decorahnews.com has received the following statement from People for Animal Welfare, explaining their reasons for asking for City of Decorah funding for a program to capture wild cats, spay or neuter them, and then release the cats back into the wild:
The members of Northeast Iowa P.A.W. would like to respond to the numerous comments about our request for financial support to spay/neuter feral cats in Decorah. First of all, we would like to recognize that the issue of feral cat populations is probably the most difficult of all the issues that humane societies in the U.S. deal with. Second, we believe there is something we can all agree on -- there is no good solution to the feral cat problem until all cat owners practice responsible pet ownership. This includes spaying and neutering cats, controlling cats and not letting them roam, and, finally, eliminating the practice of dumping unwanted cats and kittens.
The issue that has caused the current disagreement within the community is what national humane organizations call the trap/neuter/release type of program. People are upset about the idea of using tax dollars to "fix" feral cats and then release them back into the wild. We understand this and have many of the same concerns. Several of us are avid bird watchers and know that cats, feral or not, kill many songbirds. Cats, feral and not, defecate and urinate in our yards. Feral cats can spread diseases to companion animals and people.
So why would P.A.W. want to spay and release feral cats back into our communities instead of euthanizing them? The primary answer is that, nationwide, the killing of feral cats has simply not worked to control the populations. The Humane Society of the United States has documented the fact that when many members of a specific cat community are euthanized, a vacuum is created that is almost immediately filled by other and often more cats. Euthanasia programs cost money, too, and are based in an unending cycle of catch and kill, catch and kill over and over again. In other words, until the entire community spays and neuters pet cats, the issue of feral cats will never be resolved.
The idea of trap/neuter/release is an imperfect and partial solution. It works by creating managed feral cat populations. In other words, a community of feral cats that have been fixed and are healthy controls its own territory and will not allow new cats to move in. Instead of reproducing over and over, spreading illness and yowling when in heat, the cats are healthier and watched over by volunteers ready to take steps to further manage the cat population.
Finally, what is PAW's role in controlling the feral cat population? Since we began in 1995, we have been the "go-to" organization for anyone who had a cat problem. We have helped find homes for hundreds of cats and kittens (not to mention dogs). We have paid or helped pay for hundreds of pet neuterings. We are a group of volunteers who receive no salary, receive no money from the city or county, and work out of our own homes, while many of us hold down full-time jobs. As the feral cat population in Decorah has grown to the point of crisis, many people have asked us to do something about it. Others have criticized us for not solving the feral cat situation. Our request for help from the City Council was an offer on our part to do something positive within our limited resources. For that reason, the tone of some of the responses to our request was disappointing.
We would like to continue to dialogue and work with members of the Decorah and surrounding communities on ways to deal with the feral cat issue. Many of your concerns are the same as ours. The trap/neuter/release option is not perfect, and it may be that the community as a whole decides not to support it. Decorah may need to explore other ways to control the feral cat population, but we hope we can all work on this in a spirit of cooperation.
In the end, cat owners need to be responsible for spaying and neutering their pets. As stated by the National Humane Education Society, this will lead to more "responsibly managing community resources," which is the goal of the City Council and all Decorah residents.