Monday 3 May 2021

Argument over trapping and killing vs trapping, neutering and releasing

There is an argument going on in Brooklyn, Parma Heights, Cleveland, Ohio, USA about how to manage the feral cats in their community and it is an argument that you see all over the USA, all the time. And the parties who are arguing are usually the same as well. On the one hand, the authorities prefer to trap and euthanise, as they call it, but which is better described as trapping and killing. On the other hand, many residents, but not all, prefer TNR, a well-known programme which is conducted all across America.

In this instance, it seems without notification, Brooklyn and Parma Heights Animal Control published a Facebook post about its policy to trap and euthanise feral cats. It was published last Tuesday apparently and then deleted. I believe that it was deleted because of the comments underneath the post by the citizens of that community.

Essentially the Facebook post said that the authority's policy was to trap and humanely euthanised all intact feral cats (see below). They also said that they "will attempt to relocate ear-tipped cats". What that means is that those cats which have been part of TNR programs and therefore have been ear-tipped will be treated differently and that there will be an attempt to relocate them.

If that attempt failed they would be euthanised. The primary focus is on killing the cats and the reason for this is, they argue, that they get requests from the public to get rid of them. There is obviously a segment of the public (and this is quite typical) who want the feral cats gone in the neighbourhood and they don't mind how it happens.

Brooklyn and Parma Hts Animal Control policy on feral cats introduced without consultation
Facebook post on Brooklyn and Parma Hts Animal Control policy on feral cats introduced without consultation. Screenshot.

I think that you can guess what they said. One veterinarian in the area said that it seemed as if the clock was being turned back. Her name is Danya Linehan and she said, "I felt like I'd been thrown back about 30 years. It's been a very long time since I've seen anyone propose a solution of rounding up and killing cats to the overpopulation problem since we've been so successful with what we call TNR."

Another, Michelle Pierce, the owner of a Cleveland-based TNR rescue, said that trapping and killing is not a permanent solution and in any case other cats come into the area after the original ones have been killed. It is no solution at all whereas TNR stabilises the colony and stops them reproducing. It also stops nuisance behaviours and gradually the population dies out.

The problem with TNR for many residents is that it is too slow a solution. And that's why the local authority steps in to try and produce an instant solution and that can only be killing.

Another obvious problem which constantly returns is that it is almost impossible to be absolutely certain that you are trapping a feral cat and not someone's pet. When you trap a domesticated cat they sometimes behave like feral cats which means that under the policy proposed by Animal Control they end up being killed which is the crimes of criminal damage and theft under the law of America if you wanted to pursue that course of action. You may struggle to get the local police to act upon that and you may struggle to get the authorities to prosecute themselves on that but it would be a crime nonetheless.

The article on the Cleveland news website 5 ABC NEWS 5 CLEVELAND has been updated to tell us that on Thursday, Brooklyn and Parma Heights Animal Control said that they have suspended trapping feral cats "momentarily". Clearly they have observed and understood the reaction their policy. I hope that they take stock and try the more common sense route which can only be TNR.

I said at the beginning that they did not consult with residents. Any authority wishing to trap and kill feral cats as a solution would be wise to consult with the community first because you need their approval and their involvement because, as mentioned above, there will be outdoor domestic cats. They need to be inside if the authority is trapping outside. More important than that is that you have to seek the agreement of residents that feral cats can be killed and many of them will disagree.

The argument outlined above is one which recurs constantly in America. It is a problem based upon patience. TNR requires patience while killing is near instanteous. The former is a long-term solution. The latter is a quick but flawed fix which does not last.

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