This letter to the editor was submitted to the Argus Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D., submitted on August 18, 2023.

Sioux Falls City Council should respond to public urging and embrace Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) for the city’s community cats (Argus Leader, Aug. 11).

TNR is the only humane and effective approach to populations of community cats—unowned cats who live outdoors. Through TNR, cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped to prove they have been part of a TNR program, and returned to their outdoor homes to live out their lives. TNR is sound public policy because it reduces shelter intake, stops the needless killing of cats, and leads to decreased calls to animal services, all of which saves taxpayer dollars.

Communities are increasingly turning to this humane, nonlethal approach, and abandoning the old way of killing cats. For decades, animal control agencies and local governments killed millions of cats in a never-ending cycle, with no lasting effect. While removal may briefly reduce the number of cats, it never lasts. Other cats will be attracted to food and shelter that exist in the area, and move in to fill the space, quickly restoring population levels. This is a phenomenon known as the Vacuum Effect, and it has been observed in many species.

In sharp contrast, scientific research has shown that TNR ends the breeding cycle, meaning no new litters of kittens are born outdoors.

It is also important to understand why the “return” part of TNR is not abandonment of cats in any way. TNR involves returning cats to the exact location in which they were trapped – the outdoor homes they already know and thrive in. TNR therefore represents a homecoming for cats, who will no longer have to contend with the stresses of mating or pregnancy.

Through Alley Cat Allies’ 34 years of advocacy, TNR has become the mainstream, effective approach to the management of community cat populations throughout the United States. Its popularity is demonstrated by the thousands of communities conducting successful volunteer-led grassroots TNR programs right now, and the hundreds more that have adopted official TNR ordinances and policies. Sioux Falls has the opportunity to join a long list of counties and cities in the U.S. in implementing TNR and valuing the lives of cats.

Coryn Julien
Communications Director
Alley Cat Allies