Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No vigilantes here!

It never ceases to amaze me how three tiny letters--a mere abbreviation--can lead to so much vehemence and backlash (usually based on untruths and unfounded myths) as the letter string of "TNR".

Nothing in what I wrote when I invited people to our Las Cruces No Kill Study Group tonight suggested we are forming some kind of masked, lawbreaking wacko group out to do TNR on the sly in a community in which it is outlawed at this point in time. Luckily for us and other communities in this unique nation of ours, local ordinances are not laws written in stone and which are never changed for the better. And, we have every right as anyone else to push for changes in the law to support a program we believe is the most humane and sensible and successful in homeless/feral cat popoulation control--much more so than the "catch and kill" option that has failed for decades, much to the chagrin and misfortune of us all.

I respect all animal life--cats, dogs, pigs, cows, birds, etc. No one more than myself wishes all cats were spoiled and living in the lap of luxury, out of harm's way and not out to harm any other living creature. Sadly, that is not reality for our cats or for wildlife in general. Anyone that has other innovative ideas about feral cats is welcome to share their views, but we are researching and will lobby for the best solution to this issue at this time in our history, which I strongly believe is trap-neuter/spay-return to where they live and care for them until attrition slowly ends each colony. We will do so professionally and legally and will address this issue the correct way.

Our No Kill TNR group is going to base any arguments and lobbying for ordinace change on careful research and models of successful TNR programs in our nation, of which there are many -- one right here in Las Cruces on state land (our college campus); many in other communities in New Mexico; and even more so in progressive communities saving more than 90% of their homeless dogs and cats instead of killing them like we and others do.

In our shelter, statistics from this year alone show that cats categorized as "feral" are killed to the tune of 200+ a month, and we will report how much that system costs us as well (it is not as cheap as some would believe). This also adds to our high, overall kill rate, which is currently 70+%--higher than the national average. Plus, there are serious issues about how our shelter system assesses, routes, and ultimately kills most cats that are brought in.

In a recent incident reported to me by reliable sources, one family's cat was trapped by a neighbor and picked up by the City Animal Control, only to be killed at our shelter within an hour of arriving. That is against our laws, which require ANY homeless, stray animal be held for 3 days if they lack identification or 5 days if they do have identification of any kind--so that owners can have an opportunity to reclaim their family pet and so that the system can charge and collect hefty impound fees that add to our shelter's yearly "revenue" and slap pet owners on the wrist as well.

Needless to say, this one family is devastated by this incident and the loss of their cat. That they broke cat leash laws is not being argued here, yet it does not mean this family did not love their cat and value his/her life. They went directly to the shelter to reclaim their cat, which is something most irresponsible cat owners don't even bother to do.

Even if this cat was acting wild in the cage in which it was trapped when it arrived at the shelter, it is Sheltering 101 to deal with this issue and correctly hold, assess/route each individual animal equitably. That's why shelters have special animal handling gloves and feral cat boxes for cages--the tools of the trade. Many a tame family cat can behave badly in stressed situations--you should see my usual Mellow Milo turn into Cujo the Cat at the vet's office--and that's why it is difficult to determine whether a cat is "wild" or not. Cat Behavior 101 also shows that most cats take days to weeks to get used to any new situations, and some adjust better and faster than others.

Cats are not simple creatures, which is what makes them interesting and also hurts them as well. They are a rare species that truly domesticated themselves and that can survive and thrive on their own, unlike dogs. Because of their unique nature, they deserve unique solutions and options at the hands of human beings.

Other communities and TNR caretakers and caregivers have faced TNR opposition at some time or another. And even the HSUS, which used to be strongly opposed to TNR, changed their official stance on feral cats in 2005 because of success after success in proven programs that ultimately help to curb the numbers of homeless/feral cats, which is a plus for all of us and for all wildlife, too. New studies emerge every year that show human beings taking over more natural habitats and filling them with windows and wires and pesticides injure and kill millions of all species of birds each year, yet we still point to feral cats as the biggest culprits.

I can assure everone that any and all work the Las Cruces No Kill Study Group engages in will seek to be fair and above-board and exemplary. I would not have it any other way. It's what our community deserves, and it is what our homeless animal population especially deserves.

That said, tomorrow (Oct. 16th) is National Feral Cat Day. Visit for the latest information about feral cats and ways you can help spread the word that the days of simply catching and killing these creatures are slowly but surely coming to an end.


Anonymous said...

if you guys start this tnr in my neighborhood,will you come to my house every day and clean up after these cats

Joe said...

TNR will not increase the number of cats in your neighborhood (it will do exactly the opposite - it will decrease the number over time). So if there are cats there now with no one tending to the situation, I don't know why you would think that TNR would or could make things worse. If you are in favor of the inhumane "trap and kill" approach that this city has been using for decades, I am sure you can see that it does not work to reduce the number of feral cats at large. The axiom "nothing changes if nothing changes" is as true for feral cats as it is for anything else. TNR is the change that Las Cruces needs because it will not only reduce the number of feral cats in the city, but it will reduce the number of complaints about the cats since fighting and spraying behaviors are significantly reduced after cats are neutered, and mating behaviors are eliminated.

If you are a cat hater who likes when animal control comes in and needlessly kills cats over and over again without any end to the carnage, then feel free to oppose TNR. If you want the situation to get better not only for the cats but for the people of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County, then reserve judgement until you see TNR at work.

Anonymous said...

I just came from the shelter and I am happy to report quite a number of pink cards on animal papers indicating that the animals had been adopted. I asked the man cleaning the cages and taking animals out to be shown to people looking. He said they have seen a big increase in the number of animals being adopted recently, so that is good news.

Anonymous said...

People looking at the national debt problem have something to learn from the feral cat problem.

Irresponsibility can lead to intractable problems.

By the way, there is a new book on leash-training cats called "Walk Your Cat: The Complete Guide".

Right now it looks like TNR and keeping ALL cats indoors (or on leashes) is the best anyone can come up with to deal with the feral cat problem. At least people are trying.