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Organizing an TNR group: expect a backlash????

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

OK, so after 4-5 rescues and one kitten run over by a car, my girlfriend and I are going to try and get some people together to form a TNR group in our apartment complex. I put together a sign (please review below), but I'm a little worried about some angry backlash. I don't know if - after you put this up - people race to call animal control because they resent you for trying to help the cats.

Any ideas? We have about 3-4 people interested already; I am wondering if I'm playing with fire to put something by the mailboxes, or how people will respond. I don't want some sicko to decide to kill the cats, or call animal control, or something like that, because they hate cats or resent us trying to keep the population alive.

As many of you know, the unspayed and unneutered feral and stray cats in the apartment complex have resulted in many new litters of kittens being born.

With proper vaccinations and medical attention, these cats can live healthy lives without affecting the community. Without that attention, the cats get sick or continue to reproduce and have more kittens. Trapping, neutering, spaying, and vaccinating the cats is the humane solution to control the cat population and ensure the existing cats are healthy.

This is a problem that is easiest to solve as a group, since it is difficult for any one person to take on the financial burden and time needed to make a positive change. But we all want to do the right thing.

We are interested in forming a group of volunteers to help trap, transport, or otherwise assist in having the feral cats vaccinated, spayed and neutered. Donations to help pay for veterinary bills (or other useful items) are also appreciated.

If you are interested in helping or participating in any way, or if you have a pet cat that goes outside, please call

Thoughts? Suggestions? Things to watch out for?

I am also including a pic from one of our summer rescues on the sign:

post #2 of 7
Scott you are doing a wonderful thing!

I actually just found this article last night in searching for resources for www.StrayPetAdvocacy.org (We have a couple sections that may help as well, - Feral Animals and Non-Lethal Control with many resources that can help educate those who may oppose this plan). What to say when they just want the cats gone It contains some strategies and advice for how to convince neighborhoods, associations and even local legislators that TNR is the best method of population control for ferals.

Hope that helps!
post #3 of 7
Bless you Scott- if that photo doesn't move them, nothing will!
post #4 of 7
Question from Stacey:

I am very interested in starting a feral cat trap-neuter-return program in my city but I don't know where to begin to find others who are interested. I know there is a large stray cat problem, and know of some feeders, but many of them want to stay underground for fear of having their colonies discovered and killed (animal control does remove colonies if they know where they are). How do you start finding others who want to become involved and how do you make them feel safe to start publicizing efforts? We don't want to start publicizing what we are doing only to get animal control upset and trying to stop our efforts.

Nathan Winograd’s response:

That is the primary problem with an animal control model based on trapping and killing. It pushes compassionate people underground and they can't partner to share resources, expertise, and to help one another. It also makes the community see the shelter not as an ally, but as an enemy.

I had a history professor in college, an old-timer. Notorious liberal. I liked him. He stirred the pot. He told us once that he taught a night history class, with a liberal bent, post-McCarthy to adults and passed around a sign in sheet. He noticed the older folks would never sign it. At first he thought nothing of it, but since it was consistent, he finally asked a couple people why not. The response was uniform. They didn't want their name on a list for a class taught by him. They lived through McCarthy and did not want to be stigmatized. Didn't trust the government. And he, they were sure, was on their list somewhere in some agency as, what they call, a "person of interest."

We live in a post-McCarthy era feral cat wise. People do not trust animal control, with good reason. I don't care who is running the shelter. I don't care how enlightened, supportive, progressive the shelter is. I don't care who is asking. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER reveal your colony locations unless there is a damn good reason (and even then, be general). It is none of the shelter's business and they shouldn't ask for it. And if you run a shelter, do NOT require that caretakers tell you where their colonies are: a lot of caretakers won't come forward and a lot of "feeders" won't get help to become "caretakers" (spay/neuter, vax, etc.). So when you try to find like minded folks, don't ask and don't tell.

Animal Control cannot stop you from associating with like minded people who share your love of cats, nor do I believe they would want to. If the animal control agency is that backward in your community, then work around them for a while. When I was a district attorney we had a secretary in our office who would talk your ear off, never did work, complained constantly, and was always behind. But she had been there so long and was such a fixture, none dared terminate her. So what did we do? We worked around her. Like a rock in a river. If the river can't dislodge it and send it on its way, the water goes around it, goes over it, goes under it. But what happens over time? As the water gets stronger, keeps coming, little by little the rock begins to erode until it is finally crumbled, dislodged and sent away. A tiny river became a torrent that created the Grand Canyon. That is what is happening with TNR on a local level and on a national level.

Start a group. It can be small at first. There is no correct model. Start with a couple of traps. Start trapping. Neutering. Releasing. If you come across a feeder, talk to them. Offer to trap and neuter their cats. Use the internet, publicize your efforts, always working around animal control. You don't have to meet in secret. So long as the locations of colonies aren't made public, meet in their lobby! Who cares. There is nothing they can do.

I go back to my favorite example. Five people and three traps in San Francisco became 1,100 users of the SPCA's TNR program--over 10,000 surgeries, and a decline in feral deaths of over 70% at the city pound. It all started with one meeting
post #5 of 7
Question from a member:
There are stray cats living in the woods across the street from my
house. I wanted to try to catch them, spay/neuter and release them back.
My neighbors are against this. One says they are urinating on her porch
and the other says they are using her garden as a litter box and killing
birds at her feeder. What do you do when your neighbors won't wait to
give you time to show TNR works or find alternatives and call animal
control who euthanizes the cats? The cats are being euthanized
immediately so I don't have time to do much.

Nathan Winograd’s response:

As an animal control facility, we field neighbor "nuisance" complaints
on a daily basis--both sides. The neighbor doing the complaining and the
person who is the subject of the complaint. My first question is ALWAYS,
"Have you sat down and talked to your neighbor yet?" I am amazed at how
often the answer is No. They are your neighbors. You have to live next
to each other. So we need to go over, knock on the door, bring a cup of
coffee, and sit down and talk. Sometimes our neighbors are nut jobs and
that isn't possible. That is the extreme. Once again, we cannot let
extreme scenarios dictate policies for groups.

So with neighbors, it is important to listen closely and ask questions.
In one case, a neighbor demanded-without explanation-that a caregiver
stop feeding cats in the neighborhood. After asking several questions,
she discovered the neighbor was upset because he didn't like cat
footprints on his new car. To keep the peace, the caregiver bought her
neighbor a car cover and he never complained again. By asking questions
and offering solutions, it becomes possible to focus on the person's
specific concerns rather than their generalized objections to feral

Sit down and talk. Calmly share your concerns with the goal of amicably
resolving the problem. It can be a good idea to prepare a small packet
of written materials in support of caring for feral cats. If relations
are seriously strained, community mediation services may be beneficial.

Offer concrete solutions. Once you have determined what the person's
specific complaints are, you can address them. If you haven't had the
cats neutered yet, do so, and let your neighbor know how much it will
improve the cats' behavior while gradually decreasing the size of the
colony. Offer to keep litter boxes in your backyard for cats to use, or
put a cat fence around your yard.

Explain the value of TNR. TNR is the most humane and effective way to
control feral cat populations and minimize the most common concerns
people raise about feral cats. Be sure to explain the ramifications of
trapping the cats and taking them to an animal shelter: most will be
killed since feral cats are not candidates for adoption. In addition,
more cats-probably unneutered-will move back into the area starting the
cycle all over again.

Here are suggestions for more specific concerns:

.Wild animals. Feed cats during the day and pick up any leftover food
once the cats have eaten. Other humane deterrents are described in our
fact sheets on Living with Wildlife.

.Kittens. Spay/neuter will prevent more kittens from being born. In
some cases, feral kittens can be socialized and adopted.

Spraying, fighting, howling. Neutering quickly reduces or eliminates
these behaviors. Regular and sufficient feeding will also prevent

Cats using yard as a litterbox. Caregivers can place covered,
sand-filled litter boxes in their yards, and/or offer to periodically
clean the neighbor's yard
post #6 of 7
Nathan Winograd's last comments for the week:

Feral cat advocacy, next to spay/neuter, is essential to save the lives of cats. It not only protect animals and defends community caregivers, but the partnership you establish between the shelter and caregivers is essential--they can be your biggest allies and supporters.

I want to offer some thoughts, my ground rules, for effective feral advocacy:

1. Being feral is OK. The goal is NOT "No More Feral Cats." The goal is "No More KILLING of feral cats."

2. Be knowledgeable. Read the studies! You cannot advocate effectively in a state of ignorance.

3. Be reasonable. You must present your arguments in a succinct, thoughtful and straightforward manner, always in coat and tie or business dress.

4. No guesses! They can bite you in the rear. For example, how many feral cats are out there? Some say 60 million, others 100 million. To you that's 60 million ferals who need TNR. To anti-cat zealots, that's 60 million feral cats eating birds. The fact is we don't know, so let's not pretend that we do. Just say what we know.

5. Shatter the myths!

What are these myths?

1. The "cat feeders" are bad and part of the problem, while "cat caregivers" (those that s/n, etc.) are good. Don't punish compassion. Each has a role in the community. Help feeders become caregivers.

2. That we need laws to control bad, irresponsible pet owners. It doesn't work, it kills cats, it makes us all feel good but implementation and effectiveness is elusive.

3. That all pet cats belong indoors! What a loony idea (my reasons are in this issue of Best Friends magazine and on their website)

4. That cats are decimating birds. (see prior posts)

5. That "two cats = 470,000 in seven years." If this was true, we would literally be scooping cats to get out of our driveway the way we upstate New Yorkers scoop snow in the winter! Exaggeration undermines credibility!

6. And the mother of all cat myths, that feral cats live short, miserable lives. Many animals (raccoons, foxes, deer, mice) face hardships and yet we would NEVER advocate they be killed for their own good. In addition, this is often simply not the case.

Let me close my session by saying that I cannot think of a single human endeavor that I respect and admire more when it comes to saving animals than those of you who battle the elements, battle your neighbors, battle the authorities, battle ignorance and shortsightedness and hate, all to bring some food, some comfort, some kindness, some love to throwaways--the cats who live on our streets, our alleys, next to our dumpsters. As shelters, and organizations, and rescue groups, it is OUR job to support YOU, not the other way around. If we do that as a movement, if we champion the caretaker and the alley cat in our community as we do the most beloved of house cats, then we will be well on our way to becoming a No Kill nation. And to building a society where every animal is cherished and respected. And every individual life is protected and revered.

Bless you all
post #7 of 7
Scott, this is terrific of you! I'd go ahead and post it - I would include those pictures. If you haven't already, the one thing I'd add
Trapping, neutering, spaying, and vaccinating the cats is the humane solution to control the cat population and ensure the existing cats are healthy.
is "....and vaccinating the cats is the humane and least costly solution to control..."

A lot of people don't care about being humane, but they care about money.

Scott, we have a lot of research and a lot of links to research on the Stray Pet Advocacy site.

If there are bird lovers in your building that put up a fight, please visit our cat predation section. Unlike all other cat predation information I've seen, ours examines the research - and provides information on the true killers of birds (man and our buildings and the other things we do to our environment).

There are staggering statistics on how effective TNR programs are. Those links are available in the TNR or non-lethal animal control section.

Also, you can adapt the low-cost spay/neuter presentation (available in PDF OR powerpoint) - but it makes a persuasive case for no-kill. The presentation is set-up to promote low-cost spay/neuter programs, but it would be very easy to adapt it to TNR. The main point, that trap and kill programs (especially in an area where other feral cats can move in if the existing ones are removed, called the "vaccum effect") don't work is clearly made, and you might just want to use that one or two pages.

Good luck, and please keep us posted!!!!!
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