BYU Taking the Wrong Route for Feral Cats
In Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University and the Provo City Council are promoting some unpopular and cruel policies — policies which are killing cats. Disregarding the wishes of the community, they are charging blindly down an inhumane, costly path that also discounts years of successful Trap-Neuter-Return programs on college campuses.
The Provo City Council has temporarily approved an ordinance change to accommodate a program where BYU students trap feral cats on campus, outfit them with radio collars, release them back onto campus to observe their movements, then turn them over to be killed. Currently, the city ordinance states that all feral cats trapped must be turned over to Provo’s Animal Control immediately. The ordinance change merely suspends that requirement until the end of the study, when they plan to retrap the cats to be turned over to animal control.
The amount of misinformation being circulated in this bizarre plan is staggering.
The architect of the program, wildlife management professor Thomas Smith, likens feral cats to bobcats. But feral cats are not wildlife — they are the same species as pet cats, but are not socialized to people and are therefore unadoptable. Over the last 10,000 years, feral cats have co-evolved alongside us, living healthy lives outdoors in all kinds of landscapes.
According to Provo’s Daily Herald, Provo City Council members gave temporary approval for the ordinance changes, but are scheduled to vote on the proposition during the city council meeting on August 17th.
As cities and campuses all over America have already discovered, the most effective method for managing feral cat populations is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). With TNR, cats are humanely trapped, neutered, vaccinated, and returned back to the site where they were trapped. The neutered cats prevent other cats from moving in, but no new kittens are born, the population stabilizes, and behaviors associated with mating, such as yowling and fighting, stop.
Trap-Neuter-Return has been hugely successful on college campuses across America — Stanford University, Arizona State University, Texas A&M at College Station, University of Central Florida, to name a few. Research on the TNR program at the University of Florida provided valuable information on feral cats through years of observation, while still maintaining a level of humane care that benefited both the cats and the community. What can Brigham Young students learn by turning these cats over to be killed?
The Daily Herald also reported that students are currently feeding the cats — indicating interest in caring for a campus colony — and that they are “willing to spay and neuter the cats to help stabilize the population.” Clearly, members of the BYU community value these cats’ lives. They are offering BYU and the city of Provo an effective approach that will benefit the community and can offer a valuable learning experience that will actually improve the cats’ lives — not end them.
If Provo’s leaders are genuine about wanting to stabilize the city’s feral cat population, benefit the community, and save taxpayers money, they should follow the example of prominent cities like Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, who have already adopted Trap-Neuter-Return as official policy.
Please voice your disapproval by contacting BYU and Provo on Facebook and joining me in encouraging them to put a stop to his cruel, costly, and misguided program and embrace a humane, effective Trap-Neuter-Return program, both on campus and citywide.
Becky Robinson is the founder and president of Alley Cat Allies, a national advocacy organization dedicated to transforming and developing communities to protect and improve the lives of cats.
photo credit: Alley Cat Allies
by Becky Robinson, founder and president of Alley Cat Allies