The humane answer for feral cats in Norfolk, VA article
This article was in today's paper. I thought it was interesting. I didn't now my neighboring city had such strict laws about animal ownership!
The humane answer for feral cats
By Rob Blizard
© September 1, 2013
The most effective way to help feral cats and reduce their populations is to trap them, neuter them and return them to their habitat.
Taking care of the feral cat population doesn't mean ignoring or euthanizing them; instead, why not keep them from reproducing but allow them to continue their outdoor lives?
An increasingly mainstream approach nationwide, Trap-Neuter-Release calls for outdoor cats to be trapped humanely by colony caretakers. The cats are then spayed/neutered, as well as given a rabies vaccine and an eartip. The eartip is removal of the corner of the left ear while the cat is under anesthesia; it is the universal sign that a feral cat has been sterilized. After recovering from surgery, the cats are returned to their colonies, where they should be fed and cared for by the humans who want to help them.
TNR opponents have publicly decried TNR as unacceptable. They say that feral cats harm songbirds and other wildlife. But without TNR, even more cats will be on our streets to harm other creatures.
Some also argue that the "return" part of TNR is nothing more than cruel re-abandonment. The cats, they say, will be left to fend for themselves, and no humane organization should support such an activity.
We respectfully disagree. The status quo results only in more felines on the streets and in the shelters and more unnecessary euthanasia.
It is true that feral cats face many risks that cats living solely indoors do not. But TNR is the best option. The only other choices are to do nothing and let the cats proliferate, or capture the cats and take them to an animal-control facility, where they will inevitably be euthanized, even if perfectly healthy, because they simply are not adoptable as housecats.
Carrying out its duty under current law, the Norfolk Animal Care Center, the city's animal-control facility, euthanized 267 cats in the first six months of this year after they were found to be feral. Those deaths represented more than 22 percent of all the euthanasias performed by the center and 9 percent of all animals brought in. Keeping feral cats out of the pound means more available space for the pound's adoption-friendly cats so that their chance at life is increased, too.
Communities across America have active TNR programs, but in Norfolk, instead of being acknowledged for their contribution of time and money to feed and alter outdoor cats, caring citizens are sometimes punished with a summons. Norfolk's city code does not address TNR, but it does say that a resident may not own more than four pets. The code also says that if you provide care to an outdoor cat, you own the cat. Consequently, if a caretaker has more than four cats in a feral cat colony, the caretaker can be charged.
On Thursday, an animal care laws workgroup will meet at the State Capitol in Richmond to craft public policy proposals on feral cats. The goal is to come up with a statewide plan, and lobby to change the laws, to protect feral cats and their caregivers.
In the meantime, Norfolk's cat lovers, despite the laws and risks, continue to practice TNR and care for outdoor cats in their neighborhoods. To assist these animals, and the people who care for them, the Norfolk SPCA is offering free spay/neuter for Norfolk feral cats, thanks to a grant from PetSmart Charities. For those from other Hampton Roads communities, we offer low prices for feral spay/neuter.
To celebrate the work of the people who care for our outdoor feline friends, and to encourage a sharing of resources and information, the Norfolk SPCA announces the first meeting of Hampton Roads Feral Cat Caretakers at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Norfolk Fitness & Wellness Center. (For more information, visit NorfolkSPCA.org). Everyone who supports TNR is welcome. Our goal is for neighbor to help neighbor, for community to help community. Come to learn how you can help the free-roaming cats who are living outdoors around you.
Rob Blizard is executive director of the Norfolk SPCA.
Cat owners' prayer: "Lord help me be the person my cat thinks I am"