Alley Cat Allies sent the following letter to the mayor and city council of Lamar, Missouri. Currently, in the city, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), the only humane and effective approach to community cats, is being equated with abandonment. TNR is not abandonment, including by the standards of Lamar’s own animal laws. It is a homecoming for community cats to the outdoor territories where they live and thrive.

In our letter, we clarify this critical truth to decision-makers in Lamar, defend the community cat caregivers of city, and offer our support and guidance on effective and compassionate laws and programs for community cats.

Dear Mayor Oeltjen and Lamar City Council,

Alley Cat Allies is reaching out to express our deep concerns about the interpretation and enforcement against Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs as abandonment. We strongly recommend against this improper and dangerous interpretation and urge you to support TNR instead.

Alley Cat Allies is the leader of the global movement to protect cats and kittens. Through our innovative programs and fearless advocacy, we champion the humane treatment of all cats. We work toward a world where every cat is valued and protected and every community and shelter has policies and programs to defend them.

Founded in 1990, Alley Cat Allies launched TNR into the mainstream in the United States, and we regularly work with lawmakers, animal shelters, and the public to change attitudes and advance lifesaving laws and policies that best serve the interests of cats. We offer the opportunity to provide our expertise and resources to Lamar.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Is The Only Humane, Effective Approach

Lamar should support the only humane and effective approach to community cats that improves cats’ lives and the community—and that is TNR.. Through TNR, community cats are humanely trapped; brought to a veterinary clinic to be spayed or neutered, eartipped (the universal sign that a cat has been spayed or neutered through a TNR program), and vaccinated; and then are returned to their original outdoor homes.

TNR is proven to stabilize community cat populations by stopping the cycle of reproduction; improve the cats’ health and public health through vaccinations; and benefit animal control agencies and shelters by reducing cat intake and calls of concern. Today, communities in Missouri and across the country have adopted TNR ordinances or policies, and thousands more worldwide are conducting grassroots, volunteer-led programs.

Recognizing the reality that TNR programs do not always fit squarely within the four corners of existing legal structures, the American Bar Association, the largest association of legal professionals in the United States, took a position in 2017 urging state and local governments to interpret current laws and policies in a way that facilitates TNR. Therefore, it is critical that laws, policies, and interpretations are in place to permit TNR.

TNR Is Not Abandonment

It is critical to understand that TNR is not abandonment and should not be enforced as such under your current ordinance. As explained above, cats are humanely trapped for spay and neuter and vaccination before they are returned to the location where they were trapped in their outdoor homes. They are returned to the place where they had resources such as food, shelter, and water that allowed them to thrive. So long as cats are returned to the location where they were trapped, no abandonment can occur. And good Samaritans providing this community service with no financial assistance from the city should be praised rather than punished.

Sec. 6-29 (c) of the Lamar Code of Ordinances specifies that “A person commits the offense of animal abandonment when such person has knowingly abandoned an animal in any place without making provisions for its adequate care.” Because these cats are returned to their outdoor homes, where they were living prior to trapping, it is reasonable for the person returning the cat to the same location where they were trapped to know the cat has provisions for adequate care. Therefore, there could be no reasonable determination, much less proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that the TNR volunteer knowingly believed the opposite to be true. And threat of prosecution where none should lie prevents volunteers from helping in this important community activity.

Those who conduct TNR do so because it improves, rather than threatens or harms, the health and wellbeing of community cats. Vaccinations, which are usually given during TNR, protect cats against disease. Spaying and neutering reduces the stresses and unwanted behaviors associated with mating and pregnancy in cats, and is scientifically proven to prevent certain feline infections and cancers.

Please Support TNR

We urge you not to penalize the compassionate people of the Lamar community who spend their own money and time caring for these cats and ensuring they are spayed and neutered. We ask that you reject any interpretation of TNR as abandonment and support community volunteers and TNR instead.

Alley Cat Allies is here to offer support in finding solutions that humanely and effectively address any problems or concerns you have. I am happy to provide any other information that would be helpful, and I hope to hear from you soon.