Our Fast Action and Public Outcry Stop a Lethal Control Program from Launching

Thanks to outspoken cat advocates and the leadership of Alley Cat Allies, the City of Rochelle in Illinois has cancelled a program to trap and “euthanize” community cats and changed its animal law to prevent the killing of healthy stray animals.

The city first announced the program in social media posts October 24, which stated that residents could pick up free traps at the Rochelle Police Department so they could catch community cats on their own and bring them to the Rochelle Veterinary Hospital to be killed.

Original post made by the City of Rochelle’s Twitter account which read: Feral Cat Traps are available the the Police Department for pickup at no charge. Once the feral cat is trapped, the resident will deliver the trap to the Rochelle Veterinary Clinic for euthanasia and return the empty trap to the Police Department. We appreciate your help.

Staff at the veterinary hospital were stunned by the announcement, since they were unaware of the program and wanted nothing to do with it.

The posts swiftly sparked outrage from the public, which left thousands of comments in response, and from Rochelle Veterinary Hospital.

“I am angry that my business was blindsided by a careless Facebook post; I am appalled that there are people who think that euthanizing stray cats is even an option…” Rochelle Veterinary Hospital owner and veterinarian Nicole Marquardt said in a letter to the editor.

Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh has since said that the proposed program had not been vetted and should not have been released.

Upon hearing of the situation, Alley Cat Allies immediately reached out to Rochelle officials, including Fiegenschuh, and offered to help the city address cats humanely. We provided educational materials for officials, city employees, and the public to explain the benefits of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR); the only humane and effective approach to community cats.

Now, the City of Rochelle is working with Alley Cat Allies to implement TNR.

“We take your concerns seriously and are taking steps to develop such a program,” the city stated to its constituents in a Facebook post last week.

As a first step toward nonlethal solutions, the city removed outdated language from its animal code that allows stray animals to be “destroyed,” meaning killed, after three days of impoundment. The code was 24 years old—long overdue for an overhaul to catch up to our nation’s humane standards.

“…the old policy on our books since 1996 is outdated for society’s viewpoints today and we need to come up with a new policy with input from staff and residents that is in the best interests of everyone…” Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows said.

Alley Cat Allies helps elected officials across the nation end policies that endanger cats’ lives and launch programs that protect them and improve the community. We will continue to support the City of Rochelle to ensure a humane and effective program is put in place for the cats and people who call Rochelle home.