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Monday, March 18, 2013
Trap Neuter Return, or TNR, has been the subject of many heated discussions in the last several decades. To understand this subject more clearly, we need to understand how the feral/stray phenomenon began.
When faced with a move, some cat owners chose to leave their pets behind instead of surrendering them to shelters. Others drove their pets to distant locations and dumped them. More often than not, these cats were also unsterilized.
If the cat was lucky, it was abandoned near a restaurant or found other strays to show it a food source. Eventually, these abandoned cats became pregnant and produced anywhere from two to six kittens. Since cats are pregnant for 63 days and can breed at around 5 1⁄2 months, you can see how the numbers grew exponentially.
Historically, animal control has managed unwanted cat populations by using catch-and-kill methods. Hungry cats walk into baited traps and are then brought to the shelter. Because ferals are not adoptable as pets, they are destroyed after their legal hold time is up.
To the uninitiated, catch and kill seems like a permanent solution, but at best it’s only a temporary fix. As cats are removed from an area, the strays along the borders simply move in to take their place. This observable fact is called the vacuum effect. It is also the reason animal control officers return to the same spot year after year to trap more cats. Catch and kill is not only ineffective, it is fiscally irresponsible, and I believe inhumane.
However, there is an alternative. Cities such as Jacksonville, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Atlantic City and counties like Fairfax (to name a few) are embracing Trap/Neuter/Return ordinances. These areas understand that catch and kill is an exercise in futility and are willing to try something new.
TNR is an organized system where good Samaritans agree to be responsible for a colony of feral cats. They feed, sterilize and update the colony’s vaccinations at their own expense. Should an animal become ill, the caretaker traps and takes it to a veterinarian for care or euthanasia. Cats are also ear-tipped for identification purposes.
Trap/Neuter/Return is by far the most logical solution to the challenge of feral and stray population.
By embracing this model, we save tax dollars, free up animal control officers’ time and stop the needless killing of healthy cats. Additionally, pound euthanasia statistics immediately drop, and the cats that live among us are free to serve our community by reducing rodent populations.
We recommend municipalities take a fresh look at Trap/Neuter/Return and join the growing list of progressive towns and counties that recognize that killing the problem is not solving it.
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