It’s been almost two years since I reported an attempt by the American Bird Conservancy to convince mayors in 50 large American cities that programs to provide for feral cats, referred to as TNVR (trap, neuter, vaccinate and return), were contributing to the deaths of hundreds of millions of wild birds and other animals each year, including endangered species.
I knew it would start a firestorm, and I was right. It didn’t take long for feral cat advocates to strike back.
Although I repeatedly claimed to be as neutral as Switzerland on the issue, people on both sides attacked me personally for being a cat lover/hater or bird lover/hater. I was blamed for being responsible for the “deaths of hundreds of thousands of cats or birds,” depending on whose holy grail they perceived I had stepped on by reporting the story.
Some of the people who called from around the country were more vicious than a frightened feral cat or a blue jay protecting its nest.
Melodrama aside, the argument didn’t end for several months and I received dozens and dozens of emails and phone calls with each side claiming the higher moral ground.
Call me crazy, but I am going to poke the bear again.
In July, representatives from three national organizations — the American Bird Conservancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — released an online report titled the Rabies Prevention and Management of Cats in the Context of Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release Programmes in the scientific journal, Zoonoses and Public Health.
In a recap of the report, the authors refute claims made by TNVR advocates that say it is possible to reduce the number of feral cat colonies by management and prevent them from transmitting rabies to the general public.
“TNVR has not been shown to reliably reduce feral cat colony populations because of low implementation rates, inconsistent maintenance and immigration of unsterilized cats into colonies,” the report reads. Furthermore, feral cat populations in the United States, estimated to be between 60 and 100 million free-roaming felines, are a national health concern with the potential to spread rabies to humans and especially children who approach them.
The authors advocate the outright extermination of feral cats.
“Therefore, these populations [of feral cats] must be reduced and eliminated to manage the public health risk of rabies transmission,” according to the report.
As you can well imagine, the report has animal advocates baring their bicuspids in anger, including Best Friends, one of the leading animal welfare organizations in the country that denounced the published report.
“No community has killed its way out of the so-called ‘feral cat problem,’ ” Peter J. Wolf, Best Friends’ cat initiatives analyst, said on the group’s website. “To imply that lethal roundups are the answer is not only irresponsible, it ignores reality.”
Wolf noted that the CDC’s own data contradicts the report citing that since 1960, there has been only one case of a human contracting rabies from a cat.
Indeed, the report itself notes that cases of rabies in dogs as well as cats have dropped since 1946 when “8,384 dogs were found to be rabid compared to only 455 cats. In 2011, only 70 dogs were documented as being rabid compared to 303 cats.”
Wolf points out the irony in all of this.
“If the authors had their way, [TNVR] would be outlawed, thereby increasing the number of unsterilized, unvaccinated cats in our communities. Yet these folks would have us believe that’s actually good for public health.”
You can read a summary of the journal article on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23859607. Visit www.abcbirds.org/newsand reports/releases/130823.html for a more detailed analysis of the report from the American Bird Conservancy’s point of view.
For the record, the CDC does not currently have an official position on trap-neuter-vaccinate-release. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) neither endorses nor opposes properly managed cat colony programs.
I can’t wait to hear your responses. I only ask that you read the report before you do.
Other animals in the news:
It’s A Wild World Animal Show — The Akron Zoo will present the program at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Akron Civic Theatre in downtown Akron. The live animal show combines music, video and audience participation as it travels around the world to discover amazing animals. Tickets are $10; $5 for children ages 3-12; free for children 2 years and younger and available at www.akroncivic.com or Ticketmaster.com (800-745-3000).
Low-cost rabies vaccinations — Summit County Public Health is offering low-cost rabies vaccinations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Twinsburg Police Department maintenance garage, 10075 Ravenna Road, Twinsburg. Pet Guards will administer the vaccination for dogs and cats for $8 per animal. For more information, call 330-926-5600.
Walk With Your Best Friend Against Abuse — National event to raise awareness about the serious effects of violence against women and pets from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at Medina Uptown Park Square & Gazebo, South Court and West Washington streets, Medina. To register a team and for more information, visit www.walkwithyourbestfriend.com/3/fundraiser.htm. Sponsored by the Battered Women’s Shelter of Medina County.
Rainbow Bridge Walk — Second annual walk for pet owners who have lost a pet will be from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Oct. 6 at Medina Buckeye Woods Park, 6335 Wedgewood Road. Leashed pets are welcome, and a pet blessing will be performed. Events include a short memorial service, remembrance activities and a Tribute Walk. Attendees are asked to bring dog or cat food donations for the Medina County Pet Pantry. Reservations are required and can be made at www.rainbowbridgewalk.com.
Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.