This was recently asked at the Best Friends Forum:
From: "Aimee St.Arnaud" <aimee@b...>
Date: Sun Apr 18, 2004 10:46 am
Subject: to test or not to test (and vaccinate)
Question from a member:?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
My group has been doing TNR for about four years, eartipping, but not vaccinating the feral cats. Through your forum I discovered that a lot of groups were vaccinating, so we are now vaccinating our feral cats. One of the vets we work with feels that without a booster in the appropriate time frame we are wasting our money, another vet we work with feels very strongly that we should be vaccinating. We also test our feral population for Feleuk and Fiv, which I've discovered through the forum is not a universal policy for TNR groups. Can you give me the latest information on vaccination and testing protocols, and why your group has chosen to vaccinate or not vaccinate, test or not test?
Chris Whyleâ€™s response:
Vaccination and testing policies vary from TNR program to TNR program, and from vet to vet. A Google search on feline vaccine protocols will provide a number of opinions on this subject. Regarding vaccinating feral cats, Dr. Julie Levy of Operation Catnip and Dr. Margaret Slater, who wrote the book Community Approaches to Feral Cats, both provide information on this topic.
Homeless Cat Management Team provides a rabies vaccination for each cat over three months of age. We do not provide rabies vaccination booster shots.
Our lead veterinarian believes that in order to provide significant protection, the initial FVRCP and FeLV vaccines must be followed by a booster shot. Since it is highly improbable that most of the cats we spay/neuter would allow themselves to be trapped on schedule for a second vaccination, we choose not to vaccinate for FVRCP or FeLV. Another consideration is expense. Our mission is to provide population control for feral cats and to eliminate the suffering that overpopulation causes. The time and expense to boost vaccinations would significantly reduce our ability to target our primary mission, even if it were possible to re-trap the cats in 3-4 weeks.
We do not test each cat for FeLV or FIV. Again, I refer to our primary missionâ€”to spay and neuter cats, and the importance of focusing our time and resources on this goal. We offer FeLV testing to colony caretakers as an option, and charge a small fee for that service. If a cat tests positive for FeLV, we euthanize the cat. If a cat is symptomatic of an FeLV infection, upon the request of a veterinarian we will test that cat and HCMT will cover the cost of testing. Again, if the cat is positive, we euthanize the cat.
Although we tested for FIV in the first few years of operation, we no longer do so. Our reasons for discontinuing the FIV testing mirror the reasons Alley Cat Allies discusses on their website (www.alleycat.org
) under Resources/Health.
Jan Ravenâ€™s response:
We don't vaccinate. I agree with the vet that says itâ€™s a waste of money for a several reasons, including the lack of a booster.
I have thought about the possibility that AzCATs would be willing to move to vaccinating for rabies in the future. My reason is that people get particularly nuts about rabies - even though there hasn't been a case of rabies in a cat or dog in Maricopa County for over 30 years. The vaccine is fairly inexpensive. I'd do it for public relations purposes to win more approval for TNR and that's the only reason.
When AzCATs began we tested for FeLV and FIV and euthanized a lot of cats for no good reason because of positive tests. Now we never test for either. There was a period of time when we tested cats presenting with significant illness. If they tested positive that would be the deciding factor on whether to euthanize. We don't bother now. We've gotten comfortable with making those decisions without falling back on a test to decide for us.
AzCATs had some problems with one of our veterinarians a while back. They were testing ferals at the request of the caregivers then euthanizing if positive. Sometimes they would do it after the cats were sterilized if the caregiver made the request when they came to pick up the cat. (Of course they'd charge us for the surgery, too.) I tried to reason with them on various fronts but they wouldn't budge. I wrote the following policy and let them know we'd be enforcing it - guess what, no more tests:
FeLV and FIV Testing
AzCATs does not authorize testing feral cats for FeLV or FIV.
See reverse for information supporting this policy.
Any caregivers using the services of AzCATs to sterilize feral cats shall not circumvent this policy through a separate agreement with the veterinarian AzCATs has scheduled their appointment with.
Caregivers electing to have cats tested for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) when they arrive at the veterinarianâ€™s office, have terminated the agreement between AzCATs and the caregiver effective immediately. Revocation of AzCATsâ€™ agreement with the caregivers is not contingent upon the results of any testing. Veterinarians working with AzCATs have been so advised.
AzCATsâ€™ mission is to help homeless, unowned feral cats. Caregivers electing to specify medical procedures for the cats are claiming ownership of the cats. At that point they no longer fit within our mission. Pricing and payment for any and all services, including the sterilization of the cats, shall be by agreement between the owner/caregiver and the veterinarian. AzCATs cannot use its scarce donation dollars to subsidize veterinary procedures for privately owned cats, particularly where, as here, the course of action elected is directly contrary to the policies of AzCATs.
Veterinarians assisting AzCATs have been advised that owner/caregivers requesting testing for cats scheduled for appointments through AzCATs are not eligible for assistance from AzCATs from that point forward. The owner/caregiver is then the client of that veterinarian and the veterinarian is free to charge at standard prices for all services rendered. Agreement as to the time and method of payment shall also be determined between the owner/caregiver and the veterinarian. AzCATs shall not be responsible for any of that owner/caregiverâ€™s expenses, including the cost of sterilization.
AzCATs shall return any donation to the caregiver less our standard trap rental fee. That rental fee is a minimum of $5 per trap with $1 per day additional charge for each trap held for more than 5 days. Authority to use AzCATsâ€™ traps is revoked immediately upon the decision to test. Caregivers shall return traps to AzCATs within 48 hours of termination of the agreement. AzCATs has requested that veterinarians schedule any subsequent appointments with sufficient lag time to allow for the immediate return of our traps.
AzCATs must control the terms and conditions of our TNR program. The cooperation of all participants in our program is appreciated.
Jan J. Raven