Alley Cat Allies is moving swiftly to save cats in Jefferson, Iowa. We’ve set up critical meetings with community leaders to create humane solutions, including a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, to replace the recently-suspended policy permitting police officers to fatally shoot cats. We are committed to working with the Jefferson community to create a positive approach and a better way forward.

Alley Cat Allies will hold discussions with Jefferson officials, community volunteers, and the local shelter this week involving immediate changes to the city’s protocol regarding cats. The biggest items on the agenda: setting up humane education and outreach, establishing low-cost spay and neuter services, and implementing a TNR program as quickly as possible.

“Jefferson has taken an important first step, but in order to be effective in helping cats and their community, the city needs a comprehensive humane approach, including a Trap-Neuter-Return program,” says Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies. “Our in-person discussions will stress that a TNR program can be launched practically overnight, so it’s important to start right away!”

Earlier this month, Alley Cat Allies and local partner Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) held urgent meetings after we learned that officers from the Jefferson Police Department were shooting and killing cats they deemed unadoptable. Residents said they assumed the cats would be taken to the local animal shelter. Most were not but were shot instead.

The city argued it was cheaper to kill a cat with a gunshot rather than impounding and euthanizing her at a shelter. Thankfully, in response to our efforts to provide Jefferson with immediate humane solutions to address cats, officials announced soon after that they would suspend this inhumane policy, pending review.

The Dodo, which covers animal issues, interviewed Robinson and Scott Wilson, an animal welfare intervention coordinator at the ARL, about Jefferson’s practices regarding cats. “Not only was this not the best solution to the problem, but it could also be in violation with Iowa state law,” Wilson said.

Robinson, Wilson, and other animal advocates also questioned how police officers would know whether the cats they trapped were “unadoptable.” Cats caught in traps, both owned and unowned, are terribly frightened and tend to react in a way that may make them seem “unadoptable.” In a less stressful environment, these same cats may be placid and affectionate.

Because the cats in Jefferson were taken away and shot, they were never given the opportunity to be reunited with their families or colonies. Animal shelters typically scan cats for microchips, post photos of the cats on their website and social media, and then hold them for a few days to give people a chance to come forward and claim them.

Providing Jefferson with community outreach and humane education, along with affordable spay and neuter services and a TNR program, would serve cats’ and residents’ best interests. Every city with a TNR program—and there are thousands around the United States—has experienced the benefits from this humane and effective approach to cats.

“Setting up a model TNR program is not complicated,” Robinson says. “Cities with varying demographic and economic structures can do this.”

In a TNR program, cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped. Then community cats are returned to their outdoor colonies to live and thrive. Removing cats from an area fails to sustainably reduce cat populations due to the Vacuum Effect. This happens when cats from neighboring areas move into the newly available space, take advantage of food and shelter, and quickly breed to capacity.

TNR stabilizes cat populations by stopping the breeding cycle and preventing litters of kittens. This sound public policy helps local governments like Jefferson, as well as local shelters, save money by decreasing cat intake and euthanasia. TNR also benefits public health by increasing community cat vaccination rates. Simply put, TNR programs create win-win situations because they enable people and cats to coexist peacefully, as they have for thousands of years.

Allie Cat Allies will be providing expertise, guidance, and support to help Jefferson, the local shelter, and community volunteers establish a citywide humane program. Alley Cat Allies is on the move to help Jefferson make humane change, and we will keep you updated.

If your city or town has questionable or unfavorable policies regarding cats, Alley Cat Allies has resources to help you in your efforts to educate officials and community members. Our Advocacy Toolkit will show you how to advocate to change laws and effectively speak with your officials. Then see our webpage on organizing your community for strategic change for cats and learn how to rally your community to save cats’ lives, including by implementing TNR.