On January 9, 2016 the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) House of Delegates approved revisions for its policy on “free-roaming abandoned and feral cats”. The policy now further supports Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), but that is the good news. The approved revisions did not include critical, lifesaving amendments introduced by key delegates who are leading the way in humane veterinary medicine for cats, including the American Association of Feline Practitioner’s (AAFP) Dr. Marcus Brown.

Despite the AAFP and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)–organizations that represent thousands of veterinary professionals–submitting amendments to remove language condoning euthanasia, the House of Delegates approved a policy revision that still contains that language. The finalized policy still states that “the AVMA does not oppose the consideration of euthanasia” for “colonies not achieving attrition and posing active threats to the area in which they are residing”.

Condoning euthanasia of healthy cats is just one way the policy contradicts itself on its support of TNR. The policy rightly states that managed colonies–cats that have undergone TNR and are regularly fed and cared for– improve cats’ lives and should be protected. But it also states that cats not in “properly managed colonies” should be “removed from their environment and treated in the same manner as other abandoned and stray animals”. This language discourages people from practicing TNR and puts cats’ lives in danger.

We want the AVMA’s unowned, outdoor cat policy to more strongly endorse TNR, oppose euthanasia for healthy community cats, and set sound standards for cat care. We emphasize these points in response to the policy’s language:

  • Trap-Neuter-Return is the only humane and effective approach to community cats. The AVMA should strongly endorse TNR and encourage municipalities and shelters to conduct TNR for their community’s cats.
  • The AVMA should not condone the euthanasia of healthy cats. The policy should support more TNR efforts instead.
  • Outdoor cats can have the same lifespans and quality of life as owned cats, and they do not adversely affect wildlife, ecosystems, and public health.
  • The public feeding of intact feral cats should not be prohibited. The public should be encouraged to conduct TNR.
  • When free-roaming, unowned cats are removed from their environment, it creates a vacuum effect in which new cats repopulate the area. Cats should not be removed and put into shelters where they likely will be killed. Instead, they should be a part of a TNR program to improve their lives and help the community.

As an association representing veterinary medicine and veterinary professionals, the AVMA should support forward-thinking, humane policies that protect animals. “Euthanasia” of healthy animals is killing. It is cruel and will not control the population of cats. TNR is the only humane and effective approach, and it is now a successful, mainstream movement with over 550 ordinances, hundreds of nonprofit organizations, and the support of veterinary professionals nationwide. The AVMA should acknowledge that movement and strongly endorse TNR in its policy.

In 2014, Alley Cat Allies called on AVMA members to comment on the policy during its review process and express support for TNR. In November 2015, the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee proposed revisions to the policy after nearly two years of review. The AVMA House of Delegates deliberated on those revisions during their winter session and accepted the changes. The House of Delegates is made up of representatives from veterinary organizations and key stakeholder groups around the country.