The City of Edmonton Needs a High-Intensity 'Trap-Neuter-Return' (TNR) Cat Program NOW

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EDMONTON'S CAT OVER-POPULATION PROBLEM

Presently the population of un-owned cats in Edmonton is out of control at over 60,000 stray and/or feral cats.  This is primarily because Edmonton's present feral cat spay and neuter strategies are not working, so the population of un-owned cats continues to explode throughout the city.  This leaves Edmonton Animal Care and Control Centre (ACCC) inundated with cats who don't belong to anyone.  This also leaves ACCC staff unable to effectively serve Edmontonians and their animals who are truly lost.  And another heartbreaking result of ineffective cat sterilization strategies is there are endless and unnecessary cat and kitten deaths and cats suffering while trying to survive on our streets.  

Cats in Edmonton deserve better!  With a cooperative and collaborative approach between the City of Edmonton and Edmonton's citizens who love cats and even those citizens who don't, we can dramatically and humanely reduce the population of un-owned cats.  Humane population control will help our citizens who are not cat lovers by reducing the number of un-fixed and un-vaccinated cats causing problems in their communities.  Bird populations will also benefit drastically through humane cat population control.

Presently Edmonton has two programs specifically designed to deal with population management of feral cats.  They are both Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Programs.  One is run by The City of Edmonton and the other is run by Edmonton Humane Society.  Both of these TNR programs are LOW INTENSITY and while they may help some of our cats and colonies, they have very little impact on the city's widespread cat problem.  (See the following study which explains the difference between low intensity and high intensity TNR and their corresponding impacts:  "A Long-Term Lens:  Cumulative Impacts of Free-Roaming Cat Management Strategy and Intensity on Preventable Cat Mortalities".)

City of Edmonton (provides TNR for cats located within Edmonton) - https://www.edmonton.ca/residential_neighbourhoods/pets_wildlife/public-trap-neuter-return-program.aspx

Edmonton Humane Society (only provides TNR for cats located outside Edmonton) - https://www.edmontonhumanesociety.com/what-we-do/services/trap-neuter-return-program/

SOLUTIONS  

We believe the following solution(s) need to be implemented.

  1. City of Edmonton to offer a High-Intensity Trap, Neuter, Return Program (TNR) for Feral Cats using protocols that other cities in Canada and the United States have utilized very successfully.  
  2. Edmonton Animal Care and Control Centre (ACCC) to become a part of an 'Edmonton Feral Cat Coalition' similar to the 'Toronto Feral Cat Coalition'.  This coalition would include Edmonton Animal Care and Control Centre (ACCC), humane organizations, rescue groups, and concerned individuals to collectively improve the lives of feral cats through strategic TNR programs, and to address the number of homeless and feral cats living on the streets. 
  3. Un-owned cats to become exempt from City of Edmonton property bylaws.  Un-owned cats should not be considered to be 'at-large' since they do not belong to anyone.  It is essential these cats are not impounded as 'public nuisance' just for living outdoors unlicensed.  (See Feral Cat Management in Canada - Lessons Learned in Toronto, Section 2.1 - Bylaw Definition  "Undefined prior to 2013 these bylaw amendments now provide the City the ability to address a feral cat and a feral cat colony clearly and directly. It is important to note that a “no free roaming” clause is omitted intentionally allowing for community trap-neuter-return-manage efforts to proceed without the risk of bylaw violations.")  
  4. Caregivers to be exempt from the 6 owned cats limit if they are caring for a colony which has more than 6 cats:  TNR colony management will reduce the numbers humanely.  Caregivers of un-owned cats to be permitted and supported by The City of Edmonton to manage cat colonies through TNR including feeding, providing shelter, providing medical care and carrying out sterilization/vaccination/deworming/ear tipping/microchipping for these cats.  As well, caregivers would work with ACCC, rescue groups and other humane groups to bring into care any sociable adults and especially kittens as well as cats needing medical care. (See The Humane Society of United States' "Outdoor Cats FAQ":  "A better approach is TNR and a dedicated caretaker. Spayed or neutered feral cats are healthier because they no longer have kittens or fight over mates and their nuisance behaviors are greatly reduced or eliminated. If the colony has a dedicated caretaker, they provide food, water and shelter and watch over the cats' health and remove any newcomers for TNR (if feral) or adoption (if tame).")

See the next two quoted paragraphs to see some of the conclusions from the study, "A Long-Term Lens:  Cumulative Impacts of Free-Roaming Cat Management Strategy and Intensity on Preventable Cat Mortalities", which explain why high-intensity TNR is the best plan of action for reducing un-owned cat populations effectively and humanely. 

"Some of these results [found in the study]may seem counter intuitive, but they are logical consequences of the high reproductive capacity of cats, which can produce many more offspring than are needed to maintain a population at a given carrying capacity (34). Our analysis indicates that as a result of this reproductive capacity, kitten deaths usually comprise a large majority of overall mortalities that can be influenced by management actions or inactions. The animal welfare community has often emphasized preventing deaths from lethal management, but based on these findings may wish to also make reducing kitten deaths an equally explicit management and policy goal. The best management strategy for accomplishing this is to quickly suppress reproduction with high-intensity sterilization, leading to reduced population size over time, and then allow these changes to generate compounded benefits into the future. As a consequence, far fewer kittens will be exposed to intrinsically high mortality rates, and far fewer will die before reaching adulthood."

"With sufficient intensity, TNR offers significant advantages in terms of minimizing preventable deaths while also substantially reducing population size. High-intensity TNR programs can be further improved by reducing abandonment, or by combining return to field for some cats with adoption for others [see (15, 36, 42, 43) for examples]. On the other hand, at lower sterilization intensities the longer-term lifesaving advantages of TNR become much less compelling because large numbers of kittens remain subjected to high mortality rates over time."

THE RESULT

The City of Edmonton and its citizens who care about the well being of animals can work together to make a huge and drastic change to Edmonton's cat demographics.  We can massively reduce the number of un-owned cats through a high-intensity TNR program and thus resulting in more ethical care to all cats, not just the lucky ones who are presently permitted an appointment with the Edmonton Animal Care and Control Centre (ACCC). 

High-Intensity TNR will also make a huge difference to Edmonton's ACCC Employees by allowing for them to know that by us all working together, we are truly reducing Edmonton's cat population and improving the overall welfare of our city's cats.  This result would allow for the ACCC Employees' personal welfare and continued ability to work for the City of Edmonton effectively and passionately.

RESOURCES

City of Toronto model - https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/animals-pets/spay-neuter-services/trap-neuter-return-program-for-feral-cats

Toronto Feral Cat TNR Coalition) - https://torontoferalcatcoalition.ca/about-us

- https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/animals-pets/spay-neuter-services/toronto-feral-cat-coalition/

A Long-Term Lens:  Cumulative Impacts of Free-Roaming Cat Management Strategy and Intensity on Preventable Cat Mortalities - https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2019.00238/full

- “Sadly, many communities still opt to do nothing to control populations of community cats. Or [they] use outdated, ineffective methods such as sporadic trapping and removal. This research confirms that high-intensity TNR is the most effective, humane way to stabilize a population of community cats and, over time, reduce them,” — Margaret Slater, DVM, PhD, Senior Director of Research at the ASPCA and co-author of the study

Edmonton's Little Cats Lost - https://www.littlecatslosttnr.org/trap-neuter-return-2

- "Our mission is to humanely reduce euthanasia and the growth rates of feral cat colonies by preventing their breeding cycles through spay/neuter practices, while educating the public on the merits of a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program in our community."

Humane Canada Website, Position Statement 12 on Feral Cats - https://www.humanecanada.ca/companion_animals_position

The Humane Society of the United States, Our Position On Cats - https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/our-position-cats

- "To this end, we support Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and similar sterilization programs, legislation that allows for and supports non-lethal population control, and coalition-based approaches that involve community leaders, citizens, and stakeholders to implement effective community cat management programs. Programs that attempt to use lethal control to eliminate cat populations are inhumane, ineffective, and wasteful of scarce resources."  

The Humane Society of the United States - Outdoor Cats FAQ//- https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/outdoor-cats-faq#help-outdoor  

Feral Cat Management in Canada:  Lessons Learned in Toronto - https://www.animalalliance.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/7129_Feral-Report_2018_V2-SM-rev-FINAL.pdf

How Vancouver Solved It's Feral Cat Problem - https://www.vancourier.com/news/how-vancouver-solved-its-feral-feline-problem-1.20196324

https://www.animalsheltering.org/page/managing-community-cats-guide-municipal-leaders - "Endorsed by the International City/County Management Association, this guide is designed for community officials and outlines humane and effective solutions for managing populations of community cats."

https://www.alleycat.org/our-work/cats-and-the-law/ - "Alley Cat Allies works to educate decision-makers and communities about policies that save cats and benefit the community. We’re helping communities abolish dangerous laws and pass humane ordinances with progressive language that protects cats."

Windsor/Essex Country Humane Society TNR Program - http://windsorhumane.org/animal-welfare/community-cats/?fbclid=IwAR1P5QuvM-Afl55LXGS3Ywuj70JcRAJk8W2lbBkXp901wGIecdI20XAui3Y 

Here are some really informative videos showing how much of a difference TNR can make.

This video shows the great success there has been made in Toronto with Animal Control, humane societies and rescue groups working together to provide high intensity TNR. - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjiciEhxxH0&t=4s  

Best Friends Animal Society Animal Control Officers talk about Trap, Neuter and Return TNR - https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=AswcjaXS2Yk  

Here are some excellent articles on feral cat colony management.

ASPCA's Guide to Trap-Neuter-Return and Colony Care - https://www.aspcapro.org/sites/default/files/TNR%20workshop%20handbook%20printable%20final-4th%20printing.pdf

- https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/colony-management-and-caregiver-resources 

Here is an article from Winnipeg Humane Society as to why feeding bans don't work

- https://www.winnipeghumanesociety.ca/animal-issues/cat-overpopulation/feral-cats/

Here is a lovely article on one person's experience helping feral cats.

- https://www.humanesociety.org/news/keeping-neighborhood-cats-safe