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Caring and programs

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

It really bothers me when I see people elsewhere criticize "TNR" as though every implementation of it is the same, and is, they assert, not effective.

I work with an organization that has what we call a "TNR Program." It didn't start out like that, really. We did a few TNR projects as a group, and then we gradually realized as we did more work that we needed to establish some kind of process, some general guidelines, some standard ways of doing things.

We won a small grant for the program, fairly early on. And it was HUGELY helpful in showing us a lot that we could improve. It helped us realize that we should have a series of steps to follow (which is part of what makes it a "program") and that then, we could measure where we were on some or all of those steps with every project we did. And the idea of a "program" is that you can look at the measurements of its steps, and know if it is working, not working, or needs adjustment.

I don't think that this is a new idea -- but sometimes when people badmouth "TNR," what I see they are doing is badmouthing ONE idea of the CONCEPT of TNR. TNR might be wildly wonderful (pardon the pun!) but, if the one idea of it is badly done, outsiders can very easily make TNR LOOK bad. Too often, I see that the problems outsiders identify are actually with a lack of structure of a program, or with not following a common set of steps, or with not having very many instances of "TNR" to look over and assess.

I LOVE that so many individuals are willing to tackle doing TNR today. And no way would I want someone to NOT do TNR because they aren't able to form or find a group to join up with. But I wanted to say that if you can, if you feel like you have done a good job with a colony, and you still would like to do something else to help, you might want to consider designing a TNR Program. You might want to help someone near you to do TNR, and then, together, look over your notes and talk about what was good about the work, and what you would have liked to do differently. This is a perspective that a group that can do more than one or two projects, can bring to this work. And it is something that is still important, because although as caretakers we can clearly see that what we do works and is good, we should always be aware that more evidence, and better-designed programs, are what will sway people who have not had feral cats touch their lives.
post #2 of 10
You know I was thinking about something similar yesterday. The shelter that I volunteer with is as organized and well run as any successful business. It is an absolute pleasure to work with them. Because we are so well run we are able to get loads of donations because people can see the tangible successful results. We have a good community reputation so we are able to adopt out successfully and that means saving more cats from the kill shelters. People like donating and supporting organizations that they think are professional and well run.

I have read the articles about how TNR is not working but they alway cite examples of disorganized groups who are inconsistent and chaotic.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by CC12 View Post
People like donating and supporting organizations that they think are professional and well run.

I have read the articles about how TNR is not working but they alway cite examples of disorganized groups who are inconsistent and chaotic.
I wonder whether the dynamic here, is that a group may be very good at garnering press, when it isn't too good at running itself; and a group may put lots of effort into running its program, and be lousy at marketing and publicizing that. Also, reporters love sob stories. Panic can lead to emergency calls to the press which can then make it look like ALL of TNR's implementations fail or are doomed to failure.

It would seem like it should be easier to talk to the media about a good solid organized program, than about a sloppy one, but what I see sometimes in my local media is not like that. Last month there was an article about a group of four young businessmen, who were "doing great community work," according to the article. That's terrific. But what disturbed me is that I work with a coalition group of nonprofits in my area, all of whom I would say are doing great community work, too. I called and asked around. None of us in the coalition, had ever before heard of any of the 4 young men. I had to wonder how come the new group of men seemed more newsworthy than groups in the coalition which have experience and reputation and results over the long term, to show for their work. It's not that I'm trying to deny the worth of the four young men's efforts. Rather, it's funny that in five or six months, my past observation is that the four young men will no longer be doing community projects. But the members of the coalition, WILL. Something about that picture is not right.

Anyway, all that to say that I know this is not solely a challenge for animal or TNR programs. Just that I think because the TNR movement is (still!) so in the developing phase, it is a bigger danger and a bigger challenge.

I think that success for a TNR program needs to include what effect ("impact") the effort has on numbers of cats in an area, but I also think it has to involve the overall health and welfare of the cats as individuals. And I think it is crucial, really crucial that people should play into the impact assessment. Are caretakers generally BETTER off for having joined up? Are neighborhoods stronger and more friendly places? I get frustrated because I am not an expert at program evaluation, and I do not find a lot of interest in nearby college departments in doing program evaluation. I suspect this may be the case for many of the small, good TNR programs today. So we resort to internal tracking and measurement. I know that's better than doing no assessment. And I know that doing assessment does, as CC12 said, help give donors and supporters a better idea that they really are contributing toward success.

Thanks for your thoughts, CC12! This may not be the most popular topic of discussion on TCS but it's really a concern of mine and I needed to type through my concerns!
post #4 of 10
Personally I support TNR, but I can understand those with views who don't. I know people who run perfectly well organised TNR groups but they will never garner public support because people believe in the notion that (and this is paraphrased from something I was told by someone when helping fundraise for a TNR group) spayed or dead they will not be breeding so why leave them for animal control to pick up and cost the city further when they can just be euthanised to begin with and the limited funds given to animal charities in the area used for 'saveable' cats.

Another problem is that TNRing is semi-illegal in some areas. I am sure AC here are well aware of feral caregivers in the area and the TNR groups involved, but those groups stay semi-underground because our city by-laws state that you can not have more than 4 animals (yeah I pay attention to that one too ) and that they must never leave your property as well as particular laws dealing with wild animals. They (as an institution not the individual AC officers necessarily) do not believe in TNR because they have limited time and funds to deal with the problems already at hand. So, media attention here is generally negative when something goes wrong and animal control have to step in and those that do have successful programs are generally involved in successful shelter / rescue / foster programs or some other type of animal charity where they fundraise without being over specific on the TNRing. For example you put down money used for spays / neuters and vaccinations rather than just saying TNRing.

Another problem I have found is the feral population can be so out of control that some caregivers are unwilling to help. We see so many people even on here that say they have looked for help and can't find it so they just try to do what they can but don't always understand and don't go through the proper steps. Perhaps we just need more of a mentoring attitude to those small caregivers who are new to TNRing and just worried about one or two cats in their garden etc.
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

I wonder whether this is more of a question of lack of leadership than anything else. Yes perhaps a problem is big and difficult, and yes maybe there are some people whose attitudes are rather ... antiquated .. about many issues.

Still, progressive movements of all kinds have grown over the years, and I see animal issues as one among many progressive issues to address. I DO think that lots of people today sometimes see groups and leadership as not for them. If you look at the political arena, though, we have seen a period of little interest and now a GREAT deal of attention and involvement in the national political race.

I'd like to see some of the national organizations be more involved in urging local efforts, because those are where the delivery of information and resources can happen and that's where people can learn how to be leaders. Of course, not everyone who wants to get vet care for a feral cat wants to become a leader ..... but some of them surely do. Once the cat is vetted, the pressure should be off of the "need help" side some, so that person COULD think about getting into the "give help" side. It doesn't have to be going around to someone else's neighborhood and collecting those cats, though -- it can mean going together to talk to a couple local vets, or maybe sitting down and thinking about what would be the best way to help cats in the neighborhoods where you are.

If there are too few groups available to help individuals, that is a people issue more than a program or cat issue. We know that there are school children, college students, working parents, and retired people who want to help cats. What do they need, in order to decide to band together?

That might be the big question
post #6 of 10
I don't even think it is leadership. For example, X finds a feral cat and calls the local SPCA who tell her it is a wild animal and will be euthanised, she calls all the local no kill shelters wanting to help the cat and is told that they simply can't help because they are full because it is kitten season and so do not have the resources to deal with a feral cat at present. They find their way here where they are given a list of feral cat resources, but because of the lack of help (and funds) the current caregivers receive they can't help either.

The simple fact is unless you have a great vet or get involved with a really organised and well funded group, you are going to pay out of pocker for spays and neuters, even if they are low-cost and there is always going to be a limit to how much you can help before putting the financial situation of your family at risk.

I am one of the lucky ones, I am involved with a great nokill shelter that helps out with feral colonies when we can and have several semi-ferals that we see the potential to become great companion cats that I work with. I have one of my ferals at home, she is a great cat but most shelters would have euthanised her because they just don't have the resources to deal with the problems.
post #7 of 10
What would be great is if there were a national or international group that was so organized that they were able to get big donations from corporate sources that provide animal supplies such a Purina or Petsmart. Then also get community support.
If it were well run and people could get a live person to talk to more people would be successful at TNR. Then when you see results you can make a case for it to be implemented everywhere.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
See, a local SPCA or shelter that month after month, year after YEAR, responds to callers just to say, "we are full, we will destroy them, or you can go somewhere else" is not addressing a clear need in its community. When our field grows up, then there will be regular assessments of the kinds of requests that come in -- most groups today seem to virtually IGNORE what kind of calls they are NOT providing help for -- and when they see that there are a lot of requests for help that is nonlethal, then the SPCA or shelter will even enthusiastically develop a program or programs to address that unmet need. This is how human services organizations work, the good ones.

Today, most people are not concerned that a pack of dogs is ripping through their corn field -- that was YESTERDAY. Today, most people see a couple of tiny kittens outside in the yard and want to know how to SAVE them. Our approach to animal control AND animal care needs to adjust to respond to changing social attitudes. (Granted that there will be areas where attitudes are still slow to change, but that should not be an excuse for continuing to operate like "dog catcher" is the major role required).

I just don't think that a volunteer with an SPCA who quietly does some feral cat work, is acting in his or he best and highest interests. And I think that donors who have the interests of animals clearly in their hearts, need to ask for -- even demand -- that organizations understand the community they live in. To me, it is crystal clear that old approaches do not work to decrease feral cat numbers OR to improve the health and safety of the animals and the community, but at the very least, any group that does think so, ought to be busy putting together the proof that a "kill" approach (or the approach the organization currently uses) IS working, or they do not deserve support.

I guess I'm talking myself out of sitting and typing about it though -- as a leader myself, I still have more work to do!
post #9 of 10
Our local SPCA no longer takes in strays, they pull from Animal Control and just say no to everyone unless it is a highly adoptable purebred or kitten etc. Recently, Animal Control talked about not picking up stray cats to save money (someone tell me the point of animal control here?). They will never help organise a TNR program - it just wont happen.
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by icklemiss21 View Post
Our local SPCA no longer takes in strays, they pull from Animal Control and just say no to everyone unless it is a highly adoptable purebred or kitten etc. Recently, Animal Control talked about not picking up stray cats to save money (someone tell me the point of animal control here?). They will never help organise a TNR program - it just wont happen.
This is where people with a vision of what their community needs, are absent, in most cases.

Neighborhood Cats has developed a dynamic, clear, practical step-by-step guide for organizing a TNR Program. All that is missing are the people in your community interested enough in making help available.

Usually the goal of an "animal control" program is to prevent harm coming to people because of animals (or, historically, to protect crops in the fields being damaged by them). It's very different from what an "animal care" effort should involve.

I would not be surprised if an animal control agency with any intelligence, recognized that it was in a poor position to implement a feral cat program itself -- there are trust issues, as well as questionnable expertise after years of the status quo.
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