Just over a month ago, we posted Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), revisited (from the last two paragraphs): Through outreach and simply talking with residents, we learned that many people using our program for cats are caring for stray, abandoned, and other kinds of community cats. They frequently begin by feeding, without necessarily planning beyond that, and in some cases seem hesitant to do more, fearing they will get in trouble by identifying themselves as the (default) caretakers. They want to help but are not sure what to do.
So how do we protect cats? … We can educate ourselves with accurate information, promote open, honest communication, and encourage citizens to take fuller responsibility for the animals in their care. We can believe people are inherently good, and we can work together to save lives.
On Tuesday, WTKR Channel 3 aired Beach woman says turning in stray cats got her charged with animal cruelty. Identifying herself as the (default) caretaker got Tiffany D’Andrea in trouble. She tried to help the cats, but there’s no system to have helped her.
We won’t speculate about what should or could have happened when Ms. D’Andrea brought in the cats; however, an opportunity for open, honest communication was missed. The story’s larger context has room for a discussion about the number of cats taken in by VBACAC and their outcomes,* as well as a reminder from the shelter about spay/neuter as a preventative measure in controlling companion animal populations.
Thankfully, WTKR followed up with Spay and neuter programs offer way to control feral cat populations.The report begins, “It’s the height of kitten season in Hampton Roads. Many shelters in Hampton Roads are so full they are giving cats away for free. But at the root of the problem, putting an end to the overpopulation, especially among feral cats.” The online story includes links to our program, the Norfolk SPCA’s TNR program, and general low-cost spay/neuter clinic services (not only for community and feral cats).
Were a system, with municipal support and open advocacy, available, Ms. D’Andrea’s and the cats’ stories may have been different.
Just across the water, Operation Cat Snip helps citizens with TNR and provides information about local municipal positions on this issue: The City of Newport News ordinance prohibits the free roaming of unspayed/licensed cats. It also prohibits providing food, water or other forms of sustenance and care to feral cats or stray cats. However, recognizing that Trap-Neuter-Return may be a useful tool in controlling the population of feral cats, the City of Newport News adopted the “Feral Cat Ordinance” (Section 6-53) in 2005. The ordinance allows concerned citizens to legally maintain feral cat colonies through TNR while addressing public health and nuisance issues. The City of Hampton has a similar policy.
As a tool for humane, long-term control of community cat populations, TNR is endorsed by many shelters and national organizations. In Virginia, other organizations such as the Richmond SPCA, the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, and the Fairfax County Animal Shelter assist with related programs. Nationally, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Best Friends Animal Society, and Alley Cat Allies advocate TNR. Additionally, charitable funding groups like PetSmart Charities, the Petco Foundation, and Maddies Fund provide educational and monetary support for TNR.
We will be thinking of Ms. D’Andrea on Monday and following her story.