Trap-neuter-return (TNR) as a method of controlling community cat populations is extensively discussed on the internet. It is widely supported by people who wish to deal with feral cats humanely and decently. Supporters are not exclusively “cat lovers”. There are many people who simply dislike the only alternative: to kill the cats. However, there are also many people who advocate mass slaughter as the only viable method. How to deal with community cats polarizes opinion very strongly.
There have been a number of reports recently that supports the efficacy of TNR programs. TNR works if managed properly and consistently over time and it appears that people in authority are being to realise this.
One such example are the legislators of Florida. They have introduced a Bill – SB1320 of 2013 – that proposes to formally legitimize TNR as the method of managing community cat populations.
This is very good news for people involved in TNR as, on occasions, they have been vilified and even attacked by people who dislike cats. On other occasions they have been treated as criminals for feeding feral cats as part of TNR programs.
Fred Grimm in the online Miami Herald criticizes cat lovers and the Bill. His argument is that TNR is passionately supported by cat lovers who choose to ignore the science, which, he says, informs us that community cats kills billions of birds and other wildlife.
It is interesting that the science that he relies on is the now discredited study run by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which was published in the January 2013 edition of Nature Communications.
This study, which pulled together previous studies, is full of holes, extrapolations, guesswork and estimates. True scientists know that this study does not stand up to scrutiny. Sorry Fred you can’t rely on that and you should be more open to the possibilities of TNR.
Fortunately the legislators of the state of Florida are more open minded and enlightened. Bill 1320 amends an existing statute (828.27). I won’t go into it in detail but here are a couple of examples of the wording contained in the Bill:
…..a veterinarian or community cat caregiver who provides services or care for cats in a community cat program is immune from criminal and civil liability; providing an exception; providing an effective date.
Another example is one that states that community cats are considered to be domestic cats.
(7)(a) Community cats are considered a domestic species under s. 585.01 and release of a community cat by a community cat program is not abandonment or unlawful release of the cat under this chapter.
As you can see the concept is to protect people involved in TNR from falling foul of existing laws. TNR can encroach upon existing laws and indeed it could leave a person liable for trespass and nuisance.
The point that I wish to make is that I have a sense that TNR is gaining legitimacy as the only viable way to manage community cats. Unsurprisingly, the Florida Bill is strongly opposed by the bird conservation lobbyists from The American Bird Conservancy and Audubon Florida, for example. Even the vets of Florida oppose it. I have no idea why they are involved in this debate.
There are two great cat debates ragging in America (a) banning declawing and (b) how to deal with community cats (feral and stray cats). The answer to the latter is moving in the direction of TNR on a widespread scale as the only sensible and humane method.
This is the Bill (link opens in a new window/tab)