rate of healthy cats at WHS has increased nearly 80% since the program’s inception. Euthanasia has fallen 71%, and, most importantly, community cat intake has decreased significantly. This is because there are simply fewer cats living outdoors and in colonies thanks to the TNR program. And because this program is supported entirely by donations, all of this good work and public service has come at no cost to the D.C. taxpayer.
TNR is the best humane method for effectively managing community cats while reducing their numbers. Catch-and-kill strategies, which groups like the American Bird Conservancy advocate for through programs like Cats Indoors, are outdated, ineffective, and costly. Simply removing cats from a space produces a “vacuum effect,” wherein nearby cats move into the empty yet supportive habitat and quickly reproduce to fill the space again. One timely study[i] published earlier this year in the journal Wildlife Research examined the effects of a typical trap-and-shoot effort to reduce the size of a feral cat population. To the author’s surprise, she observed an increase in the number of cats after the cull, at one site an astonishing 211%. With the evidence showing that killing actually leads to an increase in the number of cats, it follows that the cost of such a program would likely increase over time. In fact, a 2013 study[ii] calculated that cruel and inhumane catch-and-kill initiatives would actually cost local governments 4.5 to 9 times more to implement than Trap-Neuter-Return programs.
If the TNR program in the District goes away, the number of outdoor cats will increase as sterilization ceases and new kittens are born. More cats will suffer outdoors, and euthanasia numbers at local shelters will increase. Healthy kittens and cats will be killed simply for lack of a home or program to assist them. By moving away from TNR, the District will condemn itself to an endless and costly cycle of trapping and killing, as each new litter creates more kittens for “removal.”
It is also far from clear that removing community cats from our environment will have any positive effect on plants or wildlife in the District. Eradication efforts for feral cats around the world have been long and costly, and have brought about negative unintended consequences.[iii] Populations of prey animals, like rats and rabbits, often explode[iv] when cats are removed wholesale, and usually go on to produce the same effects on the environment that those culling cats sought to mitigate.
Washington D.C. embarked on a bold and progressive mission in 2004 with the DC Cat pilot program, an initiative to educate the public about community cats and to bring TNR to the District. Over the next four years, as stakeholders and community members saw the success of this program, the District further embraced Trap-Neuter-Return, even writing it into city code in 2008. Since then the program has flourished, accomplishing its goals of reducing shelter intake and euthanasia while humanely reducing the population of outdoor community cats. We demand that you keep this successful program in place and strike the language calling to “revisit” the Washington Humane Society’s Trap-Neuter-Return program from the Draft Wildlife Action Plan.
Do not divert the District’s more than ten-year-long journey toward compassionate care for all cats.


Louise Holton
Alley Cat Rescue

[i] Lazenby, Billie T., Nicholas J. Mooney, and Christopher R. Dickman. “Effects of Low-Level Culling of Feral Cats in Open Populations: A Case Study from the Forests of Southern Tasmania.” Wildlife Research 41.5 (2015): 407–20. Print.
[ii] Zawistowski, S., Simulating different approaches for managing free-roaming cat populations, in 2013 National Council on Pet Population Research Symposium Presentations: CATS: The Ins and Outs: Improving their Future Through Research 2013, Society of Animal Welfare Administrators Tempe, AZ.
[iii] Australian Department of the Environment. “Lessons Learned from Devastating Effects of Cat Eradication on Macquarie Island — Australian Antarctic Division,” January 13, 2009.
[iv] Strickland, Eliza. “Attempt to Control Invasive Species Backfires Spectacularly on an Antarctic Island.” 80beats, Discover Magazine, January 12, 2009.

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