Millions of people nationwide feed feral, or community, cats. I want to congratulate York officials for acknowledging this and for looking into positive programs for cats.
People volunteer their time and money to feed and care for outdoor cats because they like knowing they're improving the cats' lives. It may seem like if these people didn't feed the cats, the cats would just disappear. But that will not happen in York or in any other city.
York officials are considering an ordinance that would make it illegal to feed community cats — unless the cats have been through a program called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). This exception is beneficial, as TNR is the only humane and effective approach for stabilizing community cat populations. But a feeding ban isn't necessary.
Feeding bans do not make cats disappear. Instead, they punish the compassionate caregivers who provide food and care for these cats. Even though York's proposed bill includes an exemption for cats who have been through TNR, it would burden the caregivers of these cats as well. The bill requires caregivers to carry spay/neuter certificates to prove that the cats are spayed/neutered. But this is not logical.
Cats who have been humanely trapped and brought to a veterinarian for spay/neuter and vaccinations are also eartipped. The tip of the left ear is painlessly removed while they're under anesthesia — the eartip identifies them as a spayed/neutered cat. There's no need for a certificate and requiring certificates could discourage people from carrying out TNR.
Instead of passing a feeding ban, York officials should fully embrace TNR — the only humane and effective method of stabilizing and reducing outdoor cat populations. York officials clearly support TNR and understand its importance. Instead of criminalizing feeding cats, they should encourage people to support this humane program.
The Nobody's Cats Foundation, an organization that promotes the adoption of TNR in south-central Pennsylvania, has offered to work with York officials to develop a plan of action for bringing more TNR to the city. Their plan would ensure that resources for TNR are accessible and widely available.
Humane, effective TNR programs are stabilizing feral cat colonies all over the country and reducing them in size. Through natural attrition (and adoption of young kittens who can be socialized), colonies naturally, humanely diminish in size over time. TNR is proven effective in reducing feral cat populations in programs of all sizes — from smaller programs to a massive program in Chicago that reduced the size of colonies in 23 zip codes by 41 percent in just five years.
In the last two decades, TNR has grown from a grassroots effort into a mainstream animal protection movement. Millions of people play a critical role in it —i nluding police and animal control officers, policy-makers and veterinary professionals. More than 430 local governments have adopted policies endorsing TNR.
People support this program not only because it works—but because it aligns with their values, their beliefs, and their love for animals. That's why so many citizens are willing to volunteer their time and money to assist with TNR.
I hope York officials will join this movement for humane approaches for community cats and embrace TNR — the only meaningful, effective approach.
— Becky Robinson is the president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats.