While our community was getting ready for fireworks, special food and festivities to celebrate freedom and the birthday of our great nation, an act at the base of all core values was retaliated in a mall in Katy, Texas. A responsible and level headed teenage employee at a famous national chain that sells cookies followed his instinct for kindness to buy a delicious cookie for an on-duty officer. Startlingly, his kindness was penalized by the corporate office of the cookie company. His act of kindness almost cost him his job where he was about to get a two dollar per hour raise and a promotion. The unreasonable punitive action ordered by the corporate office was a complete shock to the entire community even though it was later reduced to suspension for a week. The public spoke up and stopped the unfair retribution. The outrage led by the community left the cookie company with no choice but to retract and apologize. I applaud this young man for standing by his values and assuring the public he would repeat the act of kindness again. I am also very glad the unfortunate event ended well for him. The community was behind him and he was eventually vindicated. However, I cannot say the same for our community cats.
Not only are the community cats not able to stand up for themselves, they face an unwinnable war when status quo has been stacked up against them for years. Status quo makes most people stay silent. That makes me ask is it true that “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”? How about if the public sticks together and generates the same kind of instinct of righteousness for our voiceless community cats to beat the status quo that are against community cats?
Common status quo used among shelters in their pre-TNR era are usually the at-large regulation commonly known as the leash law. There are also cat licensing requirements, taking ownership of cats after days of feeding, limits on number of pets and bans on feeding strays. These archaic restrictions are real but they can be easily reformed if the shelter staff and the governing bodies want the change. One quick and easy solution is to add exemptions from all the abovementioned restrictions to enable TNR through making amendments of the existing ordinance. That is a preferred method over getting rid of the old ordinances all together. For community cats, the inclusion or omission of just a few words in these laws can be the difference between life and death.
In like manner, there is one status quo that is the most commonly used among government agencies that oversee animal shelters. That is, the leash law under the “Animals At Large” section of the local animal ordinance. In other words, the law does not give provisions to release community cats to the environment. As a result, we see total disengagement from shelter staff and governing bodies. It appears they have a good reason but it is not completely true. It is also not acceptable after you understand the five steps of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
1) Survey the area
2) Trap cats at hot spots.
3) Transport cats to and from surgery.
4) Post-surgery recovery.
5) Release to environment.
Where does the leash law restriction come into play to prohibit county or city government agencies from engaging in TNR activities? It comes in the very last step of “release to environment”. The last step ONLY! Since the leash law does not allow cats to be at large and not leashed, municipal shelter employees are not supposed to release them to the environment. While that part is a valid argument, there is more to it. The law does not prohibit them to initiate and participate steps one to four of the TNR process. Municipal shelter employees can conduct survey of the area. They can trap cats at hot spots, help transport cats, provide surgery and house cats during post-surgery recovery. They just cannot release. The intuitive judgment of zero initiation and zero participation in TNR is not acceptable.
Whether we support cats or not, we all want less cats. We are responsible for standing up for cats to help control overpopulation. We should not accept the circumstances presented to us without proof and solutions to solve them. We should never accept killing as a management tool.
Although the mentality of acceptance is ingrained in many of us from the time we are young, we should not limit our ability to inquire about the reasoning behind automatic decisions of death sentences for community cats. Instead, we should be outraged. Why are our tax dollars being used to kill innocent cats? Are we all strong enough to overcome fears of repercussions for being compassionate?
I encourage you not to let status quo silence you. A good way to help is to empower yourself with the scientific knowledge that TNR is grounded in and at the same time, encourage your local legislators not to ignore the relevant science behind TNR. You have the right to ask your local legislators and shelter staff to implement change inwardly from bottom up to avoid shelter killing of cats that come in traps. As diverse and wealthy as Fort Bend County is, we are seeing the catch and kill method commonly practiced on cats in local shelters; cats killed upon “receiving” is how it is documented on euthanasia logs. Killed upon “receiving” despite the three-day hold requirement! Please note some of these cats are owned cats and shelters are destroying private property without due process. In general, over 80% of cats entering traditional shelters have no chance to be seen on social media and no chance to go home. You should be outraged.
TNR prevents cats from entering shelters. TNR prevents shelter killing of cats and kittens.
Let your compassion rule to unmask status quo and fight for TNR. Make it right for our community cats in the same manner that the community fearlessly stood together to ensure the young man’s compassion towards an officer in uniform at the mall did not get punished.
Fight the small scaremongering crowd. Fight a dangerous erosion of trust and culture of fear infiltrating our society. Fight for our community cats now and push for TNR provisions in your community.
These cats are at risk of being killed upon “receiving” or in the back of an Animal Control truck even though they are beloved lost pets. ACT NOW to end this horrific practice!
Claudine is the founder of Fort Bend Pets Alive! She lives in Richmond, Texas with her husband and their adorable dogs of mixed breeds.