Compassionate action

On Sunday, Virginian-Pilot Editorial page Editor, Donald Luzzatto, published Looking For a Way Out of the Ravine. In great detail, the Editor recalls the setting and effects of “the howls” his family heard. An explanation of what actually happened in “the ravine” is less clear and described as “best we could figure.” The next paragraphs draw on emotional appeals to argue that the cats for whom his family offered no help lived a life only slightly better than death. The editorial ends with the idea that a “hard death in a lonely ravine” possibly awaits feral cats if they are not “eradicat[ed]” through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

Setting the scene with an acknowledgment of inaction is a perfect argument for TNR, which is part of a philosophy of compassionate action. Luzzatto uses “Release”; TNR advocates prefer “Return.” The point is to “trap” the cats for “neutering” (or spaying) and then “return” them to their habitats. Ear-tipping and vaccination are also recognized components of TNR protocol. Additionally, those involved in TNR foster and adopt as part of the overall strategy in reducing these populations.

Inherent in TNR advocacy, too, is the belief that feral cats don’t belong in shelters, where their only outcome is death.*

Luzzatto presents some intriguing, important ideas concerning companion animal populations. He also says that “the simple fact is that humans…have never cared enough for cats and dogs to do right by them…It’s how you get to advocates for feral cats arguing that they should be captured, neutered and released.” Unfortunately, his discussion ignores the fact that people who want the option to practice TNR as part of conscientious care for feral/community cats are not the cause of the problem. Where they see “human irresponsibility,” they want to take action that saves lives in the immediate and long-term future. Again and again, Spay Hampton Roads encounters people who do care and who do want “to do right” by animals.

Like Luzzatto, we hope spay/neuter becomes “so commonplace that there aren’t thousands of new animals killed every year.” We take a different perspective, though, on the role the community can play in this outcome.

* Some communities have “barn cat” programs for unsocialized/feral cats.


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