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18 February 2010


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mary frances

God bless Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP, Christie Keith, Ally Cat Allies, Nathan Winograd and NKAC - This week-end, as I release two neutered male cats to a colony I watch over I will feel more at peace knowing all the good work you all are doing for those that can't speak for themselves - Thank you for them - also congrats for The BARK magazine mention - read the review of Nathan Winograd's latest book and Christie Keith's article - How close are we to achieving this "impossible dream"? No-Kill Nation - and Gina Spadafori (Bark's 100:the best and brightest)

Susan J

What was the outcome of the hearing today?

Peter J. Wolf

To get a sense of what the Urban Wildlands Group is all about, take a careful look at Travis Longcore’s (Science Director of UWG) 2009 essay in Conservation Biology. Its glaring omissions, contradictions, and bias suggest that the UWG is not interested in science at all. (Of course, it doesn’t paint Conservation Biology in a very flattering light, either).

Not surprisingly, the American Bird Conservancy (which, like UWG, has an agenda at odds with research findings) has posted the PDF on their site:

Knowing the kind of “science” the UWG submits for publication and feeds the media, I’d be very interested to see just what claims they made in the court case.

Nathan J. Winograd

Round One went to the anti-cat groups. Our motion was denied. As soon as the court issues that order, we will file a notice of appeal.

Dawn Dorin

Even if the cats were the cause of bird decline, they still have a right to life equal to the birds. Euthanasia is neither a humane or reasonable solution. The gross abuse of power by the court here is dispicable and alone is cause for suit.

Susan J

I read the research the environment people cited in their papers. It seems that TNR doesn't work in the real world. Populations have increased. TNR is supposed to make populations decrease.

Cats, dogs, birds all have the right to life. I believe they can live in harmony. Cats and dogs should be in homes or enclosed yards. They should not be wandering the streets, getting hit by cars, killed by coyotes, going without vet care or contracting disease. That is not humane.


Cats and dogs should be in homes or enclosed yards. They should not be wandering the streets, getting hit by cars, killed by coyotes, going without vet care or contracting disease. That is not humane.

Susan J, I agree, it's not. But all of this exists in the real world, and we need strategies to cope with it. Whatever you think of TNR - and there is research which has found it effective long-term (check Alley Cat Allies website for links) - killing to cull roaming cats and dogs is not at all humane either.

I'm old enough to remember when it routine in our parks, and not only was the misery inflicted horrendous, it didn't work, and it fostered disregard for suffering and the value of animal life. I cannot imagine anyone with a lick of sense or compassion wanting to return to those days.

Susan Fox

Thank you, Nathan. That's how I have always felt.

And it's interesting that in England, most rescue cats are only placed in homes that will allow them outside because to confine them inside is considered inhumane.

If people want to know what's happening to the bird population, they need only look in the mirror.

Nathan J. Winograd

We need to move past the notion that cats should be indoors. This is a species that has flourished outdoors for 10,000 years. Even in urban environments, the lifespan of an outdoor cat in TNR colonies has been found to be roughly the same as an indoor cat. In addition, they have similar baselines across a wide range of health characteristics. In fact, while we continuously exaggerate the risks of going outdoors, we tend to downplay the benefits. And we wholly ignore the risks of indoor only policies on the health of cats, including obesity. At the risk of sounding trite, going outside feels nice.


When I was a child, my cat, Liverfluke - an odd-eyed white tom, mostly deaf - was run over before my eyes. I'm not going to describe what I saw, because I think everyone here can imagine it well enough. To this day I have nightmares about it, and cry.

Today, I have a lovely long-haired black cat, P'Gell, who was run over on Christmas Day 2009 and broken badly, a broken back, broken pelvis, shattered femur, degloving injury to one leg, and that's not counting the myriad smaller injuries - broken, and reassembled by rescue. She gets around very well inside and has an amazing leap in her, but her balance is poor and the least little thing can overset her.

Every Spring, every Spring I see cats on the side of the roads everywhere, some of whom look to have suffered some time before they died. Whenever possible we stop and look and see if there's anything we can do, but what it's mainly done, year after year after year, is show me just what horrific damage cars can do.

So don't tell me it's safe to let cats outside. Just don't.


And it’s interesting that in England, most rescue cats are only placed in homes that will allow them outside because to confine them inside is considered inhumane.

In the UK, they don't have coyotes, wolves, bobcats, mountain lions, bears, alligators, fisher cats--all of which are real threats to free-roaming cats in various parts of North America. And it's not an exhaustive list. I keep my cats in not for the safety of the birds, which I agree is largely a counterfactual concern, but for their own safety.

Oh, and my first cat, she was a semi-feral who was picked up and brought to the shelter because she'd been hit by a car and her two front legs broken. We did let her outside--but by her own choice, she wouldn't go beyond the back yard, and then only if the dog went out with her.

Gina Spadafori

So don’t tell me it’s safe to let cats outside. Just don’t.

Comment by Eucritta — February 19, 2010

No one is telling you that. No one.

But it's also not safe to let YOURSELF outside. Everything that happens to cats can happen to you, from attack (albeit more likely a mugging than a bobcat) to being hit by a car (which I nearly was yesterday, crossing a street downtown).

If you decided that never leaving your house and a screened-in patio was the only answer, your friends and relatives would be preparing an intervention.

Look, people who hate cats are pretty unified in their view. People who love/like/don't mind cats but are advocates for birds also believe that cats should never be allowed to roam.

The rest of us? We struggle with this with regard to our owned pet cats. I don't think there is one right answer. Which means the debate will continue for as long as people have cats, which is to say forever.

There is no doubt that some owned cats hunt. This is not necessarily a bad thing: I had a problem with mice/rats in the chicken area (I back up to a couple undeveloped acres with a creek running through it and berry bushes. Rats galore.). Thanks to Ilario, I no longer do. I have seen him with lots of rodents, but only once with a bird, and it was a starling, no loss.

But this discussion is not about owned cats. It's about FERALS.

The issue of feral management is entirely different subject. There will ALWAYS be feral cats. If you kill them, there will be more. While some of these are abandoned or escaped pets, others are the offspring of cats who have successfully adapted to being on their own, sometimes for generations.

I believe in TNR, EXCEPT ... that I believe feral colonies must be removed from sensitive habitat. Relocation is ideal (and in my future, I hope to offer "barn cat" status to a couple ferals), but if not ... killing may be the only option.

Still, let it be noted that the biggest threat to wild bird populations continues to be ... US. Our insatiable appetite for clear-cutting habitat to meet our ever-growing population as a species dooms more species than feral cats ever could.

In other words: People who live in wood houses (eating imported beef raised on clear-cut former forests) shouldn't throw stones at cats.


Thank you, Gina!!I live in the northeast where people believe that feral cats are destroying the piping plover. Sorry, no, it's people. New Hampshire moved a feral colony, when they saw one feral cat attacking a plover. However, it's the destruction of habitat by humans destroying these birds. I personally feel the feral cats are being "witchhunted".


Gina, my risks outside are much less than those of an unsupervised cat's. Cats are small and can be difficult to spot especially in poor light; they also don't obey traffic rules, or, I imagine, even know they exist. They're also much more likely to be the target of random hostility, since there are plenty of sick cowards who wouldn't attack a person or a dog but who consider cats fair game.

Also? Because I'm severely arthritic, I am often house-and-garden-bound. And it's okay. There was a time when I wouldn't have thought it could be, yes, but all my fears have proven wrong. And unlike the average cat, I don't sleep fifteen or so hours out of twenty-four.


I’m afraid that much of the bird advocates’ opposition to TNR is really more anti-cat than pro-bird.

Years ago, an activist against TNR admitted as much to me: that while there were much greater factors in the decline of native species such as environmental degradation and habitat destruction and fragmentation, these issues were difficult to address; killing cat colonies, on the other hand, was comparatively easy and cheap, and might, he thought, have some small beneficial effect. He wasn't even all that concerned that it actually produce a benefit, from which I concluded that what primarily motivated him was revenge - and since he couldn't exact it from people, he took it out on cats.

Weirdly, in all these discussions, hardly anyone ever mentions feral pigs and dog packs either. Go figure.

Peter J. Wolf

Gina touches on a good point when she mentions beef... I find it puzzling that many of the bird advocacy groups consider cats an "invasive, non-native species," a point made repeatedly in their published papers. And yet, no mention of the impact cattle ranches/dairy farming have had on bird populations. The cattle aren't native to this county either.

I'm afraid that much of the bird advocates' opposition to TNR is really more anti-cat than pro-bird.


Hi, Even with neuter programs, there continues to be an overpopulation of feral cats in many areas. Please realize that neutered cats kill many California Quail chicks and have wiped out this species in many ecosystems in California. Invasive species control is necessary for perserving wild, native bird populations. Sometimes, elimination of feral cats in an area is the most ecological and practical solution to the problem of bird predation, feral cats harming pet cats, feral cats unvaccinated for rabies yet preferring to live in close proximity to humans. LA county does not have sufficient funds to support neuter and release programs and encouraging people to handle feral cats creates a public health hazard and a huge liability. There is no easy answer here.


This post is really interesting, I must admit when I read it I'm glad I live in the UK... thankfully most of our shelters are no-kill, and we'd always neuter / spay then release a feral cat back outside if it was in reasonable health.

It's thought that the Bubonic plague in Great Britain spread so rapidly in medieval times partly because cats at the time were associated with witchcraft and persecuted and killed in large numbers. This led to an increase in the rat population which was responsible for spreading the plague... Hopefully we wouldn't get another plague outbreak these days but I'm sure feral cats do have a role in keeping rats, mice etc. and the associated diseases they can carry at bay.


Sometimes, elimination of feral cats in an area is the most ecological and practical solution to the problem of bird predation, feral cats harming pet cats, feral cats unvaccinated for rabies yet preferring to live in close proximity to humans.

But killing feral cats does not have any appreciable impact on the feral cat population. TNR, OTOH, has proven effective in reducing feral cat populations over time. Combine that with feeding program, and you have a major impact on the degree of hunting and killing that cats do--not a complete elimination, of course, but more effective than the apparently "simple, efficient" approach of just killing them.

LA county does not have sufficient funds to support neuter and release programs

But the money you want to spend killing cats will be wasted, compared to spending that money on TNR.

and encouraging people to handle feral cats creates a public health hazard and a huge liability.

Somehow or other, it works in other areas, without the legal catastrophes you are apparently envisioning.

There is no easy answer here.

If only we could get the cat-haters to recognize that, huh?


Actually, in our neighborhood, removing the cats from the area did just that-- it removed the population from the area which allowed the quail population to go up. This was the goal. In areas where native bird preservation is not a goal, maybe in a busy city where ground dwelling native birds no longer have a habitat anyway, then neuter and release becomes the better option. TNR does require a lot more time and money vs. euthanizing the cats. Facts: the surgery has a cost even if the veterinarias are volunteering their time; the additional handling of the cats means there will be quarantine costs to monitor for rabies; cost of rabies treatment; etc. Wild cats in the United States can have rabies. North America has rabies and smart people know to take this risk seriously. LA can't encourage rabies risks. The UK does not have rabies so we should not expect people from the UK to understand the risk and the cost.


Even if you feel strongly that cats should be kept strictly indoors, would you really want to live in a community where no services are offered to stray/feral cats?

Beloved, indoor cats can escape. If your cat escapes and becomes lost, a lot of what will determine his chances of coming home safe will depend on your community's attitude toward stray, free roaming cats.

Who in your community is determining which cats found or sheltered are "friendly strays" versus "feral strays"? What if a lost pet behaves badly when he's captured, trapped or brought to a shelter? Could he be mistaken for a feral cat instead of just a frightened, lost pet?

I prefer to live in a community where ALL stray cats are offered the same services; shelter, microchip scan, a chance to be re-homed by a rescue organization and, if necessary, other no-kill alternative programs like TNR.

In a community where stray cats are deemed a nuisance that should be eradicated, I would fear that if my pet cat ever did escape and became lost, he would be at a higher risk of being killed at my local shelter than by a passing car.

Dorothy York DVM

Has there been any updates on the judge's original ruling on this case? Have any more motions been filed to stop the judgement against LA and TNR? Unfortunately, this case has caused other CA shelters to stop feral cat TNR programs for fear of also being sued. I would love to hear that a new motion to halt this judgement has been successful.


TNR does require a lot more time and money vs. euthanizing the cats.

Wow. I don't know how I missed this before, but just--wow. Let's kill the cats because it's cheaper. After all, they're only cats!

BTW, Sue, if you're still around, I'm not from the UK. I'm in New England. TNR is working safely and effectively and without lots of rabies exposure in the US.

Human rabies exposures usually come from actual wild animals, not feral cats.


The successful TNR programs in the US are funded privately, not by the county, state, or federal government. These private groups are perpetuated by monetary and volunteer donations as they do indeed require cash and time. It is a fact that TNR requires more time and money than the county shelters have to offer. Whether or not an individual rescuing feral cats says rabies is not a risk, surely you must understand that the county shelter would have to accept a liability in a TNR program in law suit crazed LA county. This is a sad fact. This issue also boils down to a money issue. Even if everyone in LA county wanted the shelter system to step up and run a TNR program, they don't have the funds. For those of you that think that TNR is cheaper than the alternatives, please research this further. Concerning the danger to pet cats in the community getting lost and then treated as feral cats, there are protocals in place at animal shelters to help that not to happen. First of all, microchip and collar your pet. If a pet cat is unneutered and unvaccinated and runs into trouble with the strays and the shelter, then the owner is not very bright. People who want to help cats should put resources into socializing all the kittens that will be flooding the shelters this spring. These shelters also need your money to feed and care for all these kitties. Many of the kittens are almost tame and just need a bit more work so they can get homed. Look at the big picture-- surely this is a more effective way to help cats then to file a law suit hoping to save untamed cats. Why not work to get the semi tame cats in the shelters homes. You could start a program such as the Milo foundation that gets homeable dogs out of the shelter and advertises them for adoption. This also takes time and money and they could really use your help.

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