TNR: Community Cat Advocacy 101

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Presented at the American Pets Alive No-Kill Conference 2014.

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  • Texas map
  • Texas map
  • There are a range of laws at the local (city or county) level that help—or hurt—cats. Laws at the local level are generally called ordinances. ACOs and other officials sometimes wrongly believe that TNR is illegal under the current ordinance. This is frequently not the case. For example, if your community requires cats to be licensed, an ACO might state that TNR is illegal unless the cat is licensed. In reality, only owned cats must be licensed. Because feral cat caregivers do not own the cats that they TNR, the law does not apply to them. (Possible example – Bedford, TX)
  • Ordinances aren’t the only—or best—way to implement a Trap-Neuter-Return program. It is not always necessary or even advantageous to pursue an ordinance if the local codes present no obstacle for the neutering and returning of unowned feral cats. This approach may seem counterintuitive because animal advocates usually regard laws that protect animals as positive. However, even well-intentioned laws can end up causing more harm than good if they create regulations and restrictions—and subsequently, penalties and liabilities— where there were none. For example, detailed and unnecessary regulations regarding the care of feral cats could result in caregivers being fined if they fail to follow them exactly. Another example: feral cats could be impounded and killed— even if they already have been neutered and vaccinated—if they are not part of what could be deemed “sanctioned” or “registered” colonies. The most problematic TNR ordinance provision is mandatory registration. Mandatory registration means that feral cat caregivers are legally obligated to register with animal control or another local government agency and include personal information about themselves and sometimes even the location of the cats they care for. People who fail to register but continue to engage in TNR could be fined or even prosecuted for breaking the law.
  • Often, brief ordinances that simply communicate the city’s support are best. For example, the Washington, D.C. ordinance underscores the city’s commitment to TNR instead of regulating the practice of TNR. It states that the animal control agency “shall promote: (1) the reduction of euthanasia of animals for which medical treatment or adoption is possible; and (2) the utilization of trap, spay or neuter, and return practices as a means of controlling the feral cat population.” This brief statement of the city’s policy and goals is very helpful in encouraging TNR.
  • Arlington, Texas passed a resolution in August, 2013 that set up a sponsor-based ordinance. In other words, the city designated various animal welfare groups as “community cat sponsoring organizations” that would work together to manage the city’s feral cat population.
  • Outline what you want to say beforehand. Your message should be as short and simple as possible. Legislators are human beings like everyone else and often have short attention spans. But still include a short anecdote about how this issue will personally affect you. for example, if you care for a cat colony and have spent your own time and money sterilizing and caring for them, tell your legislator.Memorizethe three main reasons to support TNR in your community. Tell a short anecdote demonstrating the good work you do or why you care about the issue. Prepare a one page fact sheet to give to the legislator. include any available local statistics thatsupport your position on the legislation. if possible, include how the legislation would affect the city or county budget. Alley Cat Allies has sample fact sheets.
  • Community support is crucial to the success of TNR programs. Clearly, when new policies are implemented, the public will not always be on board initially. This isn’t to say that you need a perfect community before implementing TNR. There will always be dissent. However, you can build support by speaking with the residents in neighborhoods with large feral cat populations, holding community meetings, and training sessions. Community meetings can be geared towards explaining humane deterrents, the basics of TNR, and why catch and kill does not effectively reduce the overall population. Training sessions are an opportunity for seasoned trappers and novices to come together and share tips. Finally, education is key.
  • This is an example of an educational postcard that Wake County groups developed to inform the community about the new TNR program and demonstrate that many different groups supported this policy change. You can see in the bottom right-hand corner that there is a list of all the participating groups. The rest of the space is devoted to basic information about TNR and feral cats. Animal Control Officers hand these postcards out to citizens with concerns or questions about outdoor cats. That way Animal Control Officers do not feel like they have to learn a great deal of new information, they simply pass this out.
  • TNR: Community Cat Advocacy 101

    1. 1. Community Cat Advocacy 101 Becky Robinson, President and Founder, Alley Cat Allies Liz Holtz, Attorney, Alley Cat Allies Austin Pets Alive Conference February 22, 2014
    2. 2. ALLEY CAT ALLIES • Formed in 1990 • Dedicated to the humane treatment of cats • More than half a million supporters • Over 15,000 requests for help annually • Advise individuals, organizations, shelters and legislators
    3. 3. Trap-Neuter-Return
    4. 4. Why TNR? • Beneficial for residents • Effective population control • Good for individual cats Find more information at alleycat.org/CaseForTNR
    5. 5. Trap-Neuter-Return Across the Country Available at alleycat.org/TheFutureOfAnimalControl
    6. 6. TNR Across the Country Elizabeth Holtz, JD “Trap-Neuter-Return Ordinances and Policies in the United States: The Future of Animal Control,” Law & Policy Brief (Bethesda, MD: Alley Cat Allies, January 2013). 2003 Available at alleycat.org/TheFutureOfAnimalControl
    7. 7. TNR Across the Country Just ten years later, support has increased ten-fold! 2013 Available at alleycat.org/TheFutureOfAnimalControl
    8. 8. Trap-Neuter-Return Ordinances Across Texas 2003 2013 In ten years, support has increased almost thirty-fold! Available at alleycat.org/TheFutureOfAnimalControl
    9. 9. Texas Communities with TNR Ordinances – 32 and Counting • Arlington* (passed in 2013) • Alamo Heights • Angleton • Bulverde • College Station • Dallas • Denton • Edinburg • Fort Worth • Fredericksburg • Garland • Houston • Joshua • Killeen • Krum • Leander • Llano • Lubbock • Marble Falls • Nacogdoches • Pilot Point • Plano • Port Arthur • Rancho Viejo • Richmond • Round Rock • San Antonio • San Saba • Taylor • Wichita Falls • Windcrest • Waco* (passed in 2013)
    10. 10. Trap-Neuter-Return in Your Community Understand existing laws and ordinances • ACOs and other officials sometimes wrongly believe that TNR is illegal under the current ordinance • Reach out to Alley Cat Allies or another trusted organization if you are unsure about what your law states Find resources at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit
    11. 11. Is an Ordinance Necessary? You don’t need a TNR ordinance to do TNR! Drawbacks of TNR ordinances: • Laws can create restrictions and regulations (like mandatory registration) that didn’t exist before San Francisco has had a TNR program since 1993 yet never passed an ordinance Find resources at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit
    12. 12. Is an Ordinance Necessary? When should you consider an ordinance? • Harassment from ACOs • Colony safety at risk Benefits of Ordinances • Forces government entities (animal control officers, shelters) to act a certain way • Ensures positive policies remain in place even when administrations change Find resources at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit
    13. 13. Model Ordinances Guide See page 6 of TNR white paper for model language alleycat.org/TheFutureOfAnimalControl Most important elements: • Define eartip, feral cat, and TNR • Eartipped cats received by shelters or animal control must be returned to trapping location • Trapped eartipped cats should be immediately released unless veterinary care is required • Feral cats received by shelters should be diverted to TNR program
    14. 14. Model Ordinances Guide See page 6 of TNR white paper for model language alleycat.org/TheFutureOfAnimalControl Protections for caregivers • Define owner to exclude feral cat caregiver • Allow caregivers to reclaim impounded feral cats • Clarify that TNR is not abandonment
    15. 15. Ordinances – Less is More Washington DC Ordinance: Animal control “shall promote (1) the reduction of euthanasia of animals for which medical treatment or adoption is possible; and (2) the utilization of trap, spay or neuter, and return practices as a means of controlling the feral cat population.” Find more resources at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit
    16. 16. Model Language in Texas Arlington, Texas “A resolution authorizing and approving the community cat initiative Trap- Neuter-Return (TNR) program whereby nonprofit organizations help manage feral cats… “That the community cat sponsoring organizations have agreed to publicize information about the Trap-Neuter-Return program, provide a single point of contact for Arlington Animal Services and will attempt to notify the appropriate sponsoring organization when notified by Animal Services about an impounded TNR designated cat. Animal Services will notify the single point of contact about any apparent feral cat colonies in order that the sponsoring organizations can take action to limit any nuisances caused by feral cats.” Find resources at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit
    17. 17. Influencing the Legislative Process • Send personalized emails or letters to legislators • Schedule a face to face meeting • Testify at a council meeting • Submit a written comment Find resources at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit
    18. 18. Making the Case to Legislators • Prepare with an outline • Use statistics and scientific studies • Fact Sheets • Appeal to legislators’ financial concerns Find resources at alleycat.org/AdvocacyToolkit
    19. 19. Community Outreach • Network with other compassionate citizens: Feral Friends Network, www.alleycat.org/FeralFri ends • Create your own organization • Send action alerts
    20. 20. Sample Postcard
    21. 21. Media • Be prepared talking points • Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor • Check out Alley Cat Allies’ Guide to Working with the Media: alleycat.org/PublicityGuide
    22. 22. Learn more at www.alleycat.org QUESTIONS?

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