Fort Wayne City Council are seriously considering changing the city's animal control ordinance from trap and euthanise to trap neuter and return. My reading of the situation is that the ordinance will be changed and an efficient and organised TNR program will be set up by a coalition of organisations which include Animal Care & Control, the Allen County SPCA and the Humane Organisation to Prevent Euthanasia (HOPE). I believe that they are calling this a Community Cats program.
For the past 30 years the approach of the leaders of the city of Fort Wayne was to trap free roaming cats and then kill them. The peak year for this policy was 2010 when Animal Care & Control trapped more than 8,000 cats and euthanised about 7,000 of them. In 1980 the figure was 2,000. You can see it's been an ever increasing number which in itself is a sign of failure of this policy which no doubt encouraged the City Council to decide upon the only alternative, TNR.
Jessica Henry, director of the Alan County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says this about trapping and killing:
“There's zero evidence that it works. In fact all the evidence says the contrary... It serves no purpose."
I suppose the evidence she is referring to is the past 30 years of trapping and euthanising leading to more cats.
I think that we can agree that trapping and euthanising stray cats simply provides temporary relief to the problem by removing the cats from the environment until a new population moves in. Killing stray cats has its attractions because you see instant results and historically people find it difficult to think long-term and map out strategies that produce results over decades rather than months.
We know that politicians are always seeking instant results to get votes so it does take some courage to do the right thing and plan in the long term.
An encouraging indication of the success of TNR comes from Indianapolis which started a TNR program in 2004. There was an average decline of 35% in stray cat numbers across the city with one area reporting a decrease of 43%.
The people who support TNR do make a good point, however. If TNR is to work it must be done effectively and completely with proper funding.
In Fort Wayne, the three organisations referred to as being involved in this program will work as a team. They will each have separate responsibilities.
Animal Care & Control have the responsibility of retrieving the trapped cat's, scanning them for microchips and then take them to HOPE whose role it is to spray and neuter the cats if no microchip is found. They will also notch one of the ears of the cats after the operation. The SPCA then collect the cats from HOPE and return them to their territory. Cats visually in decent health will be returned while cats that are obviously ill will be euthanised.
There are of course concerns with trap neuter return because you are ultimately going to be putting some cat back into the environment who are ill who may well spread disease to other animals. On that argument you are perpetuating a lot of misery amongst stray and feral cats, which is the argument we hear repeated by PETA.
However, there is simply no better solution than TNR. There is really no choice in the matter so although TNR is not a perfect solution is the best solution based upon hard evidence.
There are many people who disagree that TNR works. These people prefer to kill the cats. It is really about how effectively the programme is carried out and I hope that the city of Fort Wayne carries out the programme highly efficiently which will help to promote this far more humane way of treating stray cats. We created stray cats it is our duty to resolve it humanely.