Pennsylvania township disputes care and feeding of Stray Cats; Jim (Wingnut) Williams publishes opinions of The Wild Professional’s editor-in-chief concerning Stray Cats and TNR programs; Rabies reports from Florida, and North Carolina (2); and Coyote reports from Georgia, and Rhode Island.

Feral Cats by Scott Granneman. Wikipedia Commons.

Pennsylvania 03/21/11 go.com: by Katherine Scott – There’s a dispute going on in Radnor Township over the care and feeding of stray cats. The township wants to make it illegal.  The idea is to amend the language of an existing ordinance that already covers dogs and to extend it to cats that roam free.  The township Board of Health says this measure protects the health and safety of both humans and animals, but critics worry it’s a cruel and ineffective way to control the feral cat population.

Joe and Kathy Siciliano of Rosemont care for a colony of five feral cats. They all had been trapped from the wild, neutered, vaccinated, and released back into the neighborhood.  The Sicilianos provide food and shelter as the cats come and go.  “We care for them, watch out for them, we monitor them so we know that they’re healthy, and they’re well cared for cats,” Joe said.

What this family believes is the most humane way to control their community’s cat population might soon be illegal with an amended ordinance on the table for Radnor Township banning free-roaming cats.  It’s a measure supported whole-heartedly by the Sicilianos’ neighbor at the township’s Public Health Subcommittee meeting.  “My entire front garden was covered in cat feces, I was unable to weed without coming into contact with cat feces, my front yard smelled of cat feces and cat urine,” Rosement resident Laura Martin said at the meeting.

Committee members explain that, in general, animals at large can pose health risks.  But doctors attending the meeting said cats, specifically, can be exposed to animals, like bats and raccoons, as they roam outside at night that could increase their risk of rabies.  The ordinance states that feeding animals constitutes ownership, which means that cats would need to stay on the homeowner’s property.  The Sicilianos worry what this measure would mean for stray cats, but also pets that might go lost without a collar.  “We won’t necessarily go around the township rounding up cats that are at large, but, if and when a cat is found to be a nuisance and is, in fact, causing a direct problem, that we certainly have a recourse to address that issue, presently we have no recourse,” John Fisher, President of the Board of Commissioners, said.

Fisher told Action News that euthanization is a last resort and, more likely, the cats would be released back into the wild, though maybe not in the populated neighborhood they came from. Owners would have time to claim their lost animal.  Action News is told there will be other opportunities for public comment, likely in the next month.

National 03/22/11 startribune.com: by Jim Williams – Understanding that I’m about to annoy and probably anger some of you, the following information about cats is important reading for anyone interested in birds. It was sent to me by Lisa Moore, editor in chief of The Wildlife Professional.

Cats are not native to North America. They’re actually an invasive species, brought here by settlers from Europe long, long ago. It takes native wildlife many generations to adapt to non-native intruders. And even if birds had adapted to cats, the number of cats in North America is overwhelming when you consider the conflict. Birds – and other native wildlife species – don’t have a chance. The solution is to keep cats indoors, and to stop releasing unwanted cats to fend for themselves. Here is what Ms. Moore has to say:

Anyone who has ever owned an outdoor cat knows that cats kill wildlife. It’s in their nature. Whether hungry or not they’ll stalk and pounce, killing their prey and, often, depositing the corpses on doorsteps like hard-won trophies. Pet owners may throw away the victims with a twinge of guilt, then convince themselves that one little cat can’t possibly make a difference in the balance of nature. It’s time to think again.

“Allowing free-ranging pet and feral cats to roam outside, breed unchecked, kill native wildlife, and spread disease is a crime against nature,” says Michael Hutchins, Executive Director/CEO of The Wildlife Society (TWS). As North America’s largest scientific organization for professionals in wildlife management and conservation, TWS is taking a strong stand in favor of keeping pet cats indoors and removing feral cats from the environment to protect wildlife from cat predation.

As part of this effort, the Spring 2011 issue of the Society’s magazine, The Wildlife Professional, has just released a package of articles titled “In Focus: The Impacts of Free-Roaming Cats.” These articles explore the widespread negative impacts of outdoor, stray, and feral cats on wildlife, habitats, and human and animal health.

Consider:

•  By some estimates, outdoor cats in the U.S. kill more than one million birds every day on average.  Some studies put the death toll as high as one billion birds per year.    Other studies show that cats kill about twice as many rodents, reptiles, and other small animals.

•  The number of free-roaming cats is on the rise, now between 117 and 157 million in the U.S. While cat numbers are rising, nearly one-third of the more than 800 species of birds in the U.S. are endangered, threatened, or in significant decline.

•   Cats can spread rabies, toxoplasmosis, typhus, plague, and numerous other viral and parasitic disease s to other wildlife and humans. By 2008, the number of rabies cases in cats was approximately four times the number of cases in dogs.

*   Now the most abundant carnivore in North America, domestic cats are not even native to this continent, instead descending from wild cats native to the Middle East. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature labels domestic cats as one of the “world’s worst” invasive species, predators that can devastate native wildlife populations, particularly on islands and in fragmented urban habitats. 

Trap-Neuter-Release is NOT the Answer

Growing numbers of cities and towns across the nation are adopting trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs to manage overabundant populations of stray, feral, and abandoned cats. In outdoor TNR “colonies,” cats receive food, water, and shelter. Many are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, and returned to the colony, where they’re free to prey on wildlife at will. Proponents of TNR claim that this approach will eventually reduce the numbers of unclaimed outdoor cats, but research shows otherwise. TNR colonies often become dumping grounds for unwanted pets, and because it’s impossible to sterilize and vaccinate all feral cats in an area, populations may remain stable or rise. In turn these colonies attract other wildlife, such as raccoons and skunks, expanding the threat of disease transmission and human-wildlife conflict.

Since the science is clear about the harm associated with outdoor cats, why do people let cats roam free? The answer lies in human hearts. Much-beloved as pets, cats intrigue, amuse, and captivate, winning champions who go to great lengths (and expense) to advocate on cats’ behalf. Wildlife conservationists who oppose TNR often find themselves unable to budge passionate cat advocates, who lobby persuasively for TNR and against any kind of ordinance to curtail outdoor cat populations. Lawmakers will often go along with the cat advocates, as was the case last year when commissioners in Athens, Georgia, adopted a TNR program against the advice of a host of wildlife conservationists and veterinarians.  

Ironically, as the battle over TNR festers, millions of taxpayer dollars each year go toward government efforts to protect endangered species and migratory birds—many of which fall prey to outdoor cats. Both the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act make it a crime to “take” protected species, so isn’t it also a crime to allow cats free reign to feast?

Wildlife suffer from outdoor cats, but so do the cats themselves. “Cats left outdoors have short life spans and often experience cruel and painful deaths from collisions with vehicles, coyote predation, and disease,” says TWS’ Hutchins. “Misdirected compassion and support of ineffective TNR management by cat advocacy groups is actually resulting in vastly more animal suffering, rather than less. It is high time that our society addresses this significant and growing environmental, human health, and animal welfare problem.”

To help educate policymakers and the public about this issue, TWS has created five Fact Sheets about stray, feral, and outdoor cats. Perhaps by understanding the impacts of outdoor cats, people on all sides of the issue will begin to develop solutions that not only benefit cats, but also the native wildlife we hope to conserve.  Contact: Lisa Moore, Editor-in-Chief, The Wildlife Professional, lmoore@wildlife.org

Florida 03/22/11 ocala.com: The Marion County Health Department has issued a rabies alert for a location in the area of Northeast 70th Street, Northeast 35th Street and N. US Hwy. 441. A raccoon tested positive in that area on March 16. A prior alert to a positive test on a raccoon has been issued Jan. 31.

Georgia 03/23/11 rr.com: Authorities say a coyote wandered onto a runway in Atlanta, delaying flights for a few minutes at the world’s busiest airport until ground crews chased the animal away.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the flights were briefly delayed Tuesday afternoon at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the coyote was spotted on the south side of the airport around 3:30 p.m.  She said an airport vehicle chased the animal into a ravine, and flights resumed after about five minutes.  The airport is ranked the world’s busiest by the industry group Airports Council International.

North Carolina 03/23/11 carrborocitizen.com: A raccoon found in Chapel Hill tested positive for rabies on Tuesday at the State Laboratory of Public Health.  The raccoon was submitted after a resident in the vicinity of Estes Drive Extension and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard saw her dog lunge at it in a ditch.  The dog was currently vaccinated against rabies and will receive a booster shot within five days in accordance with state law. By contrast, unvaccinated animals must be either quarantined for six months or destroyed.  This is the fourth positive rabies test that Orange County has received this year. If any possible exposure to a bat, raccoon or fox is suspected, call Animal Control at 245-2075 or call 911.

North Carolina 03/22/11 nbc17.com: State health officials are warning some residents in Cumberland County of a suspected case of rabies reported in the Haymount area.  A bat was picked up on March 19 by Animal Control inside a home in the 200 block of Stedman Street. The bat was sent to the State Lab for testing, but those results were inconclusive.  Residents in the vicinity should remain alert for sick or abnormal acting wildlife.  Officials say this is the fourth case of rabies reported in Cumberland County since January 1.

Rhode Island 03/23/11 ajc.com: Aggressive coyotes have gotten so bad in one Rhode Island town that it’s hiring a coyote hunter.  Middletown Police Chief Anthony Pesare said Wednesday that in the past year, coyotes have killed pets, gone onto decks and made people afraid to leave their homes. Most recently, a coyote jumped over a 4-foot fence to attack a dog. Pesare says the town has tried to manage the coyote population, including educating people not to leave out food. But he says now it’s time to start going after the aggressive animals.  Pesare says an experienced coyote hunter has volunteered, and he hopes he’ll start April 5, the day after a town council hearing to approve a zoning change allowing the hunt. The Newport Daily News first reported the proposal.

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2 responses to “Pennsylvania township disputes care and feeding of Stray Cats; Jim (Wingnut) Williams publishes opinions of The Wild Professional’s editor-in-chief concerning Stray Cats and TNR programs; Rabies reports from Florida, and North Carolina (2); and Coyote reports from Georgia, and Rhode Island.

  1. If TNR is not the answer, why is it shown to be the most effective way of controlling populations?

  2. This article is misleading to say the least. Lumping pet cats who go outside with feral cats? Hardly the same thing.

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