Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is now Chile’s official approach to community cats and all municipalities must make efforts for its proper implementation under new regulations enacted in August. It is the first time that groundbreaking protections for community cats across the country have been mandated.

With Global Cat Day approaching on October 16, it is an amazing reminder that communities all around the world are protecting cats by embracing humane programs like TNR.

Verónica Basterrica Wijnands, founder and director of Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Networkâ„¢ member Fundación FeliNNos, has been Chile’s TNR powerhouse. She says these regulations will bolster her lifesaving work.

“These regulations send a message that cats are protected. They help establish parameters for how to do TNR correctly for the benefit of cats and the community,” says Wijnands, who directs TNR programs in a few of Chile municipalities. “Now if I approach a municipality, they should be more open to TNR and my help. We can save more cats.”

The newly adopted regulations include specific details to ensure cats are handled humanely and returned to their outdoor colonies. It states that cats can only be caught with humane traps and only for the purpose of being spayed or neutered by a TNR program. It also specifies that the cats must be eartipped, vaccinated against rabies, and given at least 24 hours of post-operation recovery. Most importantly, the cats must then be returned to the exact same area where they were trapped. They cannot be removed or relocated.

The regulations also state that all Chile municipalities are to identify zones or sectors with community cat colonies and keep records of them. They encourage municipal leaders to enter into agreements or contracts with animal protection entities that have experience with TNR and caring for cats to better comply with the law.

According to Wijnands, this is an enormous step for a nation that is traditionally more focused on dog-related issues than on cats.

“In this country, cats have usually been left behind. For most of the population and authorities, community cats and colonies were not important,” says Wijnands. “It is absolutely amazing that the ethical management of cats is now the only option here.”

Wijnands says that just three years ago, no municipalities she worked with even knew about TNR. Now, practicing it is their legal responsibility.

The regulations are “a tool to save more cats and will definitely help them get a better chance at life,” says Wijnands. “That is what really matters, even if there is a long road ahead to getting TNR established in all municipalities. I am extremely happy and grateful.”