TNR (trap, neuter, return) is a proven community program that cuts down on cat overpopulation while allowing a feral cat to live out the remainder of its life without adding to the number of cats in the respective colony. One animal shelter in Tennessee is learning just how much higher euthanasia rates can be when a TNR program isn’t in place, and can’t be put into place because it’s against county ordinance.
Rutherford County PAWS, a kill shelter located in Murfreesboro, has seen progress over the years. In 2007-2008, 83 percent of cats were euthanized. That number is down to 42 percent for 2015-2016. September did show an increase in animals killed, which has shelter staff concerned. Shelter statistics show 109 cats were adopted, 163 cats were euthanized (42 dogs were also euthanized) and 55 were reclaimed by their owners.
PAWS director Michael Gregory says the euthanasia numbers are driven up due to the feral cat population. TNR programs that have helped other counties in Tennessee are illegal in Rutherford County. Cats who aren’t friendly and loving are considered unadoptable and most end up being killed because it’s against the law for cats to roam freely. Gregory stated in an interview with NewsChannel 5
“There are also shelters that have just stopped handling cats at all, they only deal with dogs. I don’t think we’ll ever see that here because of the number of complaints we receive.”
To help increase adoptions the shelter now has monthly adoption specials. Between October 26 and October 31, an adopter can name their own price on a pet. While this is a good start, cat advocates should take a stand before county government and push for a local TNR program. A list of Rutherford County commissioners can be found here. A list of Murfreesboro city council members and their contacts can be found here.
According to the leash laws of Rutherford County, any dog or cat may be picked up by animal control if not on the owners’ property. It will be taken to the county shelter and held for three business days. If not claimed, the county may put the animal up for adoption or kill the animal.
For those who say TNR is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars, and that feral cats should simply be killed at the shelter, the numbers don’t lie. If killing was the answer, the number of cats entering the shelter would never increase but the numbers have because feral cats not under a TNR program continue to breed. Many give birth to multiple litters each year. Low-cost spay and neuter programs for household pets is another option this county should look into.
Animal advocates, please reach out to the county and city council members and suggest they implement a TNR program for this area.