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Arlington County Animal Control Embraces TNR

Alley Cat Allies has supported caregivers and promoted Trap-Neuter-Return in Arlington County, Virginia, for years as part of our Every Kitty – Every City: Washington, DC Metro Area program. During those years, the county animal control service—operated by The Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA)—did not subsidize, support, or participate in Trap-Neuter-Return.

Thanks to a recent change of leadership, Arlington County’s feral cats are finally getting the help they deserve from the county.

In September of this year, Neil Trent took over as the AWLA’s new executive director and expressed his dedication to reducing the shelter’s euthanasia rates. Soon after, Alley Cat Allies met with Trent and Deputy Director Susan Sherman (pictured) to offer our expertise in setting up a TNR program to keep feral cats out of the shelter—an offer Trent and Sherman enthusiastically embraced.

“This is a major shift in their approach to feral cat care,” says Alley Cat Allies’ senior program manager Elena Johnson, who organized and attended the meeting.

Within just two months, AWLA’s approach to feral cats has made a complete 180 degree shift—from no TNR support at all to hosting community workshops and subsidizing spay/neuter services for feral cats.

Following the model of our highly successful program in nearby Fairfax County, residents of Arlington County are responsible for trapping the cats and transporting them to the AWLA on a specific drop-off day. The AWLA brings the cats to the National Capital Area Spay and Neuter Center (co-founded by Alley Cat Allies in 2007) to be neutered, picks up the tab, then transports the cats back to Arlington County where caregivers return the cats to their outdoor homes.

To prepare community members for trapping, the AWLA hosts regular Helping Community Cats workshops presented by Alley Cat Allies. At the very first workshop on November 17, 44 attendees received our materials and learned how to properly trap cats, care for colonies, and access local resources. Just a few months after the AWLA’s policy change, the inaugural feral cat spay/neuter drop-off day was held on December 12, with a second workshop already in the works for January 25.

After years of being the voice for feral cats in Arlington County, we are excited that all of our community education, preparation, and advocacy have paid off, and that Neil Trent and the AWLA are now embracing the humane approach in their community and proving what a huge difference a simple change in leadership can make for cats.

To get involved with Arlington’s TNR program, visit the AWLA website or email