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Readers share stories about 'abandonment' of feral cats

DEAR DR. FOX: Thank you for your letters and opinions denouncing trap-neuter-release. I am an animal activist in Albuquerque, N.M., who has filed a lawsuit against our municipal animal control and shelter for their dumping of at least 6,000 cats in landfills, shopping centers, active construction sites and residential neighborhoods in close proximity to schools. I live in one of these "colonies" and see firsthand the suffering these cats and wildlife endure. — M.B., Albuquerque, N.M.

DEAR DR. FOX: A couple years ago, the executive director of one Virginia Humane Society near me had a contract to operate the city's animal shelter and came up with a "brilliant" plan — have staff members sign adoption contracts for feral cats, have them spayed/neutered and then release them. Staff released 300 to 400 cats, even under the direction of a subsequent director. Almost 100 were released in the woods behind the shelter, and shelter workers would throw out food every few days. Other cats were put in crates, transported to nearby localities and released at truck stops.

A few members of staff refused to do it, and they were fired. They contacted the state vet's office and reported the practice, and the municipality had to pay a fine and the shelter director was fired. (She had recently been featured in a training video from Alley Cat Allies on how to do TNR without getting caught.)

There are four other municipal shelters in Virginia I am familiar with that have gone "no-kill." They are all operated by humane organizations. One touts its TNR program as being very successful, resulting in fewer feral cats being brought in. No wonder — it refuses to accept feral cats between June and October! The Tidewater area has a lot of groups doing TNR. Recently, there have been several incidents of cats being decapitated. In the greater Richmond area, cats are being shot. Some people do not want them around.

A couple of years ago, we had to fight a legislative battle against changing the Code of Virginia to allow TNR. In fact, property owners wouldn't have had a choice about cats being released back onto their property. Feral cats would have been treated like wildlife, with no standards of adequate care and very few protections.

We are of the opinion that the streets are not safe for cats, that public animal shelters should not be allowed to turn away any animal and that TNR leads to cruelty for the animals, including cats and wildlife. Hopefully, if enough like-minded people begin to speak out, the tide will turn against TNR, and it will be exposed for what it is — abandonment of cats. — P.D., Danville, Va.

DEAR DR. FOX: My name is Grant Sizemore, and I run the Cats Indoors program at American Bird Conservancy. I read your recent article on the frustrations regarding the release of feral cats back into the environment. I believe the Cats Indoors program will be of interest to concerned readers and all involved in this tragic issue impacting the health and welfare of cats, wildlife and people. We can prevent the unnecessary suffering by keeping cats indoors (or otherwise restricted from roaming). For details, please visit our website, abcbirds.org/cats. — G.S., Washington, D.C.

DEAR M.B., P.D. and G.S.: I appreciate your comments on this nationwide issue. Here in Minnesota, feral cats are often caught by trappers in the forests where they are competing with wild carnivores for prey. My wife, Deanna Krantz, humanely trapped two on our suburban property and they are now fully socialized and enjoy my tummy kisses. How many TNR cats are severely mutilated and die slowly or a killed and eaten by coyotes, dogs and other predators, I wonder? Many must have frozen to death already this winter.

I asked Mr. Sizemore about the role of the larger animal welfare organizations, such as The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), in this controversial issue, and appreciate his thought: "They seem to not recognize the impacts of TNR on both cats and wildlife. I hope that, as public sentiment moves away from the continued abandonment of cats through TNR, HSUS may change its position."

Only in very rare instances where the locale has no wildlife, no extremes of climate and expert daily attention, shelter, food, water and veterinary care as needed, would I consider TNR ethically acceptable.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.