Sunday 1 April 2012

Need To Measure The Success Of Trap Neuter Return

It is time to accurately measure the success of trap-neuter-return programs on a large scale. The studies should be long term and scientific in manner.

In order to shut out counter arguments, there should be no weaknesses in the studies in respect of methodology.

The need arises because it is time to demonstrate to people who can fund TNR programs (e.g governmental agencies) that it works in the long term. Well documented success stories would also counter the arguments of the bird lobbyists and others who want to see the feral cat exterminated. They say that TNR fails and feral cats are a hazard to native wildlife.

Apparently, TNR as a means to manage feral cat numbers was devised in South Africa and Denmark fairly recently in the 1970s. The method was exported to England and thence to the United States, Canada and many other countries.

There are a great number of feral cat TNR programs in the United States, Canada and Europe. There have been a good number of studies as well on the outcome of TNR. Alley Cat Allies says that "Multiple long-term studies of Trap-Neuter-Return have shown that the size of managed colonies decreases over time" (see Alley Cats Allies page).

But my reading of the situation is that we don't have enough solid data on the efficacy of TNR as a humane means of managing and reducing feral cat colonies. A highly reliable source, The Welfare of Cats, edited by Irene Rochlitz, says that, "it is impossible to quantify the extent and success of TNR in most locations". The book quotes a substantial number of TNR programs in various countries including Israel (where declawing has recently been banned) in coming to this conclusion.

The book refers to success stories such as a TNR program that commenced in Florida in 1995. Six years of information indicated that despite a 33% increase in human population, euthanasia rates at shelters and complaints dropped off over the study period. Yet, as far as I can tell we don't have hard figures for this or hardly any other TNR program.

Alley Cat Allies, themselves, could take the responsibility of ensuring that TNR programs with which they are connected collect and collate accurate data on success and failure rates. More rigour needs to be injected into TNR. I would expect positive data, which can be used to accelerate activity levels of TNR across America.

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