A lawsuit was recently filed by conservation groups to stop the practice of trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs in Los Angeles, Calif., under the premise that TNR programs violate state environmental laws.
A Superior Court Judge has issued an injunction preventing the city from subsidizing or promoting TNR until an environmental impact study is completed.
The LA Times reports that, “In addition to barring city vouchers that offset the cost of neutering, the city cannot release feral cats from shelters to organizations like FixNation; conduct public outreach about the program; refer complaints about feral cats to trap-neuter-release groups; or waive cat-trap rental fees. (In the last fiscal year, the city spent about $240,000 subsidizing 8,000 surgeries for stray cats.)”
Groups including FixNation, which provided spay/neuter surgeries for 15,660 feral cats last year, and Best Friends Animal Society are opposing the ban.
TNR programs offer a humane alternative to dealing with feral cat populations, as opposed to poisoning or relocation, which have been proven to be both cruel and ineffective.
“This program has been a boon to animal control folks because it helps them manage an issue in a way that the community approves,” said Francis Battista, founder of Best Friends Animal Society, which helps fund FixNation. “If you take feral cats to a shelter, they’re dead. Nobody’s going to adopt it.”
Bird and other wildlife groups on the other side are arguing that, in addition to violating environmental laws, TNR is simply ineffective.
“It’s conservatively estimated that they kill about 500 million birds a year,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor of the American Bird Conservancy of the estimated 160 million feral cats nationwide.
While protecting wildlife is always important, as Alley Cat Allies points out laws that were enacted to protect birds, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act, weren’t put in place because of cats, rather because the biggest threat to birds and other wildlife is human development.
Travis Longcore of the Urban Wildlands Group “cited two studies, including one in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Assn., that used mathematical models to determine that 71% to 94% of the cats in a colony must be neutered in order for the numbers to decline. In two feral colonies monitored in Florida, Longcore reported, the population actually increased because people dumped new cats.”
And therein lies the problem. It’s not that TNR programs are ineffective, it’s obviously impossible for a set population of spayed/neutered cats to increase, but that people keep dumping cats.
According to the ASPCA, one female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in 7 years. Shouldn’t the wildlife groups be in support of anything that keeps feral cats from reproducing? Without those spay/neuter surgeries for more than 20,000 feral cats, they would still be on the streets reproducing at exponential rates.
Is there a solution here where both sides can win here? Mandatory spay/neuter laws?