Friday, February 5, 2010

Speak up for TNR

Those of us who support community cat programs and Trap-Neuter-Return/Release (TNR) for free-roaming cats need to speak up and do so with every resource and national-group backing we can. In light of the recent article about TNR in our local paper, it is still very clear we have a long way to go in our community before our Animal Control leaders and wildlife protectors get up to speed on this method and why it is beneficial to all animals and people involved, including birds and other wildlife. When it comes to this topic, more people than not are very misinformed. Luckily, our animal shelter, who has to deal with the trapped cats coming in and is killing 80% of its cats, is finally speaking up about our community's need for TNR.

Where wildlife advocates go wrong is in the assumption that what we have been doing for DECADES is working. It is not working, and millions of free-roaming cats prove it. There are as many free-roaming cats as there are cats in homes as pets -- about 80-90 million nationwide. If we were going to eradicate feral cat populations by trapping and hauling them off to be systematically killed at shelters, we would have done so already. Nationally, we have killed millions to date with no end in sight. That's becasue free-roaming cats are some of the most resilient animals around--going from domestic to wild and surviving and thriving despite many obstacles and adversities.

That said, no one more than I wishes that all domestic cats had a nice indoor home and a warm lap to lay on. I also do not wish upon any wildlife that they be injured or killed by a feral cat. If you look at this issue logically, that's why TNR is the only alternative we have come up with to date. It may take time for TNR to work, but over time, the populations finally decrease and die out when you fix cats, vaccinate them, and release them back into their environments. Where this is not feasible for whatever reason, you relocate those cats via barn cat and other similar programs. By doing this, it keeps other cats from moving into this "bubble" of territory, and that territory then stabilizes and then starts dying off naturally by atrition.

When we reduce feral cat populations over time, as has been done on the NMSU campus because of fCamp's tireless work, what we do is reduce the supposed health risks to humans; reduce the nuisance of loose cats to humans; and, most importantly, we also reduce the number of wildlife hurt or killed by feral cats. It truly is the only Win-Win for all, and it has nothing to do with hoarding cats (as suggested by one AC supervisor in the story in the paper). It does take alot of hard work, but doing this work in small bubbles of managed colonies throughout the community will finally start paying off. Eventually, all those bubbles, or pockets of cat territories, will start to reduce the overall feral population in our entire community.

Those of us who want to do this work or support this work cannot get anything done in a regressive community. Those who are detractors of TNR or animal people not up to speed need to take some time to learn about how it works and why it works and need to stop to think about why all the following groups now support these efforts (including the National Animal Control Association). Read through these vast resources listed below, which is not an exhaustive list, and help us start advocating more strongly for TNR to first be made legal in all of Dona Ana County and the City of Las Cruces; that's the first step we need to take. And then we can finally start getting to work and reducing cat populations and also reducing the stress and waste of money it is to haul cats in to be killed at our shelter with no results to show for it over time except very similar numbers from month-to-month and year-to-year.

Those who still oppose TNR might consider volunteering at the local shelter with the poor workers forced to kill cats by the hundreds each month and thousands each year when there are many alternatives proving effective in hundreds of other communities in the U.S. Those concerned for wildlife should understand that these cats are wildlife as well, and just like all wildlife, the greatest threat to those populations is us--human beings. What studies have shown is that our urban sprawl and pesticide use, among other human evils, have killed far more birds and other wildlife than all feral cats combined.

In other words, it's time for us to get with the times. TNR today is not as controversial as it was 10 to 20 years ago ... that we think it is in Las Curces shows how collectively behind the times we are. Even El Paso has legalized TNR for free-roaming cats. What haven't we?