Trap neuter return and the debate about Ferals
Domesticated animals that have been allowed to run wild and have become a nuisance are captured, spayed or neutered and then returned to the place they were living and released. In many cases volunteers provide food for the animals after their release. In a perfect world the population would dwindle to zero since the animals are no longer able to reproduce. Unfortunately in the real world animals are constantly being abandoned so the problem continues. However, common sense as well as the evidence shows that a concerted effort to trap and neuter does reduce the number of animals killed in animal control facilities. Where we live, there is a very successful TNR operation that has reduced the number of cats killed from 700 per year to about 50. However, this is only for half of the county. In the other half the attitudes of people are very different and there has been significant apathy towards the TNR efforts. In that half of the county the number of cats killed stays fairly consistent at about 750 a year. The number of stray dogs is about the same. TNR programs are usually conducted by volunteers and cost the taxpayer nothing. Rounding up and killing 1500 animals per year is a substantial expense to the county.
Detractors of the TNR programs say that they do not reduce the population of animals in the wild and that those animals significantly impact indigenous species by being released. Bird lovers are particularly vocal about the number of birds killed by feral cats. There is some truth to this argument. If it were possible to round up all of the feral animals at one time and kill, the problem would be solved. However it is hard to believe that such a massive project will be undertaken in the foreseeable future. It also requires that no more pets be released into the wild to restart the cycle. At the present, this seems unlikely. It seems to us that a group of animals who are neutered and being fed by volunteers are less likely to hunt as effectively as animals that must hunt or starve. The reduction in cost to the taxpayer and the increase in the quality of life for the released animals are also important considerations in the continuing debate about the fate of feral animals.