After two years of fiercely advocating for humane policies for cats in Des Moines, Iowa, Alley Cat Allies is thrilled to announce that the city council passed a change to its animal control ordinance that allows for a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. The council was so enthusiastic about the new law that it waived a planned second and third reading of the ordinance to pass it immediately and unanimously on December 17. The ordinance will go into effect on March 1, 2019.

The Animal Rescue League of Iowa, Inc. (ARL), the state’s largest nonprofit animal shelter that is contracted to operate Des Moines’ animal control, will dedicate staff and resources to running the TNR program and already has $30,000 lined up to start.  ARL Chief Executive Officer Tom Colvin says community and city leaders are already coming together to embrace the program—and credited Alley Cat Allies as a linchpin in making it happen.

“Our hats are off to Alley Cat Allies for coming in the way they did,” says Colvin. “They didn’t come in with a sledgehammer but with a firm, knowledgeable, professional, and experienced message to quell the fears of decision makers in the community. It made all the difference in ensuring the city council was willing to trust and move forward.”

Alley Cat Allies has been on the ground in Des Moines since 2016 to provide leadership and expert guidance to ARL and city officials in pushing for this TNR program and ordinance. We provided language for the draft ordinance that the council passed. Our staff members hosted informative sessions at Des Moines conferences, advocated with officials, educated citizens, and trained ARL staff members on humane programs like TNR and Shelter-Neuter-Return. Alice Burton, our associate director of Animal Shelter & Animal Control Engagement, testified before the Des Moines City Council earlier this year to urge passage of this groundbreaking ordinance.

Those two years of hard work paid off with this enormous step forward for Des Moines’ cats and the people who care for them.

“ARL has always been a leader in animal welfare and folks around the Midwest look up to them. By working with them, I knew Alley Cat Allies could make needed change for cats in Des Moines and for many more Iowa communities,” says Burton. “I’m just proud to have been a partner in establishing this program that will save the lives of so many cats.”

Trap-Neuter-Return is in the best interest of all community cats.

Starting in March, ARL animal control officers will provide expert support to the community as they humanely trap cats all over the Des Moines area and bring them to the shelter, where they will immediately be scanned for a microchip and then spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped by an on-site veterinarian. Animal control officers will then return the cats to their outdoor homes.

The program is expected to humanely manage Des Moines’ cat population, improve cats’ health, and reduce intake of community cats and kittens at ARL. This will save cats’ lives and the taxpayer dollars that would have been used to house and care for cats who are not socialized to people and are unadoptable. Now, those vital resources can instead be focused on adoptable cats. With more than 10,000 animals entering ARL’s facilities each year, this ordinance will bring about important change.

As Des Moines is the capital of Iowa and one of the largest cities in the Midwest, surrounding communities will likely look to its officials and advocates for their leadership with this ordinance change. Colvin believes that Des Moines’ commitment to humane policies will raise the standards for animal welfare across the state and beyond.

“We’ve heard a number of times along the way, ‘let’s see what Des Moines does.’ Now, they will see,” Colvin says. “I expect that throughout the state we’re going to start seeing ordinance changes to allow for these programs.”

Alley Cat Allies congratulates ARL, the Des Moines City Council, and dedicated advocates in the city for helping to bring this lifesaving milestone. We will continue to monitor and support Des Moines as it kicks off its TNR program in a few months.