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Caring for Our Community Cats

A story by freelance writer Lisa Grace Lednicer recently published in the Washington Post Magazine is full of errors about Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)—also commonly referred to as Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return—and Washington, D.C.’s model program for community cats. We want to help set the record straight.

Trap-Neuter-Return is a mainstream program.
Alley Cat Allies was founded in 1990 as the first national organization promoting TNR. Since then, every reputable national animal protection organization has endorsed the program. Trap-Neuter- Return is the only effective and humane approach to stabilizing and eventually reducing feral cat populations. More than 600 local, professionally managed nonprofit organizations have been formed to carry out TNR in their communities. And more than 430 local governments nationwide have adopted ordinances endorsing TNR.

Trap-Neuter-Return is proven to work.
Numerous studies show that TNR effectively stabilizes and reduces feral cat populations over time. Studies also show that outdoor cats are overwhelmingly healthy, and that cats in TNR programs have the same long lifespans as housecats.

Americans care about outdoor cats and want to help them.
Feral cats may not want to curl up on our laps, but that does not mean people don’t care about them. Contrary to President of the American Bird Conservancy George Fenwick—these cats are deeply cared about. In fact, a survey by Harris Interactive found that the overwhelming majority of Americans—81 percent—would rather a cat be left to live out her life outdoors than be caught and killed. And three out of five Americans have put out food or water for a cat at some point. Not because they are “obligated” to help, but because they want to.

TNR isn’t just a “volunteer” program. Policymakers, local shelters and animal control can be—and often are—partners in making TNR work for the community.
Many major cities across the country—including Philadelphia, Indianapolis, San Jose, and Fairfax County, Virginia—have professionally managed TNR programs in which the local animal shelter and animal control agency is a major partner. In fact, that is just the case in Washington, D.C., where the Washington Humane Society—which also contracts with the city to provide animal control—has fully embraced a model TNR program. In D.C.’s program, professional animal care and control officers are out in the community, trapping cats right alongside volunteers and bringing them to a state-of-the-art high-volume spay/neuter clinic before returning the cats to their outdoor homes. Washington Humane Society is now a sought-after expert for other animal shelters seeking to change their own failed policies that still rely on killing.

Finally, we should note that Dr. Julie Levy is a longtime friend of Alley Cat Allies and a true TNR supporter. We were surprised by her quotes in this story, as we found them out of character. We spoke to her and discovered she was entirely misquoted—disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, in a story so riddled with mischaracterizations and distortions.

*UPDATE: The misquote and mischaracterization of Dr. Julie Levy in the Washington Post Magazine’s online article has been edited as of 2/8/2014.