Humane Society’s ‘Community Cat’ plan sparks controversy despite scientific backing

A stray cat
A stray cat. Photo via Pixabay

What to do with a stray cat that crosses your path?

Or in the case of the San Diego Humane Society, what about the 2,381 cats that entered their free-roaming feline program last year?

And that’s just a fraction of the more than 9,500 cats that entered local shelters last year.

The Community Cat program, as it is called, is the company’s response to new research – a growing body of knowledge related to the dynamics of cats, their widely varying behaviors and how they socialize with humans.

However, not everyone, including cat lovers, is happy with the Community Cat program.

According to Brian Daugherty of the Humane Society, a controversy has been stirred up by media coverage of “we don’t feel portrayed accurately” the program.

The Community Cat program is for feral and stray cats. It attempts to reduce the wild population over time with a two-step process. First, the cats are neutered or neutered. They are then released back into their habitat.

The company’s argument is that cats are stressed when kept in cages and that releasing them gives them a greater chance of survival. And any cat whose owner can be found is not released.

The Audubon Society opposes the program, claiming that each cat in the wild kills several birds per month, and suggesting that the Community Cats program is actually an attempt to reduce the number of euthanized cats.

A lawsuit filed by attorney Bryan Pease against the Humane Society alleges it is an illegal business practice amounting to illegal animal abandonment. The trial begins in January.

But an article in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science explains that dogs and cats are several times “more likely to be found by searching the neighborhood of origin or returning home on their own than by a call or a visit. in a shelter”.

Dr Kate Hurley. Courtesy of UC Davis

The author of the article is Dr. Kate Hurley, a UC Davis veterinarian. Before the age of 10, “Cat”, as he is called, was already volunteering at animal shelters. She then became an animal control officer, a job she loved for six years before continuing her education. She spent her college years researching animal shelters across the country.

Hurley became the first person in the country to earn a college degree with an emphasis on shelter care. And the academic vet is adamant that the methods and procedures used in animal shelters dating back 100 years are long overdue.

In addition to the Community Cat program, she also advocates a triage system for all animals entering shelters. Like humans in hospitals, he is patient-centered.

Each cat that enters the Humane Society receives individual treatment. Shelter triage includes determining the following:

  • The objectives of the owner/finder/spectator concerned
  • The animal’s needs
  • The urgency of the situation
  • The best possible solution given the capacity and resources of the shelter and the community

Hurley said the science behind the Community Cat program is driven by “research that has better helped us understand the dynamics of cats in the United States.” The research asks questions about why techniques that have worked for dogs in shelters haven’t worked for cats.

Hurley discovered that there are millions of feral community cats – 30 to 80 million in this country alone. Only a small percentage are visible, gathering in colonies clustered around food sources. Most of these cats are found in “the alleys, alleys and backyards of our society”.

But animal shelter policies have been ‘driven on the assumption that pets have homes in the traditional sense’.

In fact, Hurley said, “The vast majority of cats that come into shelters are either unknown or have loose owners. Maybe they had five different porches and five different names, where they got food, affection and attention.

“You may know someone who prepares a bowl of food for a cat,” she said. “It’s a very common business to feed cats that a person doesn’t own.”

The problem that arises from the removal of cats from these colonies is that the remaining animals reproduce. But if captured cats are neutered and neutered, the stray population will eventually decline. That’s what the Community Cat program tries to do.

JW August is a San Diego-based broadcast and digital journalist.

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