UPDATE – 2/7/2022

Because hundreds of dedicated advocates spoke out in a matter of hours, this horrific bill will no longer be considered! Thank you to everyone who took action, you have saved countless cats’ lives.

ORIGINAL POST

The following letter by Becky Robinson was sent in response to Hawaii’s legislature’s consideration of HB 1987, which would – if enacted – require and fund the development and execution of a mass poisoning and killing of free-roaming cats across the State of Hawaii.  The slaughtering of cats is something my organization, Alley Cat Allies, and the vast majority of the citizens of Hawaii believe to be unacceptably cruel and unethical.


The Honorable Mark J. Hashem
Chair
House Committee on Agriculture
Hawaii State Capitol
Room 424
415 South Beretania St.
Honolulu, HI 96813

The Honorable Sylvia Luke
Chair
House Committee on Finance
Hawaii State Capitol
Room 306
415 South Beretania St.
Honolulu, HI 96813

The Honorable David A. Tarnas
Chair
House Committee on Water & Land
Hawaii State Capitol
Room 316
415 South Beretania St.
Honolulu, HI 96813

Dear Chairman Hasham, Chairman Luke and Chairman Tarnas:

We are writing today on behalf of Alley Cat Allies and our thousands of supporters in Hawaii to make you aware of our grave concerns regarding HB 1987, which would – if enacted – require and fund the development and execution of a mass killing of free-roaming cats across the State of Hawaii.  The slaughtering of cats is something my organization, Alley Cat Allies, and the vast majority of the citizens of Hawaii believe to be unacceptably cruel and unethical.

I am the president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, the world’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats. We have promoted evidence-based and compassionate policies for cats since our founding in 1990, and we regularly advise individuals, nonprofit groups, local governments, and state policymakers on humane approaches to cats.

HB 1987 would (1) require the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to conduct a count of feral cats per island by the end of June 2023, (2) require the Invasive Species Council (ISC) to develop and implement a program to “effectively reduce” the feral cat population in the State by the end of 2025, and (3) appropriate funds for the fulfilment of these tasks by DLNR and ISC. Regarding the “effective reduction” of feral cat populations, the bill indicates that by the end of 2025, the feral cat population on the islands of Kauai, Maui, and Hawai’i should be “eliminated” and the feral cat population on the island of Oahu should be reduced by 50%.

The bill makes plain that these eliminations and reduction should be achieved via a cull, and recommends that the ISC consider the dispersal of poisoned baits, specifically singing the praises of Curiosity® and Eradicat® poison baits. The bill inaccurately refers to this method of killing as humane and also inaccurately indicates that the baits pose no risk to non-target species.

There is nothing humane about the way cats die after ingesting either Eradicat® (which contains sodium fluoroacetate) or Curiosity® (which contains para-aminopropiophenone) Both are enthusiastically suggested in HB 1987, and both bring about painful deaths involving much suffering.  Sodium fluoroacetate (1080) has no known antidote. It is flat out wrong to say that non-target species are not victims of suffering and death as a result of Curiosity® and Eradicat® baits. The Government of Australia itself acknowledges as much. Non-target animals are at risk following the ingestion of these horrific baits and through ingestion of animals – cats and others – who have recently eaten the baits. In humans, poisoning by 1080 causes vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion, agitation, cardiac abnormalities, twitching, and sometimes seizures and death.

HB 1987 ludicrously suggests that through massive culling across the Hawaiian islands free-roaming cat populations will be “eliminated” on Kauai, Maui and Hawai’i by the end of 2025 and reduced by 50% on Oahu.  There is simply nothing to support this wild claim.

The amount of poisoning that would be required to even attempt to meet this cruel objective is staggering and would be necessity involve extensive placement of baits in heavily habituated locations, including areas where children and pets play. Tourists and citizens alike would encounter the baits and dead animals.

And after all the risk presented by such distribution of poison, all the suffering and all the death, it would still have no chance of providing any meaningful long-term reduction in free-roaming cat populations.  Study after study confirm that in an area in which there is potential for the migration of new cats, re-population will occur. The goal of eradication of cats is simply non-viable. Multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies also have shown that with the exception of on very small islands on which there is no possibility of influx of new cats, efforts to remove cats from any given area do not actually decrease feral at populations over the long-term.

So not only would it not work and risk harming people and other animals, but the inescapable reality is that the people of Hawai’i are deeply opposed to the killing of free-roaming cats.  They object to the very heart of what HB 1987 proposes – the mass extermination of cats.

Alley Cat Allies commissioned two state-wide polls, one in 2017 and one in 2018, to take the pulse of the citizens of Hawai’i on their preferred approach to management of free-roaming cat populations in your state.  Both polls were undertaken by award-winning, Hawai’i-based  public opinion firm, Anthology Marketing Group, and involved polling hundreds of residents of Hawai’i eighteen years of age and older (485 respondents in in 2017; 683 respondents in 2018).

Both polls showed unwavering, strong opposition to lethal cat population management methods.

Seventy-seven percent of residents of Hawai’i indicated that they would leave a stray cat outside when given the choice between two courses of action on what to do on finding a stray cat – leaving the cat where it is outside or having the cat caught and then put down.

The result which may in fact be most germane to discussion of HB 1987 is centers around the question of whether it is ok to engage in the lethal removal of animals in attempts to help save other species. The following was read to respondents:

“Stepping away from the specific details, I’m going to read a statement to you and I’d like you to let me know whether you agree or disagree with it.  Choosing to kill members of one animal species to save another is inhumane and should not be allowed.”

Fully 71% of those surveyed agreed with the statement.  Please re-read that and let it sink in.

Seven in ten residents of Hawai’i do not support killing members of one animal species to save another one. They, like we, want efforts to be undertaken to protected endangered species.  They – like we – want effective efforts put into place that truly protect endangered species and their habitats, and we – like they – want these efforts to be carried out without the inclusion of the lethal removal of animals.

There are many studies showing that non-lethal method of predator control (wolves, coyotes, cats, etc.) is highly effective, and there are an ever growing number of programs in place across the US and around the world demonstrating the effectiveness of this approach.

The old-school, tried-and-failed, ethically troubling approach to conservation in which it is thought to be morally ok and believed to be effective to kill large numbers of animals in hopes that doing so might help save others is increasingly rejected by the leading lights in the conservation community globally.

Killing need not and should not be part of Hawaii’s approach to conservation.

It falls to the legislature to help set clear bounds around what it allows to be done on behalf of the people with tax dollars collected from the people. On this point, the public has given clear direction.

The public wants killing to be taken out of Hawaii’s conservation toolbox.  The public does not want poison bait littered across the state, and it does not want cats killed.

We respectfully request that HB 1987 receive no further legislative attention. Instead, more realistic, compassionate suggestions be developed and put forward in its place. Dropping HB 1987 will save the state a great deal of money, aggravation, failure and negative public attention.

Sincerely,

Becky Robinson
President & Founder, Alley Cat Allies