Thursday, March 12, 2015

Out-of-the-Box Thinking on Outdoor Cats A Guest Blog By: Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States

Cat advocates, wildlife conservationists, legislators, and public health representatives have long struggled with the issue of managing outdoor cats. And it’s no small matter, since there could be as many as 40 million community (feral and stray) cats now living in the United States, of which just two percent are sterilized and vaccinated.

As perhaps the only group in the debate with dozens of staff devoted to protecting companion animals and also to protecting wildlife, The HSUS believes in humane control where cats are trapped humanely, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and then returned (TNR) to the communities in which they were found. For decades, we’ve been encouraging people to keep their cats safe indoors. We work with local and state lawmakers across the country to implement policies supporting TNR, and just last year, we helped more than 46 localities pass policies to eliminate barriers for community cat programs, including North Chicago, Ill., Pinellas County, Fla., Aiken, S.C., Pima County, Ariz., and Fort Wayne, Ind.

Photo Courtesy of the HSUS


In Rockville, Md., near our headquarters, local lawmakers are now considering changes to their animal care ordinance, to make clear that TNR programs are allowed and encouraged. Several state legislatures, including Arizona, Montana, New York, and Virginia, are also currently considering bills that would clarify the legality of community cat management practices. Now, The HSUS has put together a practical guide, Managing Community Cats; A Guide for Municipal Leaders, to help lawmakers with all of the information they need to implement effective cat policy, and to provide cat advocates with a tool they can use to approach policy makers.

As the guide reminds us, cats are already present in most communities, in droves, and reproducing more each day. The question now is between having unmanaged populations of cats, or managed ones. Lethal management is no longer an option being discussed because it’s an approach that has been tried for decades and has failed. Animal service agencies and organizations do not have the resources necessary, or the philosophical bent, to effectively remove tens of millions of cats.
We also know that most people care about cats and want to see them treated humanely. Polls show that the majority of citizens support non-lethal programs for cat population control, and a significant portion of the public, approximately 10 to 12 percent, already feed community cats and can be motivated to help support non-lethal programs. These caretakers constitute a large and indispensable volunteer labor force working to reduce the numbers of cats outdoors, and they would never participate in a round-up-and-kill approach.

At The HSUS we advocate for all animals and we share the deep concern for the impact of outdoor cats on wildlife. But it is important to remember that neither cats nor wild animals are well served by a polarized, divisive, and expensive “cats vs. wildlife” controversy. Instead of further division, we advocate for collaboration and discussion on our shared common goal of fewer unowned, outdoor cats. Innovative programs are popping up across the country, like the Catio Tour in Portland, Ore., a joint program of the Portland Audubon Society, and the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon. Increased spaying and neutering and heightened public awareness of the need to keep owned cats indoors are also making a great difference.

Finally, we focus on best practices and new research to make the practice of TNR as effective as possible. By connecting organizations, sharing information, networking and providing access to thought leaders in the field through our Rethinking the Cat Symposia series and other trainings, we’re helping to improve these practices on the ground and in neighborhoods across the country.
For everyone concerned about cats, as well as the animal care and control agencies, shelters, rescues, and TNR organizations that have a major stake in effective cat policy, we encourage you to get involved and speak up for non-lethal and effective programs. Get our Managing Community Cats; A Guide for Municipal Leaders, and use it to motivate change in your community and help reduce the number of unowned, outdoor cats.


28 comments:

  1. this is great that more people are getting on board with this,My day does TNR with the local ferals and stray where he lives,he even takes the kittens from the mama cats when they are old enough socializes them and weans them of milk and rehomes them and then TNRs the Mama cats too,xx Rachel

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  2. My human thinks about community cats a lot, because after the recession, a lot of cats, through no fault of their own (or even their human's), wound up being outdoor cats because their humans lost their homes. I purr for them a lot.

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    1. Summer that is a point that bothers me immensely. I have no understanding (and I have zero tolerance for), humans who would literally just dump (because to me, regardless of what caused the situation), putting a cat out on the streets is "dumping" a cat. Trust me, I understand hard times, but I would never just dump my pets into the street because I couldn't care for them. It angers and sickens me.

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  3. Community cats are such a critical part of getting to a healthy population of cats around the country. Down here, it's a huge issue, especially since cats breed year round. The current round of legislation around the country that in some cases bans feeding community cats needs careful examination. It isn't going to fix the problem. TNR will, but it takes a lot of time and effort.

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  4. TNR has done wonders where I live….

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  5. HSUS won't support our shelter reform bill in Maryland, which includes common sense guidelines for animal shelters so that euthanizing dogs and cats would become the last option, not the first. Most shelters are already doing most of the things in our proposed legislation but still refuse to support it. HB876 would protect eartipped cats, the heart and soul of any outdoor cat management program...if they are impounded into an animal shelter, they would be returned where found, or adopted out if they are friendly. They would not be killed in the shelter as most "unmanaged" stray/feral cats are.

    HSUS has so far refused to help us pass this bill against well-healed opposition. It makes me wonder just how committed they are to the community cat issue. I am very disappointed in HSUS' lack of public support for HB876 in Maryland.

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  6. Oh this is such a good article and I am so glad that people are beginning to help with the TNR. Granted, it isn't going to work every where all at once, but this is such a GOOD beginning . I so hope that this works in the long run.

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  7. Oh I so wish we had a TNR program here. There are just FAR too many stray kitties in my neighborhood!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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  8. Great job they do. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  9. I say to Jenna,Mark Drady...start you own TNR program, like I have!
    I have heard a lot of negatives about HSUS, and I find Adrienne Lefkowitz's comment very interesting.
    Applaud Caren for posting this.

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  10. This is a great post. TNR is so important and hopefully more laws will be passed to help community cats!

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  11. It is great to see the Humane Society of the US taking a stand for cats. I think that TNR can do a lot of good if we can get people on board with it. The "just kill off the excess" mentality is not effective for anyone. I hope to see managed cat colonies on the rise in the future.

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  12. Excellent. We cannot ignore our outdoor cats. None of us can. It takes a village.

    Have a purrfect day. My best to your mom. ☺

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    1. "it takes a village" is correct! We send our love back!

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  13. TNR has been proved to be one of the most effective methods to control cat overpopulation. It's such a an important cause and we are so glad to see more people are realizing this and taking the proper action to help. We work hard to educate our followers and promote TNR. Every little action helps. We also wanted to congratulate you on your Best Pet Photo nomination. We absolutely loved that photo of Cody; Gorgeous eyes and such an intense look.

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    1. Thank you and we agree about TNR!!! Thanks soooo much!!! Congrats to you too!!!

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  14. TNR is so important! We don't understand the people who say it doesn't work. Here in Chicago, the numbers of euthanized cats are dropping steadily and a lot of it has to do with the TNR work going on all over the city! It's hard work and we so appreciate everyone who does it! - Alana and Crepes.

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  15. We are sure glad so many communities are getting on the correct band wagon!

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  16. Manage communities of feral cats are important. They control pests, like rats and mice and are a cost effective method for doing so. Dumping of cats should never be acceptable. Living in a rural area, there is (alas) lots of dumping. The SPCA is an important part in this and we are happy that they are there.
    Thanks for putting this out there!

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  17. We have a TNR program in our area, too...I once saw a volunteer trap a few kitties to take to the clinic. She was even going to try to home them since they were not really feral, just too many kitties at an old lady's home who nevfur had the heart to say no when peeps would leave their kitties with her:(
    I hope the old lady is surrounded by many loving kitties in heaven where she is now.

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  18. I live in a country setting and people will drop off their unwanted litters leaving them to fend for themselves. If I am able to live-trap them I take them to a no-kill shelter, as I can't afford to take care of them all. I feel sorry for the ones that get away & somehow grow up without becoming coyote or other critters dinner, and the winters we have are brutal. I have a large garage some get into for shelter, but I do not appreciate them hunting on the wild bird population. Everyone needs to care, but I would like it is pets are kept indoors for their own safety.
    Faythe @ GrammyMouseTails

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    1. Indeed farmland seems to be popular for this..we have had none thankfully here..but they have no hope with foxes etc..:(

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  19. Mom is meeting with folks from the local animal shelter tomorrow and will be deciding if she's getting involved in our TNR program here.

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  20. Great article! We don't understand people who say TNR doesn't work. We think those people have their heads in the sand and just want to keep euthanizing the "surplus" of cats in their community rather than dealing with them humanely. The more the epic reality of community cats is exposed , the better compassionate solutions can be found for them. TNR is the beginning!

    the critters in the cottage xo

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  21. Our mayor is down with TNR, even promising to let UCFCC teach the Dept. of Sanitation how to TNR.

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  22. We have no such programs here that i am aware of...i have never seen a stray here and am quite suprised as with farmland the two go hand in hand...where we lived before yes..all the time and as i was known as an advocate i had them always manage to find my door..including some kitten that were dumped in my backyard with my dogs..thankgod they did not find them...so small like mice ..we are all responsible for these cats and dogs..and also Caren thankyou so much for the well wishes for Forrest...he is snoring away in the loungeroom oblivious to how lucky he was...loves Bev xx

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