Published in York Daily Record 4/9/2014.

While some in York are considering a proposed bill that would ban feeding community cats, others in the city are working on a plan that would effectively stabilize and reduce cat populations.

As the president and founder of the nation’s largest advocacy organization for cats, I want to make it clear that feeding bans are not effective—they do nothing to stabilize or reduce cat populations. I’m glad that York officials have added an exemption to the bill for people feeding cats who have been through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)—the only method that effectively stabilizes and reduces cat populations. But there is no need for a feeding ban.

The fact that York leaders added this exemption to the proposed ordinance shows that they support TNR. But if they really want to encourage TNR, they should give people incentives to practice it—not criminalize feeding cats. The local foundation Nobody’s Cats is willing to work with all stakeholders to create an action plan and pathways to existing resources for TNR at no cost to the city or its taxpayers. Instead of passing a feeding ban, I hope York officials will opt to work with Nobody’s Cats and other residents to develop a meaningful, effective approach to the city’s cats  and encourage even more people to get involved with TNR.

Through TNR, community cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped for identification, and then returned back to where they were found—their outdoor home. Reproduction stops immediately, there are no new litters of kittens, colony size stabilizes, and over the years the number of cats drop to zero. This is a proven method.

Because TNR is humane, communities often rally behind it and volunteer as caregivers, feeding the cats and helping with trapping and transporting them to veterinary clinics. Putting any type of feeding ban in place would result in punishing these compassionate citizens who volunteer their time and money. A feeding ban would hinder efforts to effectively stabilize cat colonies. Instead, the city should support people who carry out TNR. Feeding bans are also cruel as they remove cats’ regular food source. These bans encourage cats to roam further to find food, making them more visible in the community.

As written, York’s proposed ordinance requires people feeding cats to “furnish proof of neutering or spaying to the City of York or its enforcement or police officers.” This requirement is unnecessary. Eartipping is the universally accepted sign of a neutered cat, and every cat who goes through TNR is eartipped. The tip of the cat’s left ear is removed while the cat is already under anesthesia for surgery.

It is clear that the compassionate residents of York want to help community cats—not hurt them. York’s leaders are already supportive of TNR and willing to work with local groups and residents on expanding TNR in the city. By fully embracing TNR, York will also embrace a proven and holistic program that is now working in hundreds of cities and counties across the United States.