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.

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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

223 comments

Linda Jarsky
Linda Jarsky3 years ago

If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. ---St. Francis of Assisi

Stephanie Hungerford

There is plenty of support for a TNR program if the city didn't have such a stupid out dated ordinance. If the cats go way the mice will play. Most cats eat small rodents and lizards not birds. I have a TNR cat that I feed he is experimenting at this time with the home life. I can pet him because but he doesn't like living inside all of the time. right now it is 20% house time 80% outside time. but he does have good house manners unless he feels like I am not listening to his demands to go outside

jeri j.
jeri J.5 years ago

Grow up people ! Feral cats are a necessity, not counting many cats once had owners and had to be abandoned because of the economy. TNR is the ONLY way to go, it saves the community of being over run by Rodents and other small vermin. Please support a TNR program in your community or start one. Info available through Humane Society.

Dianne R.
Dianne R.5 years ago

TNR has been a huge success for our community. We have effectively gotten the eral cat population undercontrol completely witihin three years...no kittens this spring so far (that we know of!)

Stephanie I.

It's really sad to hear a state were they can be cruel and kill animals such as the feral cat. Most states and animal control centers that think it's a good idea to put these animals down are wrong. These animals control the rat and mice population.
We should start a petition to protect these animals.

Erin Bean
Erin Bean5 years ago

Contrary to what Mitzie is saying(I live in Provo!), we love animals! I would be interested in petitioning this further! Who wants to join me?

Mitzie W.
Mitzie W.5 years ago

I live in the state that BYU is in. People here generally have a very cruel view of animals. It's a huge conservative right wing state that thinks killing animals is just fine. It does not surprise me at all that the policy of killing feral animals is adopted.

Jamaka P.
Jamaka P.5 years ago

VERY heartening to see the many positive, informed, caring comments. May they be heard by the ptb's in Utah, and TNR adopted as policy in all the affected locations. For those who are negative, do some research on what happened in Europe during the times when cats were vilified and murdered there. It may change your mindset, even if you don't care about cats (which I can't understand).

Luis J.
Luis Miguel J.5 years ago

a TNR is a best solution.

Hartson D.
Hartson Doak5 years ago

I am the Resident Manager where I live and work. Occasionally I get a complaint about a feral cat and a demand to get rid of it. As I am about to put the trap out, I find a dead rat. I put the trap away.