Making Intelligent Decisions About Cats

As Presented to the Town Board of Salina, NY – February 27, 2012

THE QUESTION: SHOULD WE ENACT A MORATORIUM ON PROSECUTION OF THOSE PRACTICING TNR IN THE TOWN OF SALINA?

HISTORY

TNR, which stands for Trap-Neuter-Return, is nothing new. It has been in use around the world for over half a century. South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Denmark were among those successfully employing this method of feline population control in the 1950s. It wasn’t used extensively in the United States, however, until about 1990.

ENDORSED BY MAJOR ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATIONS IN THE US

In the two decades since that time, it has become the only method of population control endorsed by The American Humane Association (AHA), The Humane Society of the US (HSUS), The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA and The National Animal Control Association (NACA), to name just a few. Why? Because it is affordable and it works!

YOU HAVE A MAJOR PROBLEM

1)      You have a major overpopulation problem in the Town of Salina.

2)      You have been throwing huge amounts of money at it doing something that is not only ineffective, but counterproductive.

3)      You have knowledgeable people willing to take the necessary actions to remedy your problem – for FREE

4)      But rather than appreciating these volunteers doing the ONLY thing that can possibly create a permanent solution, your law punishes them, allowing a handful of chronic complainers to ruin this opportunity for the entire Town.

FIVE REASONS TO ENACT THIS MORATORIUM

There are five reasons to enact this moratorium:

1)      TNR is proven to reduce populations

2)      cost effectively,

3)      saving the wasted cost of trapping and killing, which is counterproductive,

4)      preventing rabies through vaccination,

5)      all of which reduces complaints.

Since we all want the same thing – fewer cats – and TNR is the only method of population reduction that works, we respectfully suggest that the Town of Salina pass the moratorium on the prosecution of those practicing TNR within the Town.

POOP & PEE

Cats are blamed for many things they do not do. They do not “dig up flowers.”  Squirrels do, skunks do, rabbits do, woodchucks certainly do.  Homeowners with digging problems need to learn to protect their property from ALL wildlife, since we do share the earth with them, and determine correctly which species is “annoying” them before taking action.

Cats dig with a few strokes of the front paws to make a shallow hole, urinate or defecate in the hole, then bury it.  They are instinctively drawn to that nice, soft, shredded mulch that is so popular.  Burying the waste means that people will not smell it.  In the garden, it becomes part of the soil in a matter of days.   A cat does not leave “piles of feces” as was alleged during the Linda Smith trial. A cat urinating in a garden does not provide an overabundance of nitrogen, and therefore does not kill plants or trees, as was also alleged during the same trial. There are, however, some bushes popular in this area that can smell like cat urine. (arbor vitae)

COLONY POPULATION

Sterilized cats determine the size of the population in a managed feral colony. A colony will not become “overpopulated” or too crowded for the cats to be maintained in good health.  That’s why they chase out newcomers!  Nature works by proportion, not numbers.

VACUUM EFFECT

Trapping & killing is not only ineffective but counterproductive. Cats live where the environment supports them.  If you remove cats or colonies from an area, others will move in.  This is called the “vacuum effect.” Every time someone abandons a cat, another colony has the potential to start.  Example:  at the time of the Linda Smith trial, the feral cat “colony” consisted of two cats—down from 20 a few years before due to TNR.  After the trial, both cats were removed, and within a matter of weeks, at least six unneutered males had moved into the area because Sylvester was no longer there to protect his territory.  We are trying to get the colony back under control and have already spent hundreds of dollars to do it.  Who gained ANYTHING by prosecuting Linda Smith?

Since we all want the same thing – fewer cats – and TNR is the only method of population reduction that works, we respectfully suggest that the Town of Salina pass the moratorium on the prosecution of those practicing TNR within the Town.

OWNER RESPONSIBILITY TO MITIGATE

There are circumstances and activities such as an uncovered sandbox, a soft mulch, or a baited trap which may attract cats to certain properties as surely as providing food.  This knowledge, along with a modicum of common sense, gives the homeowner the ability to resolve annoyances himself without taxpayer involvement. It makes no sense for a caretaker to face prosecution because a complainant lures a cat into his yard and then simply wants to complain about it rather than participating in a solution. Just as responsible caretaking requires someone feeding cats to spay or neuter them all, responsible neighborhood citizenship also obliges owners desiring a cat-free property to take humane measures to repel the cats.  These situations call for mediation, not punishment. Gardeners can still have their mulch, owners can still have their cats, and feral cats can still have their lives.

Since we all want the same thing – fewer cats – and TNR is the only method of population reduction that works, we respectfully suggest that the Town of Salina pass the moratorium on the prosecution of those practicing TNR within the Town.

HOW DOES PUNISHMENT HELP THE COMPLAINANT

How does punishment of the cat, owner, or caretaker for things beyond their control help the complainant?  Surely it would be better to use small claims court to recover damages, leaving the Town out of it entirely.  Penalties from small claims court could be much higher than Town court fines, thereby discouraging irresponsible behavior among cat owners, with the additional benefit that the complainant gets his property repaired.

Getting the town involved not only costs taxpayers money but encourages and perpetuates neighborhood feuds.  Innocent people or cats are blamed for damage done by wild life. Everyone—including the Town—wants someone to “hold responsible” and punish rather than fix the problem.  Shouldn’t the task of local government be to foster harmony and fairness, if they get involved in neighborhood squabbles at all?

The saying goes, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day.  If you teach him to fish, he eats forever.”  Do your constituents want this problem corrected permanently, or do they just want somebody punished?  Most legitimate complainants will want the problem resolved.  If they choose to simply punish someone, it’s not a cat problem.  It’s a neighbor problem.

Since we all want the same thing – fewer cats – and TNR is the only method of population reduction that works, we respectfully suggest that the Town of Salina pass the moratorium on the prosecution of those practicing TNR within the Town.

SOLUTION

In conclusion, any cat law needs to be based on only two provisions:

A.     Cats at large need to be spayed/neutered.  Strays and ferals need TNR.  Fewer cats=fewer complaints.  At least that’s the way it has worked in every place TNR is allowed without interference from local government.

B.      Complaints need to be mediated.  This prevents future complaints.  In cases of actual damage, small claims court will be more helpful than punishment for all parties.

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One thought on “Making Intelligent Decisions About Cats

  1. Pingback: The Continuing Battle of the Salina Cat Law! | Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse

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