By: Dr. Dietsch | October 16, 2019
One of the major opponents to TNR are bird people. They often cite a study, conducted by scientists Clark and Castillo for the Department of Environmental Studies – Florida International University, which found that after 2 years there was no change in the feral cat population – and that these cat colonies had even increased, somewhat. This is not particularly revolutionary data – TNR never purported to change the feral cat landscape in just two years. Instead, in a 17-year-long study conducted by Daniel D. Spehar and Peter J. Wolf, we see something much more interesting: after nearly two decades of TNR, all the cats are gone. Further, they write, “Up to one-third of the cats trapped were sociable and adopted into homes; the remainder were sterilized and vaccinated before being returned to the waterfront, where they declined in number over time due to attrition.”
But let’s let Clark and Castillo continue. In their zeal for catch and kill, bird enthusiasts only read the headline of the study. But the scientists write more:
“Our results emphasize the role that human interference and negligence play in the population dynamics of managed cat colonies. lllegal dumping of unwanted cats and the attraction of stray cats to the provisioned food counter-balanced reductions in cat numbers caused by death or adoption.”
Over the course of two years, this is a reasonable conclusion. Their inclusion of “adoption” here is also interesting: the 45 cats born per year for every human is not a problem we can adopt our way out of. Shelters who trap feral cats, warehouse them endlessly in a misguided attempt to socialize them, and then find themselves too full to help actual friendly kittens could heed Clark and Castillo’s words. With nowhere to go, friendly cats get dumped.
Clark and Castillo, in their conclusion, continue:
“Our small sample size (two cat colonies) and short time duration of observation (1 year) may limit the strength of our results.”
Hmm. Another major difference: the study over the course of decade’s deals with hundreds of cats – the Clark and Castillo study has less than 50.
In another study, Wildlife Research scientists write about catch and kill vs TNR:
“After 1 year, populations treated with euthanasia generally decreased whereas populations treated with TNR either remained unchanged or decreased slightly […] Euthanasia resulted in greater total population decreases than did TNR and a combination of euthanasia and TNR; however, the total effort required to reduce each population by 1% was highest for euthanasia.”
Again: over the course of 1 year. According to this study, TNR was most effective when 75% or greater of the cats were sterilized. (Or trap and kill most effective when 75% of the cats were euthanized).
Here’s what we know to be true, based on our observations here in St Louis:
- Catch and kill will reduce the number of cats temporarily – that’s common sense. But just as the Wildlife Research scientists assert, it’s hugely resource intensive. No one is going to raise their hands and offer to help trap and kill for free. That makes euthanasia expensive and therefore unsustainable – especially when we remember the bird study’s assertion that illegal dumping of cats and cats wandering into the area is a problem that will continue. Thus, necessitating more catching and killing on and on and on forever and ever.
- TNR brings human beings together. Over 1700 cats were TNRed last year by St Louis Feral Cat Outreach alone. The humans involved in this effort included the 80 or so volunteers, plus all the colony caretakers of 1700 cats, plus many concerned citizens doing one-off TNR. These are all people who worked for free. Given the state of flux at our animal controls, it seems unlikely that something as resource intensive as paying trappers to trap and kill is the answer to the feral cat problem.Wildlife Research continues:
“Therefore, both euthanasia and TNR would require immigration to be concomitantly controlled or reduced under both scenarios.”
Translation: Catch and kill doesn’t work if people are not fixing their cats. Catch and kill doesn’t work if people are illegally dumping animals. Why is this relevant? Because it speaks to the most important reason why TNR is sustainable but catch and kill isn’t: TNR forces human beings to be pro-active in the reduction of community cat populations. It forces shelters to contend with litters of kittens. It gives adoptable community cats a chance at indoor life.
Something catch and kill proponents forget: TNR empowers colony caretakers, who love their cats, to do something about explosive population. Instead of hiding in the shadows, caretakers are now choosing to join with animal welfare groups and fix their cats. When it comes to beloved community cats who these folks will do anything to protect, the choice is do nothing or do TNR.
That’s what sustainability looks like.
The community cat problem will not be solved by a handful of Animal Control Officers directed to trap and kill.
So you wanna help the birds?
Here’s how to help the birds:
- Support local shelters when they stay open admission. Birds are most at risk because of illegal dumping of animals – so with the troubling increase in managed intake or limited admission no kill shelters in the region, that’s what’s going to increase cat populations. This is what contributes to illegal dumping, a problem that’s pointed to in every major TNR study.
- Support spay and neuter efforts – pet cats who are allowed to roam outside must be sterilized.
- Work to protect bird habitats decimated by humans. Although we’ve only touched on the cats and their destruction of bird species, it’s also true that the most massive impact on all species in North America is from humans destroying habitat. Be mindful of your consumption.
So. It’s true that catch and kill decreases cat population, at least in the short term. But it’s a tactic that is grossly expensive, extremely cruel, and unsustainable. If you want an army of volunteers and colony caretakers making a difference, right now, for relatively cheap – you’ll need to look to TNR.
Read the studies:
By: Dr. Dietsch | October 15, 2019
Halloween should be a fun, exciting and safe event for all, including our furry friends. Please keep the following safety tips in mind for your pets as you celebrate:
- Repeated ringing of doorbells & people at the door in strange costumes can be stressful for many pets. Even normally friendly pets may become fearful or unexpectedly aggressive. Please keep them in a quiet and safe place on Halloween.
- Pet Identification – Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If, for any reason, your pet escapes or gets lost, a collar with tags and a microchip can be a lifesaver, increasing the chances that he will be returned to you.
- Candles & Jack-O-Lanterns are a fire hazard if placed within a pet’s range. Wagging tails and frightened cats running through the house can easily tip over a carved pumpkin or candle.
- Candy – Halloween equals candy for many people but do not share with your pets. The four most common food-related Halloween hazards for pets are chocolate, candy overindulgence, raisins and candy wrappers.
- Pet Costumes – If you plan to put a costume on your pet, make sure it fits comfortably, doesn’t have any pieces that can easily be chewed off, and doesn’t interfere with your pet’s sight, hearing, breathing or moving. Before Halloween, take time to get your pet accustomed to the costume and never leave your pet unsupervised while he is wearing a costume.
By: Sarah Javier, Executive Director | October 3, 2019
Based on respectful and compassionate care of animals, the APA is committed to a socially conscious framework, which allows us to more fully understand and define our role in creating the best, most appropriate outcomes for all pets in our community, not just those who enter our doors. It is finding a place for every healthy, treatable and community compatible animal. It is supporting pets throughout our community by providing access to high quality, affordable veterinary care. It is transparency. It is collaboration. It is thoughtful policy making. It is creating a safe community for all who live here.
Everything we do, every decision made, supports this framework.
There are eight core tenets of a socially conscious animal community. They are:
1. Place every healthy and community-compatible animal. Every single one. At the APA, this means the needs of each animal are assessed individually. Healthy animals are defined as either having no signs of disease, or if disease is present, that it will not prevent the animal from having a comfortable life, as determined by our veterinarians. Community-compatible means that the animal has not shown signs of behavior that will likely result in severe injury or death to another animal or person. Community-compatibility is determined through multiple best-practice assessment methods.
2. Ensure every unwanted or homeless pet has a safe place to go for shelter and care. We believe that every animal should have the opportunity to be nurtured, healed, and placed in a loving home. This is why our doors are open to every animal, no matter their age or condition. We believe it is unacceptable to turn animals away because they are old, sick, or lack of space.
3. Assess the medical and behavioral needs of homeless animals to ensure these needs are thoughtfully addressed. When an animal arrives at the APA, we individually assess for disease, injury, and other treatable medical conditions and provide the appropriate care required. We never allow an animal to suffer. Each animal also receives a behavior assessment, which helps determine how we meet their behavior and emotional needs through enrichment and socialization.
4. Align shelter policy with the needs of the community. At the APA, we continually assess and align our work to meet the needs of animals in our community. This can be seen in the launch of our trap-neuter-release program for community cats, our Pet Partners program which provides resources for pets in low-income communities, our SafeCare program which provides temporary care for pets of victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking, as well as our Heads-to-Tails Hope Fund which provides needs-based veterinary care assistance to pets of individuals in our community.
5. Alleviate suffering and make appropriate euthanasia decisions. Compassionate euthanasia is a gift. We do not believe it is ever appropriate to let an animal suffer when a compassionate euthanasia decision can ease their pain. We also do not believe it is acceptable to warehouse a dangerous animal when it is known that they cannot be safely placed in the community. Animals need human connection and enrichment to thrive, which cannot be provided when limited to living in a cage for years with little interaction. To do this creates suffering. Each euthanasia decision is difficult and involves multiple professionals who consider the welfare of each individual animal and unanimously agree that euthanasia is the only humane option available.
6. Enhance the human-animal bond through safe placements and post-adoption support. We understand that integrating a new pet into a home is both exciting and challenging. At the APA, we believe we have a responsibility to support each new family after adoption. To do this, we follow up each adoption with a phone call to see how the pet is adjusting, answer questions, provide training resources and referrals, address shelter-related medical needs, and always offer the option to bring an animal back to the APA if the pet and family are not a good fit. This also means we do not place animals who are not community-compatible into homes where they may cause severe injury to children, other pets, or other people. When we can address behavior issues through adoption requirements (e.g., requiring that the pet be placed in a home with no young children), we do.
7. Consider the health, wellness and safety of animals for each community when transferring animals. Each year, we save over 2,000 lives by transferring dogs and cats to the APA from communities that do not have people actively seeking to adopt them. This life-saving program brings with it a tremendous amount of responsibility. It is a responsibility to the animals already living in our community, as we do not want to bring in disease or illness that may make them sick. It is a responsibility to our community, as we want to ensure we are only bringing in pets who are safe. And, finally, there is a responsibility to the community from which we are transferring to understand and support the efforts they are making in animal welfare, often with limited resources.
8. Foster a culture of transparency, ethical decision-making, mutual respect, continual learning and collaboration. At the APA, we are fully committed to transparency. We report and openly share accurate statistics and policies. We open our doors to those who want to learn more, providing tours and explaining our protocols to anyone who asks, at any time. We take accountability when mistakes are made and work quickly to correct them. Integrity is at the root of every decision. We are innovative and forward-thinking, and work collaboratively with animal welfare partners across the industry to solve common problems. We understand that no matter how an organization defines themselves, we are ultimately working towards the same goal – the best outcome for all animals.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into the socially conscious framework. It can be challenging – but it’s worth it for the people and pets in the communities we serve.
Thanks for your reading, and for your interest in the APA.
By: Sarah Javier, Executive Director | October 3, 2019
Rarely does one data point accurately measure what success looks like.
Because St. Louis is a baseball town, think about this – when considering the effectiveness of a player, what if the St. Louis Cardinals only measured the number of times a player hit the ball when stepping up to the plate, ignoring everything else. If only looking at one data point, hitting, I suspect the overall success of the team would suffer. The players wouldn’t work to improve in any other area, such as fielding, because there would only be an incentive to play to the metric that is valued by management, even at the expense of the team.
Fortunately for St. Louis fans, the Cardinals look at far more than hitting when assembling and managing a team. They look at a player’s on-base percentage, field performance, and other elements that indicate the total value a player brings to the team. When measuring what defines success, you manage to numerous metrics. This is why the metrics you choose matter.
The same holds true in other industries, including animal welfare.
At the APA Adoption Center, we believe every adoptable pet should have a safe, loving home of their own. Everything we do, every decision made, supports this vision. This is what success looks like to us. To determine whether or not we are achieving this goal, we utilize many different metrics – number of adoptions, number of pets we helped keep in their homes, number of pets able to access high quality vet care through our low-cost wellness services, number of lost pets reunited with their families…you get the idea. We use a lot of metrics because we know this work is about saving and improving lives, and the impact of something so significant and complex can’t simply be measured with a ‘numbers in, numbers out’ approach.
We also believe we have a responsibility to balance our commitment to animals with our commitment to the St. Louis community. For this reason, the APA is committed to being a socially conscious animal welfare organization. This means our focus is to consider the individual lives impacted through the totality of our programming, both animal and human.
The concept of socially conscious animal sheltering originated in Colorado in response to the confusion, divisiveness, and limitations of the no-kill philosophy in animal sheltering, which uses a single data point – a 90% or above live-release rate (‘numbers in, numbers out’) – to define success. Based on respectful and compassionate care of animals, the socially conscious framework allows us to more fully understand and define our role in creating the best, most appropriate outcomes for all pets in our community, not just those who enter our doors. It is finding a place for every healthy, treatable and community compatible animal. It is supporting pets throughout our community by providing access to high quality, affordable veterinary care. It is transparency. It is collaboration. It is thoughtful policy making. It is creating a safe community for all who live here.
The eight core tenets of a socially conscious animal community are to:
- Place every healthy and community-compatible animal.
- Ensure every unwanted or homeless pet has a safe place to go for shelter and care.
- Assess the medical and behavioral needs of homeless animals to ensure these needs are thoughtfully addressed.
- Align shelter policy with the needs of the community.
- Alleviate suffering and make appropriate euthanasia decisions.
- Enhance the human-animal bond through safe placements and post-adoption support.
- Consider the health, wellness and safety of animals for each community when transferring animals.
- Foster a culture of transparency, ethical decision-making, mutual respect, continual learning and collaboration.
At the APA, we support compassionate, responsible, and humane care for every animal in our community, be it at the APA or elsewhere. We put these tenets into action in everything we do – through adoption programs that help nearly 4,000 pets find homes each year, low-cost wellness programs that help thousands of pets remain healthy, and through programs designed to help meet more specialized needs of our community, such as pets living in under-resourced communities or pets whose owners are leaving violent relationships. We do this because we care about the welfare of animals and believe this is the way to ensure the very best outcome for each.
Thanks for taking the time to learn about what we do at the APA!