After a situation involving Best Friends Animal Society-Atlanta and cats rescued from Cobb County Animal Control, I reached out via Facebook and was given the following statement by the team leader and manager Carrie Ducote. Nichole Dandrea-Russert, Social Media Community Manager granted permission to post their response to comments made about the Cobb County Community Cat Program on PoC.
“Please know that our first priority is always for the health and welfare of the animals and everything we do at Best Friends whether in the metro area or around the country is to help Save Them All.
The Cobb County Community Cat Program exists to reunite outdoor cats with their neighborhood homes and help more cats at Cobb County Animal Control find live outcomes. Part of this program is to return free-roaming cats, who have found their way to Animal Control to the colonies from which they came.
Although we agree that the best possible outcome would be to find permanent homes or rescue placement for all the friendly cats, sadly there have been more cats at Cobb County Animal Control than rescue placements and adoptive homes for them. Because of this, our program returns cats to their outdoor homes (regardless of a cat’s demeanor). We do this so that the rescues and adopter placements can be reserved for the remaining “indoor-only” cats.
This is considered best practice and recommended by several national animal welfare organizations. There is more information about our return-to-field policies on our website here: https://bestfriends.org/resources/returning-cats.
Best Friends works very closely with the staff a Cobb County Animal Control. When an outdoor cat is brought in or picked up by an Animal Control Officer, the resident is asked to fill out an additional form with pertinent information about the cat and the situation it came from. This information includes the location where the cat was found, information about any additional cats in the area, and if known, who has been feeding the cat. Because we have been operating the program in Cobb County for almost two years, we are able to maintain a comprehensive map and database of caregivers and colonies.
The decision to return a cat to a colony is not black or white. We use the information on the intake form, combined with our experience in a neighborhood, other outreach efforts, and current cat population at Cobb County Animal Control to determine the best outcome for each cat. A cat who has not lived outdoors or who is not healthy enough to continue to live outdoors would not be returned to a colony. You can read more about this decision making process on a blog written by our Chief National Programs Officer here: http://blog.millioncatchallenge.org/making-the-decision-on-whether-or-not-to-return-a-cat-to-field/.
As for the pledges, they are entirely managed by the Cobb County Kitties Facebook page. Best Friends does not make decisions about which cats to pull for either indoor placement or return return-to-field based on the pledge money (as you can see from our policy linked above). Many individuals who pledged money for cats who were returned to their colonies made the decision to redistribute their pledge money—a decision, by the way, that we support.
Most of the cats we return to the field are feral and do not get listed on the Cobb Kitties page. We are working with the administrators of the Cobb County Kitties Facebook page to ensure that any future pledge dollars for cats who are returned to their colonies are redistributed to other cats in need.
Thank you again for the opportunity to address the community’s concerns. I am happy to answer any further questions you may have.
The mission of Best Friends Animal Society-Atlanta as stated on their Facebook page is to bring about a time when there are No More Homeless Pets. We do this by helping end the killing in America’s animal shelters through building community programs and partnerships all across the nation. We believe that by working together we can Save Them All.”
I’m not exactly sure what took place that created a backlash on social media. I’ll leave the comment section open for those who know more to post.
Thank you, Best Friends, for your prompt response to give an official statement.