Published in the Jefferson Herald print version on May 18, 2018
By Becky Robinson
President and Founder
Alley Cat Allies
When we know better, we do better. Now that officials in Jefferson, Iowa, have said they have suspended their inhumane policy of fatally shooting cats, it is time to create a new path forward. Expressing willingness to explore humane and effective approaches to address cats is a positive first step. It is also important to understand the approaches that reliably work, and those that don’t.
Catching and killing cats has been carried out for decades. However, such lethal methods fail to reduce cat populations because new cats move in and take advantage of the same food and shelter that sustained the previous families of cats. This is widely documented and known as the Vacuum Effect. New litters are born. And an endless spiral of catching and killing continues, with all the heartache, community upset, and wasted tax dollars these policies involve. We can do better.
Alley Cat Allies has helped hundreds of communities, big and small, launch humane and effective programs. These include creating low-cost spay and neuter programs, providing humane education and community outreach, and implementing Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs. TNR stabilizes community cat populations by immediately stopping the breeding cycle.
With TNR, cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped (a universal sign of TNR) and returned to their outdoor homes to live and thrive. TNR has been successful in communities in the Midwest, the East Coast, the West Coast, and in points in between. It will be successful in Jefferson, just as it has been in the nearby Iowa communities of Winterset, Boone, Cedar Rapids, and others.
Alley Cat Allies is no stranger to places like Jefferson—small, rural communities in the heartland of our country. In fact, our staff traveled to Jefferson offering to lend our expertise to help the community move forward in a positive way. We continue to stand ready to help the community implement new programs and approaches to cats. Our team has already met with animal rescue groups and continues to speak with residents and advocates in the neighborhoods where community cats live.
TNR is a powerful, effective and humane policy. It is not intended to replace the much-needed, state-of-the art animal shelter soon to be constructed in Greene County. That shelter is needed to provide safety and care to the lost and abandoned animals who were once owned and help them find loving new homes. But it will not be an appropriate facility for feral cats, also known as community cats, who are unsocialized to people and therefore cannot become ‘pets’ and placed in homes. Adoption for them is not an option. For that reason, virtually all community cats who enter shelters in this country are killed there, too.
The most effective TNR programs involve city or county shelters working together with local TNR groups and individuals. These partnerships are successfully in place all over our great country and they complement and help advance grassroots TNR efforts.
We believe that Jefferson would benefit from this approach. The town also would benefit from humane education that will help people understand cat behavior, the needs of community cats, and the benefits of spaying and neutering cats and dogs. Affordable and accessible spay and neuter services are critical. And Jefferson needs local veterinarians who are committed to providing spay or neuter and vaccinations for community cats.
Jefferson has an opportunity to take a major step forward on behalf of the cats who live here. There are locals who are passionate about improving the lives of all animals and people in the community. And Alley Cat Allies and other organizations are offering the benefit of our experience to help Jefferson make these changes smoothly, quickly, and effectively. There is no time to waste! Let’s work together to bring Jefferson into the ever-growing group of towns around Jefferson and throughout Iowa, and all across the U.S., that have embraced humane, lifesaving policies for the cats entrusted to their care.
Becky Robinson is the president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, the global engine of change for cats. Learn more at alleycat.org.