This letter to the editor was published in the Jackson Star & Herald on June 7, 2022

To the editor:

The anti-cat ordinance currently under consideration by Ravenswood City Council would not only be cruel and inhumane for the cats who live in the city, but it would also doom the city’s animal control efforts to failure, just as similar laws have already failed to work in other cities across the country.

Alley Cat Allies is the global leader in the protection of cats and kittens. We have worked with communities large and small across the country and around the world to develop evidence-based policies rooted in science that generate positive impacts for local cat populations.

Ravenswood’s proposed ordinance would outlaw the care and harboring of community cats in the city, seemingly out of a desire to remove them to be impounded and killed at a shelter. This proposal is misguided for several reasons.

Cats have been living outdoors among people for thousands of years, and it’s perfectly normal for them to do so. The outdoors is cats’ natural home, and any attempts to remove them from the outdoors will never be feasible.

The concept of removing cats from the landscape has never worked and has been increasingly rejected by municipalities across the country. Any attempt to remove cats from an area will lead to other cats from surrounding neighborhoods moving in to take advantage of the available food and shelter. This pattern is known as the “Vacuum Effect,” and it has been observed in research among cats and other species.

The proposed ordinance also calls for tethering cats, which is simply absurd. Tethering a cat or a dog is widely recognized as cruel treatment and is outright illegal in many jurisdictions. Ravenswood would be truly regressing as a community with this policy.

Possibly the greatest alarm from Council’s proposal comes from the fact that it would punish the very volunteers who are giving of their own time and resources to provide this community service. Community cat caregivers work to improve conditions for cats and the community.

Feeding and looking after these cats is a critical component of Trap-Neuter-Return, in which cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to their outdoor homes. TNR is evidence-based, sound public policy. It effectively and humanely addresses the community cat population, can reduce shelter intake and killing, and reduces calls to animal shelters, which saves taxpayer dollars in the process. Scientific studies show that Trap-Neuter-Return ends the breeding cycle, meaning no new kittens are born outdoors. TNR is a mainstream approach, and part of the official policy of the National Animal Care & Control Association and all reputable animal protection organizations.

Furthermore, plenty of humane deterrents are available to help neighbors live in harmony with the cats in their area.

This attempt to outlaw an animal simply for living his or her life inside city limits is unfair and inhumane, and destined to be a waste of limited city resources for Ravenswood. There is a better way. Ravenswood council members need only to scan nearby cities and counties for successful strategies like TNR that do not harm cats or the people caring for them.

Becky Robinson
President and Founder
Alley Cat Allies