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Monday, December 07, 2009

Birds 1, Feral Cats 0--Court Orders LA To Stop Controversial Feral Cat Program

The songbirds of Los Angeles may get a reprieve from feral cat predation. Six conservation groups won a lawsuit on Friday against the City of Los Angeles and its Department of Animal Services to stop the practice of encouraging feral cat colonies until the legally required environmental impact reviews are performed.

The Los Angeles Superior Court found that the City of Los Angeles had been “secretly and unofficially” promoting “Trap-Neuter-Return,” a controversial program to allow feral cats to run free, even while the Department of Animal Services promised to conduct an environmental review of the program. The Court ordered the City to stop implementing TNR. The plaintiffs, The Urban Wildlands Group, Endangered Habitats League, Los Angeles Audubon Society, Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society, Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society, and the American Bird Conservancy, sued the City in June 2008 to ensure that the controversial program to sanction and maintain feral cat colonies was not implemented before a full and public environmental analysis.

The groups decided legal action was necessary after their investigation revealed that the City had been unofficially implementing a so-called “Trap-Neuter-Return” program and the City repeatedly declined their request to stop implementing the program until environmental review was performed.

Although the City insisted that no such program existed, the Court concurred with the conservation groups and concluded in its Friday ruling that, “implementation of the program is pervasive, albeit ‘informal and unspoken.’”

“Our goal was to see that the City follows the California Environmental Quality Act by thoroughly assessing the program’s impacts on the environment and considering alternatives and mitigation measures before making specific programmatic decisions,” said Babak Naficy, attorney for plaintiffs. “Feral cats have a range of impacts to wildlife, human health, and water quality in our cities. The impacts of institutionalizing the maintenance of feral cat colonies through TNR should be discussed in an open, public process before any such program is implemented,” Naficy said.

In June 2005, the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services Commissioners adopted TNR as the “preferred method of dealing with feral cat populations as its official policy.” Thereafter, the Board directed the General Manager to prepare an analysis of the program under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This analysis was never completed but the Department implemented major portions of the program anyway.

The Department issued coupons for free or discounted spay/neuter procedures for feral cats being returned to neighborhoods and open spaces, including parks and wildlife areas. It also began refusing to accept trapped feral cats or to issue permits to residents to trap feral cats. The Department assisted outside organizations that performed TNR by donating public space, advertising their services, and referring the public to their TNR programs. The Department even encouraged and assisted in establishing new feral cat colonies at City-owned properties.

The Superior Court recognized these actions as illegal implementation of the TNR program that could have an impact on the environment and enjoined the City from further pursuing the program until it complied with CEQA. Dr. Travis Longcore, Science Director of The Urban Wildlands Group, said, “Feral cats are documented predators of native wildlife. We support spaying and neutering all cats in Los Angeles, which is the law, but do not support release of this non-native predator into our open spaces and neighborhoods where they kill birds and other wildlife.”

Even when fed by humans, cats instinctively hunt prey, including birds, lizards and small mammals. Colonies of feral cats, often thriving with the aid of handouts from humans, harm native wildlife and contaminate water bodies with fecal bacteria. Longcore continued, “TNR is promoted as a way to reduce feral cat populations but scientific research shows that 70–90% of cats must be sterilized for cat populations to decline. This is virtually impossible to achieve in practice, but population reduction can be achieved with only 50% removal.”

The City must now stop its TNR program and any further proposal to implement such a program must undergo objective scientific review as part of the CEQA process. This will ensure that the public has adequate opportunity to comment and that significant impacts on parks, wildlife, water quality, and human health are avoided.


Jim L. said...

Fantastic! I think they didn't do the CEQA study because they know in their hearts that TNR does not stand up to peer-reviewed science. They have never been able to separate the effects of removals (which all TNR does to some extent - kittens and sociable cats) from the effects of neutering. And of course, their idea of success is different from others. If they have any reduction in numbers they say success....even if it is short-lived...and even if the colony persists and continues to kill wildlife. But..this is good news. Maybe some rationality will be used in the approach to the issue.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the City knew there would be negatives in the CEQA which is why they tried to shake the enviro groups. Plus, TNR does not work in the real world. It works in a vacuum, on paper, if everyone does everything right, which is impossible.

The current proponents of TNR are just people who don't want to kill the cats. I understand that but they should be honest. Not only that but the feeders have told me they don't neuter because they can't afford it. They need the money for food. If you neutered, you wouldn't have to feed so many.

Another thing, they say it costs $50 to tnr a cat and $100 to kill it. They forget that it actually costs over $1,000 to fed, vet, trap, deflea a cat for life vs $100 to kill. The $1,000 is super low. The cats don't get good vet care, no dental, deflea, vaccinations. I hike through colonies all the time. A bunch of sick cats come up to me with eye infections, dental infections, wounds from fights. One had a dead kitten hanging half out of her. I took the cat with the dead baby hanging out of her to my vet them home. She lives in my house now. These aren't even feral cats, just unwanted cats. The treatment of these animals is inhumane.

TNR doesn't reduce populations or any of the problems associated with populations such as poo, pee, disease, noise, smell, wildlife predation... We need a CEQA. This will be the first in the nation, I think?

Anonymous said...

Great going everyone! Now there will be more cats to kill birds. Do the math. Spaying cats = less cats=less birds killed... just brilliant...

Anonymous said...

I would like to see these "conservation groups" come up with a better solution to the feral cat problem than TNR. Perhaps Audubon and others could chip in the funds it would take to capture all of the cats, and house them in a no-kill shelter.

It is very discouraging to read a blog post like this.

ASNC Treasurer said...

To: Director, Audobon Center at Deb's Park

Hi Jeffrey,

The ASNC supports TNR (see our minutes from two months ago where we bought 12 traps), but the recent blog suggests on of our *biggest* recipients of ASNC funds, Audobon at Debs Park, opposes TNR:

If this article is correct, please explain why you think TNR is not appropriate so I can understand (and pass this on to other ASNC board members, most of which approve of TNR).

I am concerned that the Audobon took this position, considering how much the ASNC has helped your organization in the past -- in just the past few years you've asked the ASNC for over $5K, with a $1500 request just sent in.

I will let you know that I will be presenting a resolution to our board in January opposing the Audobon's lawsuit efforts against the City of LA, as well as a Community Impact Statement to this regard.

Mark Legassie
Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, Treasurer
Department of Neighborhood Empowerment
City of Los Angeles
Ph: 323-823-3046
Save a life...visit your local animal shelter.

JD Concanon Dochterman said...

Actual Research on the success or failure of TNR programs

Whether you kill or neuter and return, you have the same effect of reducing the breeding population. Over a long period of time the breeding population is what determines population size. That's why TNR works.

The difference is killing is less humane, while TNR is humane and takes more time and effort.

Since TNR is humane, we should use it as much as possible. To be effective it needs to be done properly. If feral cat colonies attract people who abandon their pets there, that is a separate issue we can deal with through spay neuter laws and public education. Fewer pets will be abandoned if people do not overbreed them.

Jim L. said...

I'm sorry, but I cannot except your contention that TNR is more humane. "Humane" is in the eye of the beholder. I believe it EXTREMELY inhumane to re-release a cat that will in the course of it's brutal short life not only kill a number of small birds and mammals sometimes ripping their heads off, sometimes eating them alive, but also the cat itself will be subject to a brutal death from coyotes, cars, disease, cold, parasites, etc. They will all eventually die, you just can't be responsible for providing a truly humane death that will protect the lives of other creatures.

No, I'm sorry, but you do NOT get to call yourself humane for your re-release of a domestic animal back into an unsafe environment. Even PETA is with me on this.

Jim L. said...

Attention: Any Audubon Society that supports or allows TNR. You are being dishonest to your mission. You were established to protect and conserve NATIVE wildlife. TNR does neither. TNR simply allows it's practitioners to feel good about themselves. In NO cases has it resulted in the elimination of a cat colony. Numbers were reduced in some situations but there are NO studies that show whether the TNR group's removal of kittens and adoptable adults was the real cause. Cats DO NOT belong outside in the environment and every Audubon society to take an active role in the elimination of feral cats from the environment.

MKP said...

I THINK that there is a GREAT PRECIDENT here that needs to be looked at.

Since Feral Cats and yes FERAL dogs can reek havoc on the environment, then an IMMEDIATE MORATOREUM, needs to be in place for ALL selling and GIVING away of NON-Neutered or Spayed ANIMALS IMMEDIATELY.

ALL pet shops, all breeders, EVERYTHING should NOT be allowed to sell, give away ANY feline or canine or rabbit or bird until an environmental impact study is done.

The feral problems are from the FREE reign of animal selling that needs to be stopped, until an Environmental IMPACT study is done to see what happens when animals that are NOT fixed are out in the populous!

THIS will STOP all future problems with feral cats and dogs, rabbits and birds and all problems with enforcing the spay/neuter ordinances.

So taking this precedent to the origin of the problem would be the best thing to do!!!!

THANKS for the solution animal services and humane groups have been looking for.

Anonymous said...

What is interesting is that if TNR actually resulted in helping wildlife (instead of being the scourge of nature), then what are the TNR advocates concerned about? Let the environmental reviews proceed!

The fact is, there is no scientific support for this method.

See here for lots of information (since 2006) and view the Press Release:

Ric said...

TNRrealitycheck.COM is listed anonymously by proxy through site dedicated to anonymity, not truth or information.
see for yourself.

( )

( )

What neither TNRRealitycheck.COM and the bird lovers dont tell any of us is that 10 the number of birds are killed by cats and 100 times more by windows in our houses and offices.
Direct from the us Govt: Not some animal abuser who hides behind anonymity to sread misinformation. .

i mean all you could do to save Millions of birds every year is put some stickers on the windows and a whistle on your car bumper. why not do that? why kill thousands of cats dumped by humans. the cats are only doing what comes naturally at this point. Humans are the blame. and killing it to make it go away so you can feel good about yourself is not the answer.

I mean if TNRrealitycheck.COM is so factual? why hide? why not counter the research?
why not present some REAL information instead of emotional pleas?

birdchaser said...

Ric, based on the best research available cats kill about the same estimated number of birds as windows do. Cars are not a significant threat to birds. TNR DOES NOT reduce numbers of cats and managed colonies often serve as a cat magnet. There is good research on TNR, and it all points to it being ineffectual at controlling cat numbers. I know the TNR reality folks, and one reason they have to be careful about their identity is because of threats made to them by pro-TNR folks.

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