Charitable Donation Advice
Charitable Donation Advice is a regularly recurring column here at Change Gangs. Trap, Neuter, and Release was a recent education topic during a People With Compassion for Pets Giving Circle meeting.
Trap, Neuter, and Release
Education plays an important part in our giving circles, because we want to make sure we donate to programs that make sense and make an impact on the problem. Sometimes, the current practice or common sense aren’t actually the best guide. Trap, Neuter, and Release programs are a case in point.
The Case for Trap, Neuter, and Release
Thousands of feral cats are euthanized each year by animal shelters, because many believe that these wild cats, whose temperaments are not suitable for being adopted, would suffer a terrible existence without a home to stay in. There is a better way to deal with these wild cats and it’s called “Trap, Neuter, and Release” or TNR. Under this philosophy, feral cats are trapped but, instead of being euthanized, they are sterilized and released back where they were found.
Many misconceptions about cats and their behavior in the wild have led many to believe that euthanizing feral cats is a better solution than letting them stay in the wild.
The following information is from Nathan Winograd’s book, Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Solution.
Myth: The cat is a domestic animal that needs people.
Fact: All cats are biologically identical to the African Wildcat. The African Wildcat is a truly wild animal and no one advocates that it (or other wild animals like raccoons, mice, or foxes) should be either tamed and brought into a home environment or exterminated. “Wild” then is not a biological indicator but a behavioral indicator. A cat born in a corner of a barn with no human contact is a wild animal and as capable of taking care of itself as other wild animals. Some domesticated cats can even revert to their own wild behavior when necessity requires it.
Myth: Cats in the wild will suffer a series of brutal experiences.
Fact: All animals living in the wild will deal with challenges and hardships. British naturalist Roger Tabor studied wild cats and found that feral cats survive at similar rates and exhibit similar behaviors of other wild animals. Since we don’t advocate that all raccoons be rounded up and exterminated to prevent their suffering, should we really be doing so for cats?
Myth: Indoor cats live much longer than outdoor cats.
Fact: Dr. Julie Levy studied feral cats for 11 years. She found that feral cats had similar rates of disease as house cats with lifespans 92% as long as their house counterparts. Being wild does not mean a short and brutal life.
Myth: Feral cats carry rabies and are dangerous for the public health
Fact: The last documented case of a cat transmitting rabies to a human was in 1975.
Myth: Feral cats kill large numbers of birds and other wild animals.
Fact: The studies cited to promote this idea were based on surveys of local communities asking them to estimate how many birds their outdoor cat brought home. They did not ask questions like, how did the birds die? did the cat kill them? were there indications of disease or injury indicating the bird may have died anyway? These studies are not reliable indicators of cat’s impact on the bird population. Most likely the biggest impact on the bird population has to do with human activity: loss of habitat, pesticide use, and over trapping.
A Success Story
In 1989 there were an estimated 1,500 wild cats living on Stanford University’s campus. The campus decided to hire a trapping company to eliminate the cat population on campus. Fortunately, a small group of women came up with a better plan. With the support of the Palo Alto Humane Society, the women trapped the cats, vaccinated them, sterilized them, found homes for the kittens and friendly cats, and released the remaining cats back on campus.
By 1992, no new kittens were born on campus. As the remaining cats grew old and passed away, the cat population decreased to 150 feral cats. Today, there are fewer than 50 feral cats roaming the Stanford grounds.