Trap-Neuter-Release, a valid solution

It’s our fault that there is a pet over-population crisis.  We, collectively, have allowed cats and dogs to continue to breed, having litter after litter, without considering that there are not enough homes or families to care for all of their offspring.  There are thousands in our local shelter euthanized annually simply because there are too many of them.  When left unchecked, it becomes such a huge problem that some believe that the only answer is to catch and kill them.

photo 2However, when polled, the majority of people really don’t like that answer.  Our core values include mercy and decency and opposition to cruelty.  Even with that said, most people don’t realize that the problem is as out of control as it is.  They don’t understand that when they are kind enough to feed one or two stray animals, that it doesn’t take long to have a large colony, with kittens being born, and more adult cats coming around for the readily available food source.  Before you know it, there are so many that it becomes overwhelming, and this person went from enjoying the ‘feel good’ of feeding a cat or two, to fretting over what to do.

Then comes the call for help, which usually ends in death for these creatures that are only there because of a person’s kindness.  It just doesn’t seem right to me.  Being kind enough to feed them is commendable and thoughtful, but please consider being kind enough to provide spay/neuter and vaccines.  There are several low cost spay/neuter clinics and many veterinarians throughout the CSRA.  There truly is help available.

Some people feel that cats are a nuisance, and they don’t want them on their property.  It is really simple-don’t feed them and just shoo them away.  There is no need to be cruel or violent; they are just seeking food, shelter and kindness.  If they don’t find it with you, they will continue searching.  It really is possible to have more of a ‘do no harm’ attitude.  The only time cats leave scratches on a car is when they are frightened and forced into a frantic scramble, and frenzied exit.  Even muddy cat prints can be washed off easier than bird poo.

Trap Neuter Return or TNR as it is commonly known, is the practice of trapping stray or feral cats, having them spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and ear tipped, then they are returned to their home colony.  (Ear tipping is a way of visually knowing that a particular cat has been vetted already, with the above procedures being done). TNR programs are working in many communities all across our country.  The benefits include: fewer litters being born, reducing the population explosion, healthier cats that don’t spread diseases because they are vaccinated, and fewer cat fights because they are less likely to fight over mates and territories.

The truth is, it’s being done right here already, a few at a time, and it’s working.  These colonies are healthier, they are being fed regularly, and they are not growing.  People that care about animals know that this is a much more humane way of handling the problem.  It’s success is very well documented.

If we can get the support of our local county administration and the health department, we can be a bigger part of the solution to this problem of pet over-population and the senseless deaths of adoptable animals.  If you worked or volunteered in an animal shelter, and you were told to pick 5 animals to be killed, could you do it?  It’s that heartbreaking for the staff at our animal services department to make those decisions, but, again, we force them to do it, because we don’t control the population before it gets unmanageable.

Rescue organizations have volunteer caregivers that are willing to register colonies, trap, neuter, vaccinate, tip ears and re-release these cats back into their familiar surroundings.  They will feed them and monitor their numbers.  TNR is just one part of the overall solution, but it is a very important part.  It is controversial, but definitely needs to be discussed, not ignored.

Citizens in our communities are obviously concerned about the over-population crisis, the numbers of animals neglected, abused and killed, stray animals, etc.  This is evidenced by the amount of money donated to ours and other animal rescue organizations, as well as the number of volunteers willing to help.  We are a community of very kind, gentle and compassionate people, but we can do better.  Think about it, most of us have pets.  Children should have pets, for several reasons.

The responsibility of caring for a pet is good education and the companionship is priceless, especially for an ‘only child’ or ‘latch key’ children that spend extended periods of time alone.  Pets keep children active, and out from in front of the television.  If you are not doing it already, it’s time to start teaching your children and grandchildren not to be frightened by cats, and that they are (or can be) a friendly domestic animal, a great companion, that will only scratch or bite when they feel threatened.

An adult’s fears from childhood should not be perpetuated to the next generation.  Remember that by teaching kindness and humane pet care, you are teaching the wonderful virtue of kindness, thereby avoiding the direction of mean spirited bullying, that always leads to violent behavior towards people.  This is a cycle we can stop.

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