Tri-Cities, WA — I recently read an article by Melanie Tubbs at KEPR titled “Feral Cats Overloading Animal Shelters.” The title is the first clue that the Tri-Cities animal shelter is not a No Kill shelter, but instead part of the backwards regime that permeates our country.
The article describes how cats are “all over,” states that “the cages are full at the Tri-Cities animal shelter with mostly feral cats,” and describes how stray animals only get three days before they are “put down.”
Tubbs makes the blanket statement that “the battle can only be won as more people spay and neuter their pets.” Finally, she warns, “if you’re trying to help strays in your neighborhood, it’s important to keep in mind that once you feed a cat for three days, it is considered your responsibility and you could be on the hook for medical care or other liabilities.”
I have several problems with this article. First and foremost, what are feral cats doing in the animal shelter? They don’t belong there. Feral cats are by definition unsocialized to people and therefore, by the shelter’s archaic policies, deemed unadoptable and killed. If the cages really are filling up with feral cats, there is a simple solution, it’s called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). Spay or neuter the feral cats that come into the shelter, then return them to their outside homes. This one change in policy will free up most of the cages in the shelter, which can then be used for actual stray cats.
I am by no means dismissing the very real fact that cats are “all over.” I simply question the approach this shelter is taking to their perceived problem.
I agree that spaying and neutering pets is very important, but that is only one part of the solution. There are actually many parts including
- A strong foster network so pets that are not quite ready for adoption can get more time
- A TNR program so that feral cats stop reproducing and stabilize their populations
- Low cost or free spay/neuter services so that people will actually sterilize their pets
- Comprehensive adoption programs so the public can see the wonderful animals available
- Working with other animal rescue groups to reduce the animals housed in the shelter.
These are just a few of the eleven steps that have been proven time and again to work. They’ve worked in large cities and counties like Austin, TX and Williamson County, TX. These steps have worked in rural communities like Ithaca, NY, and in communities with high unemployment rates like Washoe County, NV. They’ve worked for five years in Southern communities like Charlottesville, VA, and many more communities nationwide.
There is no secret involved in converting a high-kill shelter to a No Kill shelter. It simply involves a lot of work, a lot of effort, and a huge shift in mentality.
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