It may be time for the Arizona State Legislature to finally create a bill to specifically protect feral cats and make trap, neuter, return (TNR) the official way of dealing with free roaming cats instead of killing them. Yes, Arizona lawmakers have their hands full with bills on illegal immigration, health care and even jobs, but animal cruelty legislation is being ignored by the very legislature that makes their home at the place we citizens call the State Capitol.
About 4 years ago I went to the State Capitol to see if a spay/neuter law could be put into law. Sadly, it didn’t seem to make it past the draft stage, but it also made me realize we need a part of the state’s animal cruelty statutes that specifically deal in protecting free roaming cats. The problem was created by humans and thus the solution needs to come from them. Recently, Cat Galaxy featured a story about the feline fight happening at the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert. While cat lovers and advocates wanted to save the cats by instituting a TNR project to deal with the situation, opponents claimed the cats were destroying native bird species and needed to go. Those who oppose feral cats haven’t discovered that if you trap and kill the cats (or even remove them for relocation) that more will come in to take their place. Not only will it be more expensive but it certainly won’t control their numbers. Spaying and neutering does. Then again ignorance is bliss for some people.
The opponents will also tell you that free roaming cats will kill native wildlife and ruin their habitats. This simply isn’t true and it’s amazing the lengths some will go to produce misinformation. It’s humans not cats that have done more damage to native wildlife habitats than any creature on this planet. Perhaps, we should consider spaying and neutering ourselves in an effort to knock our numbers down. The facts are, TNR works and the experts that have been involved with such ventures have proven that it not only reduces the numbers of cats being born but also is the most cost effective action to take.
Here is a short rundown on how TNR works. Humans from cat rescue organizations that specialize in trapping and caring for the cats will receive permission from property owners to set up humane traps to capture and contain the cats. When a cat is trapped they’re then brought to a clinic where a veterinarian will check them over, put them under anesthesia and have them spayed or neutered. The cats are then placed in carriers or back into the traps (by this time they’ll be awake) and then transported back to their area of capture and re-released. Then a human caretaker will make sure they’re well fed and watered for the rest of their days. In many cases feeding stations and even shelters are built to help protect the cats from the elements. It’s a pretty simple plan which doesn’t cost a lot of money to do (OK the real cost comes in food and time but that’s the biggest expense). It’s a win-win scenario for both the cats and the humans. Even the wildlife some humans are fighting to protect aren’t put in danger, because a cat doesn’t hunt unless they’re hungry. Unlike humans, cats don’t hunt for sport.
There are many bills before the Arizona State Legislature that are dealing with illegal immigration, jobs and other areas they think are important, but it might be time for a another bill dealing with animal cruelty to surface. Feral cats didn’t ask to be born and because of human negligence they are. It’s sad to think we have humans who feel they need to be destroyed rather than receive a shot in life. To kill them is indeed cruel and it might be time for the government in the state of Arizona to finally realize this fact and get behind TNR officially. Every year millions of cats are euthanized at animal shelters across this country but here in Arizona we can finally take a stand that this isn’t the answer. There’s always a better way, and certainly a law that reflects this is the avenue we need to take. Feral cats now that they’ve been born don’t need to be rejected but instead protected.
If TNR is fully supported it will make a difference but it certainly looks like we might need a law to protect the cats and allow this effort to be recognized as the best way to handle the situation. After all, the cats deserve a fighting chance and it’s up to caring humans to be their voice.