Catfight Breaks Out Over Trap-Neuter-Return Programs in Los Angeles

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? 

creative commons


Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright6 years ago

TNR works. Spaying and neutering works. Education works. Working together to fix a situation that was caused by humans to begin with works. Kindness and compassion works.

Killing does not work.

Cindy C.
Cindy C7 years ago

You cannot kill cats that is awful. You can help them. Poor things. Thank you for making us aware.

Lenee Lirette
Lenee Lirette7 years ago

what a cute picture and absolutely GREAT article. very informative.

Beverley A.
Beverley A7 years ago

Many vets in Australia (including myself) are involved in these sort of programs. Welfare groups trap the feral cats, bring them in for desexing, then release them again (In the area they were trapped). Most of these ctas don't survive more than a few years on the streets anyway. Most feral cats hunt in urban areas where garbage and restaurant scraps are plentiful, therefore they probably wouldn't go after birds too often as there are easier pickings to be had (unlike the owned cat that often hunts birds for the pleasure of it). It is kinder than just euthanasing them, & at least they can no longer breed.

Priscilla Burbano

no kill. period.

Elaine Dixon
Elaine Dixon7 years ago

It does work, until we can come up with another aternative and it isn't killing them, so lets keep trapping, neutering and releasing until some thing better comes along.

kathie f.
kathie f7 years ago

trap neuter return works; it's certainly better than catch-and-kill; it's better than animal control officers having to go around removing strays and ferals and threatening 70-year-old women with jail if they feed them! there are so many programs that aid with the costs and so many independent rescuers willing to participate and to provide these services, rather than having the cats left to breed, starve, die of diseases or become roadkill, or euthanized (killed) at the pound! i think that the bird population isn't endangered by the cats, i think it's more the destruction of their habitats and nesting sites by developers!

Patty G.
Patty G7 years ago

We have to do something to stop the continuing of Cats have litters.I belong to P.A.W.S. of Michigan, we are contantly having fundraisers and donations to spay and neuter cats whether they are pets or ferals. Our group takes them to a vet that gives them a deal on the spay and neuter, checks for leukemia and gives a rabies shot if they are feral. I personally have caught 8 kittens and the Mom and had them fixed and took them to the humane society and they were adopted. Some of the male ferals are too wild to be adopted and they have to be put down or relocated after they are fixed. I have a dog, and three cats indoors, all fixed. The third cat I found by my shed when it was about 4 weeks old. Since I raised him, he has become mine. I have four ferals outside I also feed in hopes of trapping 3 of them to get fixed as one already is and rereleased. One of them is pregnant, may have had her babies last night. So there is another litter to deal with. They can have 3-6 babies at a time and have 3-4 litters a year. Its imperative that they are humanely trapped in a no kill cage and fixed. Some people will take them as barn cats when they are fixed.
We must have about 35-40 beautiful cats at the shelter. We have to stop this overpopulation, they are everywhere. Killing them is not the answer. They did not ask to be born. Its the irresponsible people that get them, don't spay or neuter and then throw them out when they get pregnant. Help them, don't kill them.

Heather B.
Past Member 7 years ago

TNR programs should continue. Thanks for the article, Alicia.

Erika L.
Erika L7 years ago

If we agree that mass poisoning is unacceptable, then how else can feral cats numbers be lessened? How can you ever enforce a mandatory spay/neuter law?