What to do when you find newborn kittens in your yard by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and foster kittensEach spring animal shelters receive many kittens too young to survive more than an hour or two without a mother. These kittens are called “neonates.” Sadly, most of the neonate kittens that shelters takes in are orphans.  People find these babies in their garage, barn, flowerbeds and many other places where the mother felt safe from predators and intruders while she gave birth.

Understandably, some people feel they are helping neonate kittens when they bring them to a shelter.  Actually, they are putting these little lives at tremendous risk because euthanasia may be the only way a shelter can save them from suffering an agonizing death by starvation.

To avoid such a horrible fate, leave neonate kittens where you find them; they are not abandoned – and momma cat is their best guarantee of survival.

A momma cat, called a queen, will sometimes leave her offspring to find food or water for herself.  She will return to care for them – but when her kittens are taken away from her, they have no chance to survive without significant human intervention.

Healthy weaned kittens are quickly adopted.  So anything we can do to help neonates reach full “kitten-hood” (8 weeks) improves their chance of eventually finding a loving home. The best way to help neonate kittens is to leave them with mom until they are old enough to survive on their own before bringing them to a shelter.

Despite this advice, many neonate kittens still find their way to animal shelters every year.  So, each year animal shelters prepare for this influx by recruiting volunteers willing to help these innocents survive by joining what I call, the Baby Bottle Brigade.  Ideally, local shelters train their Baby Bottle Brigade volunteers to foster these babies at home until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered and placed for adoption.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “foster” as providing parental care and nurture to children not related through legal or blood ties.  State Law defines “adoptable animals” as animals 8 weeks of age or older; which means these little orphans have no legal standing.  In fact, most shelters don’t even count neonates in their euthanasia statistics.  At shelters I am associated with, we report the outcome of every animal, because we believe every animal counts.  Most animal shelters do their best to provide loving care and nurture even to these lost souls with whom we have no legal or blood ties.

The problem is that animal shelters can’t save them all by themselves.  They need our help.  Depending on the age of the neonates, they may require four to eight weeks of intense foster care.  Though many dedicated shelter employees help foster neonates above and beyond their daily job duties, many kittens will not survive without your help.  If you are willing and able to help save these lives, most animal shelters will provide the training, support and supplies you need to be a successful foster parent.

This is a big commitment and a true test of our compassion. Even with our best efforts, not all foster babies will survive.  But they can all be loved. These babies need to be bottle fed every two hours around the clock for several weeks – making this the perfect family, club, or faith-based organizational project. Fostering helpless neonates is an ideal way to foster compassion and respect for the true value and sanctity of all life in our community.

Have you saved a life today? Join the Baby Bottle Brigade in your community and experience the satisfaction that comes from being a foster parent and saving a life.

Source:  What to do when you find newborn kittens in your yard

Time to solve our feral cat problem by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and feral cats
Jay is a neutered Barn Cat. Not a feral, but not exactly a pet either, Jay is ideal for solving your rodent problems and is hoping you’ll put him to work. Contact YHS for more information on Jay.

Today is National Feral Cat Day. 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 YHS promotes reducing their numbers through a process called TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return). This process is managed through an YHS program called Operation FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-termination).

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 population in the Quad-City region 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.

YHS has secured grants to help fund Operation FELIX, but to achieve 70 percent more help is needed. Municipal leaders can help by allocating monies to help fund Operation FELIX. YHS will match each municipality’s allocation to this program with dedicated grant monies to help their respective neighborhoods.

As a community we can choose to pay the modest costs of funding targeted spay/neuter programs designed to fix the problem or we can return to paying the ever increasing costs of catching and killing animals. YHS promotes proactive solutions and hopes you’ll support this effort by sending a donation to “Operation FELIX” or by volunteering to help staff this program. For more information, visit www.yavapaihumane.org/felix or call 445-2666 to sign up for a TNR class.

If you currently manage or feed a feral cat colony, call the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic to schedule an appointment to have your cats sterilized. Grant monies may allow you to have this done for free. Call 771-0547 for more information.

What to do in a dog attack by Ed Boks

What is the tool of choice when breaking up a serious dog fight? First, let’s review the ineffective tools commonly used.

Contrary to popular opinion, pepper spray and Mace are seldom effective. In fact, these agents are known to actually provoke dogs into redirecting their aggression. Because these agents must be accurately directed at close range the person applying the agent is often the target of this redirection – and if the person is affected or overcome by the agent (which depends on which way the wind is blowing) the consequences to the person can be severe.

Tasers are virtually useless against fur-covered animals; and tranquilizer darts must be placed accurately to be effective, which is difficult when a dog is in attack mode; and the tranquilizer takes several minutes to work during which time the animal can do significant damage.

What then is the best way to break up a dog fight without injuring the animals or putting yourself at unnecessary risk?  I recommend fire-extinguishers. Ed Boks fire extinguisher

With a fire-extinguisher, an intervener does not have to closely approach the dogs or have an accurate aim to deter an attack. Fire-extinguishers don’t quickly run out of “ammunition” or produce an erratic ricochet; and they are non-lethal. If the fire-extinguisher is exhausted while the dog attack continues the empty cylinder can be used as a shield or a bite stick.

Fire-extinguisher contents tend to make animals short of breath without lasting harm; and most dogs retreat from the snake-like hiss of a discharging fire-extinguisher.

Fire-extinguishers can be found in most every kitchen, near every fireplace, and in every car, bus, truck, taxi, and patrol car, and they are prominently located in every public building and place of business.

Should the unfortunate happen and you are bitten it’s best to push against the biter instead of pulling away; this forces most dogs to open their mouths, and enables the victim to avoid the ripping injuries that result from pulling away from a dog’s serrated teeth. However, this strategy may not be universally applicable to all dog bites.

In fatal and disfiguring attacks, the first bite often disables the victim preventing them from pushing against the bite, or protecting themselves, or doing any of the other things conventionally advised. The only effective defense against this type of an attack is preventing the attack from occurring in the first place.

When attacked by a dog it is important to understand dogs tend to attack whatever part of a person is closest to them, so putting an object, any object, between you and the dog will likely redirect the attack towards the object in your hand and away from you.

It’s important to keep your balance. Fending off a dog attack by swinging an object, such as a baseball bat or a golf club, is dangerous; the dog may dodge the blow and take advantage while the person is off-balance to inflict serious injury. The correct way to use a bat or golf club is as a bite-stick held out to keep the dog at maximum distance from oneself.

Most dog on dog and dog on person attacks can be prevented by properly training and socializing your pet. It is never too late to invest in your canine companion by teaching him “good citizenship” skills.

Lastly, remember to keep your dog on a leash six feet or less in length in public places. Not only is this the law (yes, retractable dog leashes are illegal in public places), but a short leash gives you better control to either prevent or save your dog from an attack.

Government shutdown has negative impact on animals by Ed Boks

As the budget stalemate in Washington led to a temporary government shutdown animal advocates are wondering how this unusual event will impact those who have no voice – our nation’s animals.

Here is a brief outline describing how the following animal welfare-related duties are being affected during this shutdown:

Puppy Mills: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not Ed Boks and puppy millperforming all of its duties under the Animal Welfare Act. Specifically, it is not inspecting puppy mills or pet dealers. During this break in oversight, untold harm could be done to commercially bred animals simply because no one is empowered to monitor their safety. The puppy mill industry is notorious for egregious animal abuse and neglect; the mind reels at what these animals will suffer without any oversight.

Horse Soring: Soring involves the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s legs or hooves to force the horse to perform an artificial, exaggerated gait. Caustic chemicals and blistering agents like mustard oil, diesel fuel and kerosene are applied to the horse’s limbs, causing extreme pain. Ed Boks and horse

Another form of soring, known as pressure shoeing, involves cutting a horse’s hoof almost to the quick and tightly nailing on a shoe, or standing a horse for hours with the sensitive part of his soles on a block or other raised object. This causes excruciating pressure and pain whenever the horse puts weight on the hoof.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is charged with enforcing the Horse Protection Act to combat the abusive practice of horse soring. APHIS oversees the inspection of at-risk show horses to ensure they have not been sored and assesses penalties for violations. Suspension of the APHIS program will allow unscrupulous trainers to take advantage of this lapse in oversight.

Animal Slaughter: The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) uphold the requirements of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act related to the treatment of animals prior to and during slaughter. This has been deemed a necessary function, so FSIS inspectors will continue to monitor food safety and humane treatment of animals in slaughterhouses during the shutdown.

Wild Horses: Federal agencies periodically round up and remove large numbers of free-roaming wild equines on public rangelands. This policy often results in tens of thousands of wild horses languishing in holding facilities. Roundups are suspended during the shutdown, but caretakers for the horses already confined will remain on the job.

Zoos/Circuses: Exotic animal exhibitors are regulated by the Animal Welfare Act; unfortunately, the welfare of these animals is suspended for the time being.

Animals in Laboratories: The USDA enforces the AWA to ensure minimumEd Boks and monkey standards of care for animals in laboratories. While employees are on the job maintaining the animals, there is no USDA watchdog ensuring that minimum standards of care are being met. This is another industry whose history is seriously tainted by egregious animal abuse and neglect. The temporary lack of oversight puts these animals again at great risk.

Every community must develop policies and programs that serve as a safety-net during those times when the federal government fails us.

Message to landlords allow pets by Ed Boks

Sadly, one of the biggest challenges a community faces in achieving “No-Kill” comes from landlords who refuse pets despite hearing from their own colleagues and professional journals that permitting pets makes good business sense.  In fact, a survey conducted by The Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare found:

• Fifty percent of all rentals nationally prohibit pets;Ed Boks Landlords No-Pets-Allowed-In-Buildings

• Thirty-five percent of tenants without pets would own a pet if permitted;

• Tenants in pet-friendly housing stay an average of 46 months compared to 18 months in rentals prohibiting pets;

• The vacancy rate for pet-friendly housing is lower (10 percent) than “no pets allowed” rentals (14 percent); and

• Twenty-five percent of applicants inquiring about rentals in non-pet-friendly housing are seeking pet-friendly rentals.

With such a sizable potential tenant pool it seems there should be enough pet-friendly housing to meet demand. According to economic theory, in perfectly functioning markets (where people make rational, profit-maximizing decisions, with full information and no significant transaction costs) pet-friendly housing should always be available to renters willing to pay a premium to cover any extra costs to landlords.

Why then do so many landlords overlook opportunities to increase profits by providing pet-friendly housing? With nearly 70 percent of American households having companion animals and over half of renters who do not have a pet wanting one, why are so few pet-friendly rental units available?

The report found that among landlords who do not allow pets, damage was the greatest concern (64.7 percent), followed by noise (52.9 percent), complaints/tenant conflicts (41.2 percent) and insurance issues (41.2 percent). Concerns about people leaving their pet or not cleaning common areas were rarely cited (5.9 percent).

Although 85 percent of landlords permitting pets reported pet-related damage at some time, the worst damage averaged only $430. This is less than the typical rent or pet deposit. In most cases, landlords could simply subtract the damage from a pet deposit and experience no real loss. In fact, the report finds landlords experience no substantive loss. There is little, if any, difference in damage between tenants with and without pets.

Other pet-related issues (e.g., noise, tenant conflicts concerning animals or common area upkeep) required slightly less than one hour per year of landlord time. This is less time than landlords spend for child-related problems and other issues. Whatever time landlords spend addressing pet-related problems is offset by spending less marketing time on pet-friendly units by a margin of 8 hours per unit.

The study found problems arising from allowing pets to be minimal; and benefits outweigh the problems. Landlords stand to profit from allowing pets because, on average, tenants with pets are willing and able to pay more for the ability to live with their pets.

Many municipal shelters receive many wonderful pets because of this unnecessary housing shortage.  Imagine if all landlords permitted pets.  That would create a demand far greater than the number of pets dying in our shelters, allowing our community to maintain its status among the safest communities in the United States for pets.

Unfortunately, too many landlords overlook the opportunity to increase revenue, tenant pools and market size by allowing pets. While the benefits to landlords are easily quantified in a profit/loss statement, the benefit to our community’s homeless pets is incalculable. Landlords can make a profitable, life-saving choice by simply permitting pets.

Year in review By Ed Boks

In 2012 the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) accomplished what many consider impossible, ending the practice of euthanasia (or killing as some prefer to call it) as a method for controlling pet overpopulation.  This achievement places us among the nation’s most humane communities.  Many ask, “How in the world did you do this?”  It was the result of strong community support and involvement.  

Here is a list of YHS’ 2012 Top Ten Accomplishments that directly led to this amazing feat:  

  1. Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic: The YHS Clinic was certified by the esteemed Humane Alliance in North Carolina, a nationally recognized organization that focuses on high-volume, high-quality, low-cost companion animal sterilization.  This prestigious certification resulted in a sizeable Petsmart grant for staff training and medical equipment.
  2. Walk for the Animals:  The first annual YHS Walk for the Animals was a huge success with nearly 400 participants and their dogs.  Mark your calendar for the second annual Walk for the Animals on Saturday, April 12, 2013.
  3. YHS Thrift Shop developed the reputation as the “Neiman Marcus” of local thrift stores because of its exclusive merchandise at affordable prices.  If you haven’t already, make the YHS Thrift Shop a weekly destination.  It is located at 1046 Willow Creek Road in the Safeway/Cal-Ranch shopping center.
  4. Reigning Cats & Dogs Gala:  The 2012 Gala celebrated YHS’ 40th Anniversary raising over $117,000 to help fund life-saving programs.  
  5. Hospital Facility:  YHS received funding from Yavapai County, the City of Prescott, the Town of Prescott Valley and several private supporters to build much needed medical isolation, observation and holding wards for animals in need of special care.  The facility will also provide a room for staff and volunteer training and warehouse space.  Opening Day is expected in March or April.
  6. Digital X-Ray Machine: Thanks to the support of many YHS acquired a digital x-ray machine that enables our compassionate medical team to effectively diagnose and treat rescued sick and injured animals.
  7. Enrichment Program:  YHS develop an Enrichment Program designed to help enhance the shelter experience of our animals so they are better prepared for adoption.  Thanks to the support of many YHS now has an enrichment dog training park and facility; soothing music piped throughout the shelters; beds in every kennel; a robust dog walking/training program; and guidance from expert dog behaviorists.
  8. Big Fix:  Several grants allowed YHS to provide hundreds of low cost spay/neuter surgeries free of charge or with small co-pays to pit bull owners, military veterans and low-income pet owners.  If your pet still needs to be altered don’t wait another moment; call 928-771-0547 today for an appointment.
  9. Annual Car Raffle:  Pat and Nancy O’Brien (Hooligan’s Pub proprietors) donated a fully restored1971Jeep CJ5.  Raffle tickets ($10 each/6 for $50) are still available at all YHS outlets, Olsen’s Grain in Prescott, Dewey and Chino Valley, Whisker’s Barkery and Timberwoof Pet Boutique.  The winner will be randomly drawn at Whisker’s Barkery this Friday evening at 6:30 p.m.
  10. Ninety-five percent Live Release Rate: Thanks to the support of our community we transformed our community into one of the safest for pets in the nation.

All of these accomplishments are the result of the support of many.  There is still time to be part of this remarkable success in your community.  Consider making a tax deductible end of the year donation to help your local shelter fund its many life saving programs in 2013.

Debunking myths concerning black cats and Halloween by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Halloween catEach October I’m asked to debunk the myths and misinformation regarding black cats and Halloween.   Some suggest a moratorium on adopting black cats in October for fear they will be harmed – not understanding that in all the history of humane work no one has ever documented any connection between adopting black cats and those cats being harmed in any way.  

Why then all the panic?  It seems much of the distress arises from a misunderstanding regarding the relationship between “witches” and black cats used in ritualistic sacrifices.  Witches would never harm their “familiars” who are supposed to be their eyes and ears in the spirit world.  To harm a familiar is to blind and deafen oneself.

This misunderstanding took on a twisted life of its own during the 1998 Halloween season when suspected Satanists were sought in nine states for “mutilations” that drew sensational media coverage and rewards up to $10,000.  That incident etched its way into the national consciousness.  However, few people remember that the investigators ultimately learned that these “mutilations” were the natural product of wildlife predation.

Each summer since then one community or another has suffered an emotional panic coinciding with the appearance of young coyotes from their dens and the first hunt of newly fledged raptors.  These panics increased in intensity with the public’s preoccupation with witches, ghouls, and goblins, but abruptly ended after Halloween – unlike cases of human sadism.

Police and humane officers are trained to investigate human-inflicted cruelty but often have little experience in predator behavior.  This sometimes leads to forensic evidence being misread in ways that incite witch-hunts.

Unlike human sadists, animal predators are quick and efficient, avoiding waste.  Their teeth and claws cut more cleanly than a knife and they don’t leave much blood behind.  When time permits, they consume the richest organs and leave the rest.

Coyotes typically attack small prey (such as cats) from behind and side, with a scissors-like jaw snap to the backbone that frequently cuts the victim in half.  When startled, they flee with the back half and whatever internal organs come along, leaving the head and fore-paws. These are examples of cases most often misread by investigators as ritualistic crimes.

When prey survives a first strike, coyotes and wild cats will inflict a skull-crunching bite to the head.  Several panics over alleged sadists drilling mysterious holes in the skulls of pets were resolved when investigators found the holes aligned with the incisors of wild predators.

Alleged “skinned alive” cases involving pets were actually coyotes and raptors mistaking pets for smaller prey. The predator holds on with teeth or claws while the victim runs causing a set of sharp, straight cuts investigators describe as “filets.”

Raptors account for cases where entrails are draped over cars, porches, trees, signs, and mailboxes.  They take flight with their prey and parts fall out.  Crows account for cases where eyes, lips, anuses, and female genitals are removed from fallen livestock.

Some trace black cat adoption moratoriums to early 20th Century New York Giants manager John McGraw.  McGraw was notoriously superstitious, so fans (mostly gamblers) tossed black cats in front of the Giants’ dugout to jinx him.  The American Baseball League quickly adopted a rule against continuing a game when an animal is on the field and many humane societies started prohibiting black cat adoptions during the World Series which often occurs around Halloween.

TNR as a Public Health response to achieving No-Kill by Ed Boks

A substantial number of animals euthanized in animal shelters each year are feral cats and their neonate offspring.  A program to control the homeless cat population by neutering instead of culling cats in shelters is critical to achieving No-Kill.

Overpopulation must be curtailed at its source.  Sterilization is the only humane, non-lethal solution to unchecked reproduction.  TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) is designed to achieve this goal by reducing the stray and feral cat population through attrition by trapping, sterilizing, and inoculating feral and stray cats against distemper and rabies, and then returning them to their already established territory, where they are monitored by feral cat colony managers. The sterilization prevents the cats from reproducing while inoculations prevent disease.  Ear-notching provides an easy way to identify cats in a TNR program.TNR has a history in Denmark, England, Israel, and the United States.  It is endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association and is currently being implemented with local governments’ approval in many communities. Humane organizations endorsing TNR include the Humane Society of the United States, Friends of Animals, Alley Cat Allies, Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy, the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) and the Cat Fanciers’ Association. A national opinion poll conducted by Alley Cat Allies in May 2003 found that out of 24,599 respondents, 94% supported TNR as an effective tool in addressing feral and stray cat population.  Since March 2002, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has published four articles in favor of TNR.

TNR has proven to be an effective and workable program for long-term population control and is increasingly being utilized by public and private entities to address feral cat populations and the concomitant problems of protecting the public health from rabies and cat nuisance complaints.  It has been demonstrated to reduce over populations, complaints about roaming and the number of cats in shelters in communities in the United States and abroad.  It reduces euthanasia rates, and costs less than half of the cost of traditional trap and kill programs.  Dr. Julie Levy, DVM, Ph.D., monitored an eleven-year TNR project that involved eleven feral cat colonies on a central Florida campus.  Dr. Levy concluded that “a comprehensive long-term program of neutering followed by adoption or return to the resident colony can result in reduction of the free roaming cat population in urban areas.”

TNR is working successfully in New Jersey in model TNR programs in Cape May, Atlantic City (at the Boardwalk), Phillipsburg and Bloomfield.  In addition, support for TNR was one of the top three recommendations of New Jerseyans in comments received at public hearings on the topic.

Elsewhere in the country, the Orange County, Florida, Animal Services Department, the San Francisco SPCA, and statewide programs in California and Utah have successfully implemented TNR programs.  Maricopa County, Arizona and correctional institutions in Ohio, Montana and New York State have also officially approved TNR as a means to feline population control. These programs are additionally beneficial to local governments, as volunteers can often be found to assist municipalities in managing feral cat colonies but are generally not willing to assist in trapping and removing cats for euthanasia.

Examples of successful TNR programs include:

Alachua County, Florida: A program called Catnip was implemented in 1998 and is responsible for sterilizing more than 22,000 cats since then. The program decreased shelter intake of cats by 61% since 2000.

Maricopa County, Arizona: Ed Boks, former Director of Animal Care and Control, Maricopa County, Arizona, studied conventional methods of feral cat control for over 20 years. He determined that these methods do not properly regulate the population and, consequently, initiated a TNR program that is operated by the county animal control department. Within eight years the euthanasia rate dropped from 23 cats per 1,000 county residents to only eight cats per 1,000 county residents.

Orange County, Florida: Orange County, Florida has a population of 700,000 people. Its animal control department incurs costs of approximately $105 per animal when it must respond to a complaint and impound and euthanize the animal. Before its TNR program was introduced, there were approximately two hundred complaints per year, resulting in as many animals being captured, with a cost of $21,000 to the county. Within six years after the introduction of TNR by animal control services in 1995, complaints decreased by approximately 10% as did the number of impoundments, with a total savings to animal services of over $100,000. Within the six years of the start of the program, euthanasia decreased by 18%.

San Diego, California: Founded in 1992 by Dr. Rochelle Brinton, the Feral Cat Coalition (FCC) introduced TNR to San Diego on a countywide basis. FCC is an all volunteer organization that provides free sterilization procedures for feral and stray cats. In addition to sterilization procedures, the cats are vaccinated for rabies and treated for fleas and any immediate medical problems. FCC volunteers monitor the feral cats after they are returned to the outdoors. The local animal control departments support the program as it has had a positive impact in reducing the feral population, thus reducing the number of cases to which they would have otherwise been required to respond. By 1994, two years after the start of the TNR program, the total number of cats brought into San Diego shelters dropped over 34% and the euthanasia rates in county shelters for all cats dropped 40% (instead of the usual 10% increase). San Diego euthanized 8.0 shelter animals per 1,000 people in 1997; 4.9 in 2002. The reduction in the euthanasia rate translated to an estimated tax savings of $795,976.

San Francisco, California: The San Francisco SPCA initiated a citywide TNR program in 1993. The SPCA has been working with feral cat caregivers to control the feral cat population, provide some medical care, keep the cats adequately fed and, when possible, adopt them into homes. There are three aspects to the program. The first is “feral fix,” a program through which the SF/SPCA provides vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery for San Francisco feral cats, all at no charge to their caregivers. Since the program began they report altering over 10,000 cats. The second aspect of the program is “Cat Assistance Teams.” In neighborhoods throughout the City, CAT members work together to humanely trap feral cats, transport them to Feral Fix, provide post-surgery recovery care, and socialize feral kittens before placing them in homes. CAT members also provide expert advice and assistance to novice caregivers in their neighborhoods. Finally, there is 9 Lives™ Humane Feral Cat Management Video Series including nine comprehensive videos that cover all aspects of caring for feral cats. Within six years of commencing the TNR program, euthanasia rates dropped 70%.

New York City, NY: The New York City Feral Cat Council (“NYCFCC”) is a coalition of NYC animal groups working to humanely reduce the City’s feral cat population through the use of TNR. They established a TNR program on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1999. Based on statistics compiled by New York City’s Animal Care and Control, the number of stray cat intakes from the Upper West Side was reduced 73% in the first three years of the program. During the first year of the program, there was a 59% reduction in the number of cats arriving in shelters.

Cape May, New Jersey: In 1995, John Queenan, with the Cape May City Animal Control, proposed an ordinance to facilitate TNR and the feeding of feral cat colonies. Queenan based his proposal on similar regulations in Santa Cruz County, California. Because pick-up and euthanasia had not resolved the city’s overpopulation problem, the ordinance focused on preventing reproduction. As a result of Cape May’s ordinance change, 200 cats were altered in 1997. Based on the number of nuisance complaints, litters of kittens and visual sightings of the colonies, it is estimated that the feral cat population, which was between 500 and 800 cats in 1994, has been reduced by 50%.

Atlantic City, New Jersey: The Humane Society of Atlantic County, in conjunction with the Health Department of Atlantic City and local volunteers, has used TNR successfully and with municipal approval. Through kitten adoptions and natural attrition (since these cats no longer reproduce), the feral cat population under the Atlantic City boardwalk was reduced by more than 70% within three years. Cat related nuisance complaints, common before enactment of the TNR ordinance, are now rare.

Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Phillipsburg, Warren County also authorized TNR. Dr. Robert Blease, a veterinarian and founder of Common Sense for Animals (“CSA”), a non-profit organization that receives no public funding, initiated the municipality’s TNR ordinance in 2001. All feral cats that are brought to CSA are vaccinated, sterilized, and identified by way if ear notching. Cats that are infected with FIV/FEHV, unhealthy or vicious, are humanely euthanized. Since Phillipsburg authorized TNR the stray cat population has reportedly dropped an estimated 350 cats in the first year alone, and citizen complaints about stray cats have dropped to zero.

Bloomfield, New Jersey: The Friends of the Bloomfield/Bukowski Animal Shelter (FOBAS) initiated a TNR program September 2003 with two colonies. The program has been endorsed and supported by the mayor, the town council and the Bloomfield Department of Health. Neighborhood Cats, a New York City-based volunteer non-profit organization, provides advice and assistance to the town, which adopted TNR as its official feral cat program.

For information on the sources for the above information as well as how to calculate the feral cat population in your community refer to Analysis of Feral Cat Solutions.

Applying the No-Kill Ethic by Ed Boks

More than a policy and statistical objective, “no-kill” is a principle, an ethic, and once applied the practical consequences begin to fall into place. The principle is that animal shelters should apply the same criteria for deciding an animal’s fate that a loving pet guardian or conscientious veterinarian would apply. That is, healthy and treatable animals are not killed simply because of a lack of room or resources to care for them.

Killing animals for lack of space may be the quick, convenient and, at least from afar, the easy thing to do.  But I have never, in nearly 30 years in this field, heard anyone argue that it is the right thing to do.  After all, the creatures who fill our shelters can hardly be faulted for bringing trouble upon themselves. People who seek to excuse euthanasia in shelters often say we have to be “realistic.” But such realism is best directed at the sources of the problem and at the element of human responsibility..

There are the heart-breaking cruelty cases that bring so many animals to our doors.  On top of that, there are the thousands of dogs and cats shelters take in each year who are actually relinquished – turned in – even after years living with a family – like old furniture donated to charity.  And there are the orphaned, neonate puppies and kittens.  No one bothered to spay or neuter the parents, and so the offspring are born into the world homeless or unwanted. The general attitude is, “Let someone else deal with the problem,” and – hundreds of times a year – someone else does with a lethal injection.

Along with such failures in personal responsibility is a breakdown in social responsibility.  On the budget sheets, saving animals can seem to a certain mindset as being a lowly or trivial concern.  That’s an easy position to take, as long as you don’t have to be there when the problem gets “solved”.  If the people who brush off animal-welfare as “trivial” had to see the product of their priorities carried out – to witness for themselves how trusting the dogs are even when being led to their death, or how as they drift away they lick the hand or face of the person with the needle – I suspect they would see matters in a very different light, and would enthusiastically support life saving programs.

I can see rays of light.  There is a renewed community commitment to helping lost and homeless animals, and to swearing off euthanasia as a solution to pet overpopulation.

The “no-kill” ethic is a matter of taking responsibility, instead of excusing the problem or hiding its consequences.

No matter how you do the math, there are still too many creatures who have love and devotion to offer, but never get their chance.  And calling the practice euthanasia (as some prefer), instead of killing (as others prefer), doesn’t make it any kinder.

The practice of killing animals has never been anyone’s idea of an ideal solution – let alone anyone’s idea of giving “shelter” to creatures in need.  And, up close, the willful elimination of healthy animals with good years left is a sight to move the hardest heart.  It is time we as a community make this commitment: No animal that comes through our shelters will be killed out of convenience or a lack of space.  For every one of them, there is somewhere a kind and loving person or family, and it is our mission to bring them together.