Saving Feral Cats: TNR is the Answer

National Feral Cat Day RGJ FP Ad 10-15-14 Final LGOnce again the scientifically-proven, efficacy-based feral cat management strategy, known as T-N-R-M (trap, neuter, return, and monitor) is under attack in our community. A proposed zoning change would disallow free roaming cat colonies in an area within our community. A presentation was made, with no opposing views presented or invited, that cast T-N-R-M as a program in which feral cat colonies are artificially created, are dangerous to the community and threaten public health—all widely discredited assertions long made by “catch and kill” advocates and confounded by scientific study. This information flies in the face of the piles and piles of research done on the topic by institutions ranging for the University of California-Davis, Stanford’s School of Public Health, University of Florida, Cornell University—the list goes on and on. There’s another perspective also—it’s shared and supported by every national animal welfare organization, hundreds upon hundreds of Cities and Counties throughout the nation, data collected on the topic, academic peer-reviewed research and the facts right here in Washoe County, Reno and Sparks.

Let’s be clear, the proposed zoning change will not eliminate, mitigate, abate, reduce, remove or end free roaming cats. There is no mechanism in which any agency will “round-up” these cats. Second, free roaming cats (pets) are not illegal in Washoe County so this proposal would put pet cats that live both indoors and outdoors at risk. All this proposal would achieve is ending the management of these populations. Quite simply, the problem would just be ignored. These cats would no longer be spay and neutered, vaccinated, monitored and treated for medical conditions.  Since T-N-R-M began in this community, complaints related to cats have decreased, just like the cat population. This zoning change is a solution in search of a problem.

This attempt is also a clear cut case of seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. T-N-R-M works.  It’s as simple as that. This is a fact, it is not in dispute. During an 11-year study of TNR at the University of Florida, the number of cats on campus declined by 66%, with no new kittens being born after the first four years of operation. In Washoe County, right here at home, cat intake has been reduced by just shy of 40% since 2005. Community shelters took in around 6,800 cats in 2005 to just over 3,900 in 2014. That’s not a typo—it worked. Not for nothing, T-N-R-M is also cheaper. T-N-R-M is entirely privately subsidized by nonprofits like Nevada Humane Society. “Catch and kill” or any other approach will not work (again as proven by research) and will be done at the expense of taxpayers. In Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Animal Control and Protective Services estimates the city’s TNR program has saved the city more than one million dollars in just over four years.

Finally, I think it is important to note what this wrong-minded change will reap. It WILL NOT reduce cat populations. The cats will no longer be altered, thus the rampant reproduction that this community endured prior to T-N-R-M will return. The cat population will exponentially increase. Ultimately, the intake of cats will increase to the point that taxpayers will once again be forced to fund the unnecessary euthanasia of cats. Washoe County, one of America’s first no-kill communities, will fall off of this lofty perch and return to the list of ordinary places. Communities where strategies and programs that are proven to save lives are ignored and animal are euthanized instead. The voluminous grant money that flows to Northern Nevada, over 1.5 million in 2014, will wither away. This is money that flows directly back into the community; over $212,000.00 alone was allocated to zip code 89431 in Sparks for free and reduced spay and neuter for owned animals in the community. This will vanish.

If this change passes, we will look success and humaneness directly in the eye, turn away and turn the clock back 20 years to when we killed thousands upon thousands of cats every year all the while the cat population increased. This is not my opinion, these are facts.

Over the course of the next month, you will hear loud voices proclaiming dubious “facts.” The truth is, some people don’t like cats, some people don’t like free roaming cats, some people don’t like T-N-R-M, and as hard as it is to believe, some people don’t like me. Yet, whichever camp you fall into, cat lover or cat avoider—there is ONLY ONE way to reduce feral cat populations and that is T-N-R-M. This is a fact and it is not in dispute. That’s not my opinion that is what research and years of trial has proven.

Nevada Humane Society wants to ensure you are given the facts. You will hear nonsense ranging from rabies fear-mongering (there has not been a case of confirmed cat to human rabies transmission in the U.S. since 1972; again not my opinion; but according to the CDC) to down-right misinformation. Visit http://www.nevadahumanesociety.org to find factual, science-based information about free roaming cats and T-N-R-M. All information is work cited and linked to academic research. Not propaganda but fact.

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