When animal control officers and leaders support Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), they bolster the program in the eyes of the community. And that, in turn, benefits community cats.

In Washington, D.C., community cats had a hero and advocate in Ray Noll, who was the vice president of field services at the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) before he passed in September 2017 at age 55. The animal protection community will remember him for making a difference in the lives of countless animals, including community cats.

“He was able to speak with a different kind of authority when asked about [TNR],” says HRA Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Shain. “To have an officer who believes in it and can represent it from that perspective can make such a difference.”

The organization has long supported TNR, and Noll’s firm belief in the program allowed him to successfully educate community members about it.

Creating a Roadmap for TNR

The path to bring TNR to Washington, D.C., was not an easy one. Alley Cat Allies had tried for years to get city leaders to end a catch-and-kill policy that caused needless deaths in shelters at considerable taxpayer expense. In 2004, Alley Cat Allies created and funded a TNR pilot program, called DC Cat Assistance Team (DC CAT), in the city. Through this program, Washington Humane Society (which merged in 2016 with the Washington Animal Rescue League to form the Humane Rescue Alliance) referred calls about community cats to Alley Cat Allies to carry out TNR. In the first year alone, more than 1,400 cats were spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Alley Cat Allies also provided outreach to the community.

Due to the program’s success, Washington Humane Society (WHS) announced in 2006 that it would embrace TNR as an effective means to stabilize the community cat population. With financial support from Alley Cat Allies, WHS started the city’s first high-volume spay and neuter clinic. In 2008, with support from Alley Cat Allies, the city passed a law requiring animal control to promote TNR.

The Washington, D.C., law is a model for the United States. “When we receive questions from leaders of municipalities around the country, we point to the Washington, D.C., law,” says Alley Cat Allies President and Founder Becky Robinson. “It makes sense that the nation’s capital would be the nation’s leader in the humane treatment and protection of community cats.”

It took some time before the program spread throughout the District and residents saw the benefits of TNR. Noll played an important role in changing opinions and attitudes.

“He interacted with people really well and effectively,” says Shain. “He could take situations that were escalating and calm them right down. He was really a believer in the work and the success that can come from doing TNR work.”

His support set the example for the other animal control officers, Shain says.

Raising the Bar for Compassion

At HRA, Noll oversaw both the animal control and humane law enforcement departments. These departments serve the nearly 700,000 residents of Washington, D.C., and its 1.9 million annual visitors, and respond to more than 12,000 calls for assistance each year, according to HRA.

Noll came to HRA in 2012 as director of animal control field services. He had previously been chief of special police at the World Bank and had also held positions as a K-9 police officer and humane law enforcement officer.

Alley Cat Allies Associate Director of Animal Shelter and Animal Control Engagement Alice Burton met Noll about five years ago when she was chief of animal services at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Virginia. He attended a TNR presentation she was giving. Burton and Noll became fast friends and traded advice about situations that animal control officers often confront. Their jurisdictions were on the opposite sides of the Potomac River.

“He helped raise the standards of compassion and professionalism for animal control officers under his leadership and others in the field,” says Burton. “He was extremely dedicated.”

“He made a really big impact on a lot of people and animals,” adds Shain.

Noll was instrumental in developing legislation that created standards of care for animals, which passed in Washington, D.C., in November. He worked on the bill for months to ensure that it would be effective and could be properly enforced. It is now known as “Ray’s Law.”

“What he brought was unique—his experience in law enforcement and certainly his knowledge of animals,” says Shain.

Alley Cat Allies is grateful for Noll’s commitment to improving the lives of cats, and all animals, and will always remember his compassion and leadership.