Tainan City, my hometown, is the oldest city in Taiwan. It was founded as a Dutch colony and has a rich history. Tainan City is known for its vibrant culture, beautiful temples, historic buildings, and even for being “the City of Snacks.” In recent years, the ancient city has also become known for something else: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
Tainan is the first city in Taiwan to implement an official TNR policy. In 2010, the newly-founded Tainan Animal Care Society proposed to the city government to “sterilize instead of euthanize” the city’s stray dogs and community cats to stabilize the population. Before the policy went into effect, more than 3,000 animals per year were killed. The new policy was a win-win: TNR cost taxpayers less than the cruel and endless practice of catching and killing, and the number of stray dogs and community cats in the city stopped rising.
In fact, by 2014, the number of animals killed had decreased from more than 3,000 to less than 400, and by 2015, the city had earned a “no-kill” status. This achievement in animal welfare was a first for Taiwan, and is a glowing model for other communities. Mayor William Lai, an animal welfare proponent, strongly supported the TNR policy and the collaboration between public and private sectors. The Tainan government provides funding to the nonprofit Tainan Animal Care Society to implement TNR in the community.
During a recent trip home, my brother took me on a tour of the famous Veteran’s Painted Village in Tainan to see the murals painted by local students on the houses and alleyways. But more importantly, he wanted to show me the colony of community cats that had been through the city’s TNR program and consider the village their home.
Taiwan is a small island with one of the highest population densities in the world. In Tainan City alone, there are almost 2 million people. Because community cats and humans live in such close proximity, most community cats are somewhat socialized with their human neighbors. With care from compassionate caregivers, Tainan City’s community cats thrive in their outdoor homes, have a unique relationship with locals, and are part of the natural landscape that is Taiwan.
Until next time,
Alley Cat Allies