In a letter from Catherine T Phillips PhD, an Acting Project Leader at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), to the Escambia County Board of County County Commissioners, she makes it clear that the USFWS “recommend that County Officials continue to take action to eliminate free-ranging feral cats throughout Escambia County”.
She does not specify clearly how feral cats should be eliminated although she makes it clear the the USFWS “opposes trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs that allow domestic or feral cats to return to free-ranging conditions”.
Most TNR programs allow the cats to return to free-ranging conditions. The name states that: trap-neuter-return (“release” is an alternative version).
If Ms Phillips opposes TNR and wants feral cat elimination it does hint strongly at out-and-out killing – trapping and then euthanising.
However, she muddies the water by hinting that the long term solution is to “take appropriate action to ensure that cat owners act responsibly to restrain or confine their animals and hold owners accountable for any damages to wildlife that occur from allowing animals to roam at large”.
Owners should act responsibly but she seems to be saying that cat owners should be punished if their cat(s) kill wildlife. That is not sensible because it is unenforceable and unworkable.
However, it shows the extreme views of the USFWS if Ms Phillips represents the general goals and viewpoints of the Service.
Ms Phillips appears to be using inaccurate research on the predation of outdoor cats on birds and mammals in the USA to support her arguments (up to 5m birds and 22m mammals). As at today no one is sure of the impact on wildlife by cats in the USA because there is not, as yet, any definitive trustworthy statistics based on widespread research as opposed to estimates from small local studies.
She threatens the Escambia commissioners with possible civil and/or crimimal proceedings unless they do something about feral cats other than in using TNR. She quotes the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Birds Treaty Act and implies that the Escambia commissioners could end up being personally responsible and hauled through the criminal courts with a possible 6 months prison term at the end unless they act in eliminating free-ranging feral cats (aren’t they all free-ranging?).
If she represents USFWS their policy on feral cats is fierce and uncompromising.
“Ban and eliminate free-ranging TNR colonies, feral, and domestic cats through humane capture by authorised or licensed animal care and control personnel….”
That smells of trap and kill to me.