An article was published yesterday in the Virginian Pilot that appeared to have been written on order of PETA. It was a hysterical and wildly inaccurate piece claiming that winter is on its way (got that much right) and so feral cats will be dying in the streets in vast numbers (umm, what?). The motivation for the article was the fact that Portsmouth Humane stopped receiving feral cats in recent months after a brouhaha over their prior practice of taking ferals in and then adopting them to staff members and releasing them following sterilization surgery and innoculation against rabies. The article relied solely on the word of PETA to suggest that Portsmouth must come up with a plan for taking in ferals during the winter. It is our view that no shelter should be accepting feral cats since they will die in a shelter whereas they can survive with great success on their own even in the winter months as do many other animals. Ferals are best off if we respect their abilities to care for themselves and do only what they need for us to do – that is, provide trap-neuter-return services and rabies inoculations for them.
The sole source for this clap trap was PETA’s Daphna Nachminovitch who was amusingly described as an “animal welfare expert.” She pontificated on the PETA party line that feral cats are far better off being killed in a shelter than dying on the street “very, very badly.” According to Ms. Nachminovitch and her “expertise,” these are the only two options available to feral cats. PETA does not acknowledge what the rest of us understand: that feral cats can actually have long and good lives living on their own especially if they have the benefits of trap-neuter-return. And, those of us who understand this are willing to work, raise money and advocate to assure them of those long and good lives rather than simply to promote more killing.
The article offers no other viewpoint, even though there are many animal welfare experts in Tidewater, as well as here, from whom the reporter could have gotten a clear understanding of the true facts about feral cats and the attributes of TNR. The article is also inaccurate in suggesting through a quote that it is the role of animal control agencies to take in feral cats that have been trapped. In truth, Virginia state law does not require localities to impound cats at all. Also, it quotes Ms. Nachminovitch as saying that most local governments have systems in place for dealing with feral cats, which could not be further from the truth. Most localities have no plan whatsoever for ferals, nor are they required to do so. Most amazingly, the article insists that there is an issue with ferals in Portsmouth even though the City Manager of Portsmouth is quoted as saying that that the city has gotten no complaints at all about issues with feral cats.
It is clear to me that one part of the challenge in saving feral cats from being killed in shelters is to convince our communities and our elected representatives that TNR is the right approach. The other part of the challenge is to get accurate information out to the public who gets confused and mislead by false and one-sided stories such as this one that masquerade as news.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires both your first and last name to be used as your screen name.