On Tuesday, September 1, the City Council of Casper, Wyoming, is scheduled to hold a final vote on a feeding ban which would criminalize the compassionate act of feeding cats outdoors. Even residents who feed community cats on their own property would be subject to penalty.
Ahead of the meeting, Alley Cat Allies is mobilizing Casper residents and cat advocates around the world to speak out against this cruel proposal. No matter where you live, you can reach out to the Casper City Council through our Action Center.
On Tuesday, the City Council of Casper, Wyoming, is scheduled to take its third and final vote on a proposal that would outlaw the feeding of cats outdoors in the city, even on private property. Casper residents should be skeptical not only about such a dramatic overreach of government power, but also about why Council is on the cusp of adopting a policy that has failed to show success anywhere and ignores the widely-understood realities of how cats live their lives in the outdoors.
It’s perfectly normal for cats to live outside today, just as they did for the thousands of years before we first brought them into our homes in the last few decades. Cats who live outside are community cats, not wildlife.
There have been many ideas about how to properly manage community cats. By doing some simple homework, Casper City Council can easily learn which of these ideas work and which have already failed.
Feeding bans for community cats have failed repeatedly. They are unsupported by scientific research and do nothing to manage populations of cats. Cats don’t simply disappear after feeding bans are implemented. Indeed, by criminalizing the act, Council would be forcing these cats to look elsewhere for food.
Cats will become more visible near fast food restaurants, dumpsters, and yes, even the garbage cans in neighborhoods. This will lead to more calls to the police department and the Metro Animal Shelter, which translates into greater city cost. So not only would the law be an intrusion on individual property rights, but it would be more expensive for Casper taxpayers, too.
During the debate on this proposal, one Council member was heard to say that well-nourished animals reproduce at a higher rate. In fact, cats will always reproduce unless they are sterilized.
That’s why the process known as Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR, is so widely used across the country today as the single most effective approach to community cat populations. After being humanely caught, cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped for identification, and returned to their outdoor homes.
Feeding cats is an essential part of TNR because caregivers use feeding schedules to effectively trap cats. By outlawing feeding, Council would be interrupting the TNR process, therefore taking the first flawed step toward an exploding kitten population in Casper. This will most certainly impact the city budget. Are Casper taxpayers ready for this additional expense?
And it would be a new city cost because, until now, TNR has been carried out by a handful of hardworking, dedicated good Samaritans in Casper who spend their own time and money to care for these cats. They are part of the solution in managing populations of cats in the city.
By enacting a feeding ban, Council would be tossing out the one activity that is actually making a positive difference in this situation.
The mainstream, modern approach for community cats is TNR, not feeding bans. Thousands of communities conduct grassroots, volunteer-led TNR programs, and hundreds more have adopted official TNR ordinances and policies. Cheyenne, Wyoming, with a population close to that of Casper, embraced TNR back in 2014. Casper can now do the same.
Casper Mayor Steve Freel was exactly right when he recently acknowledged that TNR works. There is no question that TNR requires a full community effort, and forging a partnership that brings together low-cost spay and neuter services, volunteers, animal control, and local government is a necessary first step. Humane education and training are also cornerstones of a successful TNR program.
On that point, there is great news. Casper’s debate on whether to implement a feeding ban for cats has attracted national attention. Many hands are reaching out to offer help and expertise, including my organization, Alley Cat Allies. Casper has the opportunity to accept this help and make a smart, humane choice that will benefit the community for years to come.
The first step is to drop the cruel feeding ban proposal. Casper should not aspire to be known as the city that starves its cats.