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Fish & Wildlife Plan Threatens Cats’ Lives

Fish & Wildlife Plan Threatens Cats’ Lives

The US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is accepting public comments this week on a dangerous plan that weighs the lives of select species against others in the Florida Keys —and will consequently send cats to their deaths. 

Intended to protect local threatened and endangered wildlife species, the FWS’s draft environmental assessment misguidedly targets cats by misinterpreting and ignoring pertinent scientific research, disregarding Trap-Neuter-Return for feral cats as the approach that will protect the lives of all the Keys’ animals, and wholly failing to address the human threat to these species.

As animal advocates, we must defend the best interest of all animals equally. That means taking a hard look at what the major threats to species are and evaluating what we as humans can do to change the way our choices impact our environment. It also means protecting animals–all animals–from being killed.

The FWS report is extremely misleading to the public. While it dismisses a “lethal control” option for the cats—appearing not to subscribe to killing—the plan recommends trapping and removing the cats to a local shelter, which kills all feral cats who enter as a matter of policy

So while this plan appears to require only the “removal” of feral cats, it is, in truth, a plan to kill.

In choosing this plan that values the lives of one species over another, the FWS’s plan failed to adequately consider Trap-Neuter-Return. This widely practiced humane approach would stabilize feral cat colony populations and would allow all species to continue to live out their lives outdoors.

And in rejecting Trap-Neuter-Return, the FWS misinterpreted and blatantly disregarded relevant scientific research. The Draft Assessment draws heavily on biased and flawed publications, while ignoring and misinterpreting other peer-reviewed field studies that prove the effectiveness of Trap-Neuter-Return in stabilizing feral cat colonies all over the country. 

These studies include the research conducted by Dr. Julie Levy at the University of Florida, which followed a long-term TNR program and found that the colony population declined by 66% over 10 years.

Sadly, these are just a few of the mistakes, misinterpretations, and out-and-out falsities contained in the FWS plan.

They also erroneously single out PETA’s irrational opposition to TNR as representative of the animal protection community. The truth is that TNR is a nationally-accepted, widespread, life-saving practice supported by major animal protection organizations including Alley Cat Allies, ASPCA, and Best Friends Animal Society, as well as over 250 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations dedicated to feral cat care across the nation.

On top of all this, the FWS clearly has not learned from the abject failure and costly consequences of a previous catch and kill effort in the Florida Keys. In 2007, FWS entered into a $50,000 trap and kill contract in the Keys, which resulted in just 13 cats trapped, at least 5 of which were owned.

Meanwhile, the ORCat TNR program at Ocean Reef community in Key Largo has maintained a long-term, ongoing Trap-Neuter-Return program for feral cats for years. From a population of over 2,000 cats 20 years ago, today only about 350 cats are left—an 80% decline in colony populations, right there in the Florida Keys.

We value the lives of all species affected by this plan, but killing cats is not a solution—it’s a scapegoat for the problems people have caused. Habitat loss, urbanization, pollution and environmental degradation kill millions of animals per year, especially in sensitive ecosystems like the Florida Keys, where continual development has negatively impacted water quality and habitat acreage. 

By blaming innocent animals and not addressing human impact, the FWS plan forfeits any real chance at successfully protecting endangered species.

The FWS draft environmental assessment can’t be allowed to go forward as written.

The public comment period for the plan is still open, but only until February 3. Contact the Fish & Wildlife Service through Alley Cat Allies’ Action Center and tell them you want a new plan that values and protects the lives of all the animals of the Florida Keys. Speak up now, before some are silenced for good.

—–

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.  


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Photo credit: Alley Cat Allies
By Becky Robinson, Founder and President of Alley Cat Allies

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133 comments

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6:21PM PST on Dec 11, 2013

Fish and game should concentrate on the non native snakes (yes this is harder) but it will be more productive in saving endangered species

8:36PM PDT on Jun 30, 2013

Killing is never an answer.

4:56AM PDT on Mar 23, 2013

I received emails from Alley Cat Allies urging me to write to my state legislators in favor of the bill and emails from Audubon to write opposing the bill. I wrote in favor of the bill. I am very annoyed at Audubon right now. These homeless cats are homeless because of humans. Oh, we're moving and we're not taking Fluffly; she can fend for herself. Or, let's drop her off in a park. Being respectful and responsible towards animals needs to start in elementary school so that people grow up to be responsible adults with animals. Fix your animals in case they get out. Another problem is people feeding without fixing. Several years ago, I started a job and saw a cat knowing that there had to be more and eventually finding the feeding station. I had to start trapping and it's been a nightmare. 1 female is left, I haven't been able to trap her in over a year, there were 3 litters last year out of which most were adopted. The person who was doing the feeding told me that she called many organizations and they wouldn't help. People need to help themselves; you can't expect an organization to come trap for you for free. A trap at Home Depot costs less then $50, buy it, trap the cat, search for low cost spay and neuter organizations and take the cat there, have it fixed and after recovery, release it back where you found it. It's not that difficult, folks, but you have to take responsibility even if you didn't cause the problem.

9:42AM PDT on Oct 13, 2012

We just can't kill everything that is an inconveniece to us. BIRTHCONTROL People start doing it now!!

11:41AM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

I wish it were easier to find a solution to any problem that didn't require so much argument. It seems like so much time is wasted in talking and so little spent in productive action; it's frustrating to a passionate young person who wants to make the world a better place.

9:19AM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

Killing is not the solution, neuter and spay. the problem was made by man, it is not fair that the cats pay the price. Feral cats numbers have decreased. Also think of rats and other rodents these cats are controlling. In Florida too, feral cats eat a lot of small baby iguanas, which have also propagated out of control due to HUMANS.

12:53PM PDT on May 21, 2011

TNR is better for the wildlife too.
When they trap cats and kill them there are cats who escape.
They simply refuse to go into the trap and move to another place.
When the trapping is over they come back, there are not so many cats left to share the food with, more kittens survive and soon there will be many cats there again.
There are vacuumeffect too ,other cats can move into the area.

You trap cats for TNR too and some cats are still hard to catch , but catlovers are dedicated and find ways to trap them and time.
Even if it takes a year before all cats are neutered.
Then the colony won´t grow and the number of cats will decline.
Some of the cats might once have had an owner and can soon be social again.If new homes can be found they don´t have to return to the colony.Kittens can be tamed too.

12:51PM PDT on May 21, 2011

TNR is better for the wildlife too.
When they trap cats and kill them there are cats who escape.
They simply refuse to go into the trap and move to another place.
When the trapping is over they come back, there are not so many cats left to share the food with, more kittens survive and soon there will be many cats there again.
There are vacuumeffect too ,other cats can move into the area.

You trap cats for TNR too and some cats are still hard to catch , but catlovers are dedicated and find ways to trap them and time.
Even if it takes a year before all cats are neutered.
Then the colony won´t grow and the number of cats will decline.
Some of the cats might once have had an owner and can soon be social again.If new homes can be found they don´t have to return to the colony.Kittens can be tamed too.

8:01AM PDT on May 18, 2011

Please people, neuter you animals. KILLING in not the solution and CRUELTY should be out of the ecuation. We created the problem, this and many other problems in connection to animals and their populations growing out of control. If we really want to show how bright people is we should come up, which by the way is not really difficult, good, practical animal friendly solutions.

8:08PM PDT on May 17, 2011

Just a few notes from a half-century worth of loving cat observation on some comments to which I take exception:

The lives of my neutered cats were / are definately NOT miserable!

Cats DO kill for food, they just don't always eat what they kill. Since cats like to play with their prey, if they are not hungry, they will often abandon play in boredom when the prey animal stops moving.

And in support of other comments: TNR does work well over time, when applied faithfully to a colony, thereby giving local prey animals a chance to rebound in numbers. It also helps if the colony is fed catfood so they are not forced to hunt for food to survive.

Feral colonies often include members who are stray pets, who can be adopted.

No pet should ever be dumped outside to fend for themselves!

The average lifespan of an outside cat is 3-5 years, whereas well cared for indoor cats live 16-20 or more years.

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