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Cats and Caregivers Feeling the Loss of City Support in L.A.

A few short months ago, a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling stopped the city from subsidizing feral cat spay/neuter services and educating the public about Trap-Neuter-Return, paralyzing a collaborative partnership between city and citizens that had been moving forward for 20 years.

Since then, the quality of life for L.A.'s feral cats and the challenges faced by their caregivers have taken a turn for the worse.

Now in the midst of kitten season, Pam Wilkinson, a Coalition for Pets and Public Safety employee who assists L.A. residents with spay and neuter resources, receives 30 to 50 calls per day about litters of kittens found outdoors. Wilkinson helps residents understand that Trap-Neuter-Return keeps feral cats out of shelters, where they have a nearly 100% chance of being killed. She also educates the public on how Trap-Neuter-Return relieves the stresses of mating and stabilizes feral cat colony populations, improving the lives of the cats.

But just when they are most needed, there are no city subsidized spay/neuter vouchers for feral cats that Wilkinson can direct callers to use. Groups who foster socialized stray cats and kittens for adoption are not receiving vouchers for spay/neuter either.

"The lack of vouchers to sterilize stray and feral cats and their litters of kittens has crippled the general public from following through with sterilization," says Wilkinson. "Some people say they will try to spay or neuter them as their pocketbooks permit, but so many of the callers are unemployed or low income."

Without the city funding, L.A.'s tried-and-true system of humane cat care simply can't carry on—residents don't know where to turn to help the cats and even seasoned caregivers have had to scale back their Trap-Neuter-Return efforts. Cassandra Morris of Culver City downsized her trapping regimen from three times per month to just one. She used to trap 30 cats per month—she now averages only 10. "People aren’t getting involved like they used to because they don’t have the finances to do it on their own," says Morris.

While overwhelmed caregivers and nonprofit organizations struggle with the loss of city funding, the court has silenced L.A.'s shelters from educating residents about Trap-Neuter-Return. City employees are no longer allowed to acknowledge this lifesaving option, which means not giving out educational materials or flyers, referrals to organizations, or even discussing it.

It's this crucial public education opportunity that Karn Myers, clinic director and Chief Operating Officer of spay/neuter nonprofit FixNation, misses most about working together with the city. Before the ruling, workers at city shelters often referred residents to FixNation for free neutering for stray and feral cats and enthusiastically promoted its TNR resources as an alternative to leaving feral cats at the shelter, where statistics predict they will be killed. FixNation worked long and hard to develop this partnership and to provide residents with a nonlethal option, but since the ruling, referrals from the city shelters have completely dried up.

By censoring city shelters and sabotaging the lines of communication, the court has made it impossible for L.A. residents to learn about responsible, humane cat care, which starts with spaying and neutering. How will people get the message that most cats in shelters are killed, that there is a humane way to care for them outdoors, and that financial and educational resources are available? "The city shelters are the ones that are right there greeting the public who can make that difference—and they can't do anything,” says Myers. "We can't get to those people that are right there on the front lines."

Alley Cat Allies has witnessed communities around the country benefiting from working together in cats' best interest—before this ruling, Los Angeles was one of them. For two decades, the city has been a source of funding and information, a cornerstone of a progressive public-private partnership between officials, shelters, stray and feral cat organizations, and residents. Without its crucial support and cooperation, the impact of all these other individual efforts is diminished—the parts simply can’t move forward unless united as a whole.

We need the city government of rejoin this progressive partnership to advance humane cat care once again.

Sign the petition telling the City of Los Angeles to do what it takes to reinstate their support! 
Learn more about what Alley Cat Allies is doing to restore Trap-Neuter-Return funding in L.A.