Navigating the Complexities of Animal Welfare: A Perspective by Ed Boks

Ed Boks provides proven no-kill solutions to communities and shelters

As an animal welfare advocate with decades of experience in the field, I’ve encountered a diverse array of issues concerning the treatment of animals in our society. From factory farming to regenerative agriculture, compassionate conservation, and domestic pet management, each topic presents its own set of challenges and opportunities. In this article, I’ll delve into the multifaceted landscape of animal welfare, including the pressing issue of domestic pet management, with a particular focus on feral cats.

Factory Farming: Balancing Efficiency with Ethical Considerations

Factory farming remains a cornerstone of modern agriculture, providing a means to meet the growing demand for animal products. While it offers efficiency and affordability, the industry is plagued by concerns regarding animal welfare. The cramped and unsanitary conditions in which many farm animals are raised, coupled with routine antibiotic use and limited access to natural behaviors, underscore the need for reform.

As advocates for animal welfare, it’s imperative that we push for higher standards in factory farming. This entails supporting initiatives that promote more humane housing systems, such as cage-free environments and outdoor access. By prioritizing animal welfare in agricultural practices, we can create a more ethical and sustainable food system that benefits both animals and consumers.

Regenerative Farming: Nurturing Nature and Livestock

Regenerative farming represents a promising alternative to conventional agriculture, emphasizing soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem resilience. Practices like rotational grazing and cover cropping not only enhance soil fertility and reduce erosion but also offer animals a more natural living environment. By allowing livestock access to fresh forage and the opportunity to express natural behaviors, regenerative farming holds potential benefits for animal welfare.

However, scaling up regenerative farming practices while maintaining high welfare standards presents logistical and economic challenges. Additionally, we must remain vigilant in addressing potential risks to animal welfare, such as exposure to predators and extreme weather conditions, within these systems.

Compassionate Conservation: Ethical Considerations in Wildlife Management

Compassionate conservation advocates for minimizing harm to individual animals while pursuing broader conservation goals. By prioritizing the well-being of animals and promoting coexistence between humans and wildlife, this approach challenges traditional conservation strategies that may prioritize population-level outcomes. While the ethical commitment of compassionate conservation is commendable, it’s crucial to acknowledge the potential conflicts that may arise when balancing individual welfare with conservation objectives.

Domestic Pet Issues: Fostering Responsible Ownership

In addition to agricultural concerns, animal welfare extends to our treatment of domestic pets, including cats and dogs. While many companion animals receive love and care from their owners, others face neglect, abandonment, or mistreatment. Feral cats, in particular, present a complex challenge, as their populations continue to grow, leading to concerns about their impact on wildlife and public health.

Managing feral cat populations requires a multifaceted approach that combines trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs with public education and responsible pet ownership initiatives. By addressing the root causes of both dog and cat overpopulation and promoting spaying and neutering, we can reduce the number of homeless dogs and feral cats while improving their welfare.

As we navigate the complexities of animal welfare, it’s essential to consider the interconnectedness of these issues and the broader implications of our actions. By fostering dialogue, collaboration, and innovation, we can work towards solutions that prioritize the well-being of animals while promoting sustainability, conservation, and responsible pet ownership. Let us endeavor to create a world where compassion and empathy guide our interactions with all creatures, great and small.

Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR): A Humane Solution to Feral Cat Overpopulation

Ed Boks and feral cats
The formula to end the killing of feral cats works

Feral cat overpopulation poses a significant challenge in various regions, including Hawaii, where colonies of free-ranging cats have become a contentious issue. The practice of Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) emerges as a humane and viable solution to address this problem. Despite protests and criticism, TNR stands out as an effective approach that not only addresses feline overpopulation but also addresses the concerns raised by ecologists and wildlife advocates.

The Cat Conundrum in Hawaii

Hawaii, with its warm climate and history of non-native species introductions, faces a unique challenge regarding feral cat overpopulation. The abundance of free-ranging cats, descended from or abandoned by pet owners, has led to ecological issues, such as the predation of local birds and the spread of diseases.

The Deadly Impact of Free-Ranging Cats

Free-ranging cats in Hawaii have been identified as a significant threat to native wildlife. They are skilled predators, capable of killing a substantial number of animals annually. The impact on endangered bird species, such as the ua’u and a’o, is particularly devastating, contributing to Hawaii’s unfortunate title as the “extinction capital of the world.”

Moreover, the spread of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite carried by stray cats, poses a threat to wildlife and humans alike. The parasite has been linked to the deaths of endangered Hawaiian monk seals and various bird species, highlighting the urgent need for intervention.

Countering TNR Criticisms

Critics argue that TNR is an ineffective solution and that other approaches, including euthanasia, should be considered. However, the evidence supporting TNR as an effective population control method cannot be dismissed. Critics, including PETA, claim that TNR fails to address the root cause and can even encourage abandonment. Contrary to these claims, TNR has demonstrated success in reducing feral cat populations when implemented consistently.

Christopher Lepczyk, an ecologist at Auburn University, argues for a multifaceted approach, including adoption, enclosed sanctuaries, and euthanasia. While these methods may have merit in specific situations, TNR remains an essential component, especially considering its humane nature.

The Human Dimension of the Cat Crisis

One critical aspect often overlooked is the human responsibility behind the cat problem. Dumping pet cats on the streets is identified as the primary cause of feral cat colonies. To truly address the issue, efforts should be directed towards educating pet owners about responsible ownership and providing accessible spaying and neutering services.

Christopher Lepczyk suggests that making it easier for licensed vets from other states to practice in Hawaii could alleviate the cost barrier to spaying and neutering. Additionally, a fundamental shift in people’s understanding of pet ownership as a privilege rather than a right is crucial to tackling the core issue.

Conclusion

The Trap/Neuter/Return approach emerges as a humane and effective solution to the challenges associated with feral cat overpopulation. While critics may point to alternative methods, the evidence supporting TNR’s success in reducing cat populations, combined with addressing the root cause of abandonment, highlights its importance in finding a balance between animal welfare and ecological preservation. It is essential to recognize the interconnectedness of human actions, responsible pet ownership, and effective population control measures to achieve a harmonious coexistence between cats and native wildlife.

LA’s Citywide Cat Program (E1907610)

Los Angeles, August 29, 2019 – The City of Los Angeles has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to evaluate the potential environmental effects of the proposed Citywide Cat Program (proposed Project) that addresses free-roaming (feral or stray) cats in the City. The City is requesting input on the Draft EIR from public agencies, residents, and other interested project stakeholders.

Project Background: In 2006, the City’s Department of Animal Services began to implement a “trap, neuter, return” (TNR) policy and program for free-roaming cats. The City also distributed vouchers to be used for free-roaming cat spay or neuter surgeries, issued cat trapping permits, and otherwise provided support and referrals to community groups that engage in TNR programs. In 2008, the City was sued, and in 2010 the Los Angeles Superior Court issued an Injunction which prohibited the City from further implementing the TNR policy and program without completing an environmental review process in compliance with CEQA (Case No. BS115483). The City prepared a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) in 2013, but ultimately decided to modify the proposed Project and prepare an EIR. The scoping process for the EIR began in 2017.

Project Description: Under the proposed Project, the City would: Directly engage in or make available funds for the spay/neuter of free-roaming cats that may be returned to where they were found, relocated to a working cat program, or adopted; Make amendments to the City of Los Angeles Administrative Code (LAAC) to broaden the permitted use of Animal Sterilization Funds and to the City of Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) regarding the definition of a cat kennel; Implement a modified trap, neuter, and return (TNR) program that includes facilitation of trapping, neutering, and returning, TNR-related community education and outreach and collaboration with TNR organizations, and use of incentives to encourage the capture, sterilization, and release of free-roaming cats, including to TNR groups who may return the cats to free-roaming status; Publish and implement program guidelines and ecological conservation measures; and Create a working cat program.

Project Objectives: Broadly stated, the purpose of the proposed Project is to assist in achieving the City’s no kill goal and support the City’s adoption of TNR as the preferred method of addressing the free-roaming cat population in the City. The objectives of the proposed Citywide Cat Program include: Facilitating spaying and neutering of cats in the City; Reducing the relative number of free-roaming cats in the City over time; Facilitating more public and community education on animal-related topics, including free-roaming cats; Training animal services center staff members on cat management programs and engage in collaborative efforts with local rescue groups to help respond to and address free-roaming cat issues; Further implement the City’s no-kill policy by reducing the rate of euthanasia of cats in City animal services centers; and Establishing TNR as the preferred policy to humanely address free-roaming cats.

Environmental Impacts: The analysis contained in the Draft EIR determined that the proposed Project would not result in any significant environmental impacts. No mitigation is required.

Public Review Period: The Draft EIR public review and comment period begins August 29, 2019 and ends on October 28, 2019. The Draft EIR is available online at the Bureau of Engineering website:  https://eng.lacity.org/citywide-cat-program-e1907610

Hard copies may also be viewed at the following locations:

  • Los Angeles Central Library located at 630 W 5th St, Los Angeles, CA 90071.
  • City of LA, Bureau of Engineering, 1149 S. Broadway, 6th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90015
  • North Central Animal Services Center, 3201 Lacy Street, Los Angeles, CA 90031
  • South LA Animal Services Center, 1850 West 60th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90047
  • West LA Animal Services Center, 11361 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
  • Harbor Animal Services Center, 957 North Gaffey Street, San Pedro, CA 90731
  • East Valley Animal Services Center, 14409 Vanowen Street, Van Nuys, CA 91405
  • West Valley Animal Services Center, 20655 Plummer Street, Chatsworth, CA 91311

Public Meeting: A public meeting to receive comments on the Draft EIR will be held on Monday, October 7, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. at the Ramona Hall Community Center, 4580 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90065.

Comments: Please send comments on the Draft EIR to:

Dr. Jan Green Rebstock
City of Los Angeles
Public Works, Bureau of Engineering
Environmental Management Group
1149 S. Broadway, 6th Floor, Mail Stop 939
Los Angeles, CA 90015-2213

Comments may also be submitted by e-mail to jan.green.rebstock@lacity.org. Please remember to:

  • Send your comments in letter format as an attachment to the email;
  • Include a mailing address in the comment letter; and
  • Include “CAT PROGRAM” in the subject line.

Following the close of the comment period, the City will consider and prepare responses to the comments received and compile a Final EIR. The Final EIR will be posted online at the Bureau of Engineering website:  https://eng.lacity.org/citywide-cat-program-e1907610.

All responses to comments submitted on the DEIR by public agencies will be provided to those agencies at least 10 days prior to certification of the Final EIR. The Board of Animal Services Commissioners and City Council Committee(s) may consider and make recommendations to the Los Angeles City Council regarding the Final EIR and proposed Project. The Los Angeles City Council will make findings regarding the extent and nature of the environmental impacts as described in the Final EIR. The Final EIR will need to be certified by the City prior to making a decision to approve or deny the proposed Project. Public input is encouraged at all public meetings before the City.

More information on the value of TNR programs in your community can be found here:

Analysis of Feral & Stray Cat Solutions

Operation FELIX: Feral Education & Love Instead of X-termination

Trap Neuter Return & FELIX

Time to solve our Feral Cat Problem

Why TNR works and plays an important role in achieving No-Kill

Is D.C. Cat Count really necessary? by Ed Boks

D.C. Cat Count includes hidden cameras to take photos of free roaming cats.

The New York Times reported today that the Humane Society of the United States, PetSmart Charities and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is launching a $1.5 million, three-year plan to count all the stray, feral and pet cats living in Washington D.C.

The plan is called D.C. Cat Count; and it is a highly technological endeavor. As many as 60 camera traps will record images of outdoor cats. A smartphone app, (still in development), will allow anyone in D.C. to share pictures of feral and/or pet cats in an effort to build a comprehensive library of all the cats living in the District. Continue reading “Is D.C. Cat Count really necessary? by Ed Boks”

TNR is good public health policy by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and TNR
Managed feral cat colonies provide toxin free rodent and disease abatement.

During my tenure as executive director of Maricopa County’s Animal Care & Control (1998/2003), I prevailed upon the County Board of Supervisors, with the support of Public Health Director, Dr. Jonathan Weisbuch, to proclaim Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) the County’s official methodology for humanely reducing feral cat populations.

In addition to reducing the killing in local animal shelters, another benefit to implementing TNR in our cities is that managed feral cat colonies serve as a toxin free rodent abatement program.  TNR ends the need for poison to control rodent populations and I think we can all agree that this better for our environment, our wildlife and our pets. Continue reading “TNR is good public health policy by Ed Boks”

Time to solve our feral cat problem by Ed Boks

In a perfect world, all cats would have a loving home.  Unfortunately, unaltered cats permitted to roam freely either become feral or produce feral offspring. Feral means wild, meaning these cats are unsuitable as pets.  Rather than kill feral cats I promote reducing their numbers through a process called TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return). This process is managed through an Ed Boks program called Operation FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-termination). Ed Boks and Cat

Why not just kill feral cats?  Besides being inhumane, these felines serve a valuable community purpose.  Feral cats keep rodents in check; and they do this without the use of pest control chemicals that are toxic to the environment and dangerous to pets, wildlife and children.  By reducing rodent populations, feral cats also help reduce the incidence of many diseases carried by rodents, including the Plague, Leptospirosis and Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome..

Feral cats are how a community controls rodent infestation and disease; TNR is how a community controls its feral cat population.

Leonardo Fibonacci, a preeminent mathematician during the Middle Ages, created a formula relating to agriculture productivity.  Six centuries later, Louis Pasteur, used this model to accurately predict that 70 percent of a susceptible population has to be vaccinated to prevent an epidemic of a contagious disease.  This discovery came to be known as Fibonacci’s 70 percent Rule which is recognized today by the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control.

If we consider sterilization as a method of “vaccinating” feral cats against the “disease” of overpopulation then, according to the Fibonacci Rule, 70 percent of the susceptible feral cat population in your community must be sterile to affect a population decrease.  Once the 70 percent rate is achieved, the transmission odds (successful breeding encounters) of the remaining 30 percent will only be enough to replace normal attrition.

Municipal leaders are well advised to help this effort by allocating monies to help fund Operation FELIX type programs in their local community.

Every community can choose to pay the modest costs of funding targeted spay/neuter programs designed to fix the problem or they can continue to pay the ever increasing costs of catching and killing animals.  I promote proactive solutions and hope you’ll support this effort by implementing an “Operation FELIX” program in your community.  For more information contact me.