Officials in Jefferson, Iowa, came under fire this spring for their policy of trapping and shooting cats. Following national news coverage, the cruel practice carried out by police officers was halted.

“Jefferson has taken an important first step, but in order to be effective in helping cats and their community, the town needs a comprehensive humane approach, including low-cost spay and neuter services and a Trap-Neuter-Return program,” says Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies.

Our team deployed to Jefferson to create immediate and humane solutions, but officials declined to meet with us. We continue to reach out.

Meanwhile, Jefferson doesn’t need to look far for inspiration. Surrounding cities and counties have embraced successful TNR programs for years. Through TNR, community cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped, and returned to their outdoor homes.

In rural Winterset, a city-funded TNR program that began in 2014 has spayed or neutered more than 500 community cats. The program has been so effective that officials increased the city’s budget for TNR this year. Before TNR was adopted, the city trapped and killed cats—and it accomplished nothing.

“We used to get a fair number of calls or people would come to City Council meetings and implore us to do something about the cats. Now we’re not really getting complaints at City Hall anymore about stray or feral cats,” says Winterset City Administrator Mark Nitchals.

In nearby Boone County, the Boone Area Humane Society’s new TNR program is already proving effective. The “stray hold area” of the shelter, which had always been full of cats, is now often empty.

The city of Cedar Rapids boasts that the Iowa Humane Alliance’s Regional Spay/Neuter Clinic has spayed or neutered 39,000 animals since opening in 2013, including community cats. Local shelters also reported decreases in their community cat intake since TNR began.

Communities around Jefferson, and throughout the United States, have seen firsthand that TNR is the only humane and effective approach to community cats.