The Escambia County Commission Passes Capture, Neuter and Release ordinance
(Disclaimer: The Author is neither a cat, dog, or bird person. He has no preference for one animal over the other. His wife Brandy is allergic to most animal dander and despite his children’s, Arizona and Charlotte, constant pleas and their occasional capture of lizards, caterpillars, tadpoles etc., that are promptly released back into the wild by the author, the Guillory family has no pets)
It is a classic of old Saturday morning cartoons. Sylvester and Tweety Bird, cats and birds are natural enemies. That is the assumption that most of us make. Recently our Board of County Commissioners passed an ordinance that pitted the supposed interest of cat lovers and bird lovers against each other. Capture neuter and release, also known as CNR, is a program designed to cut the population of feral cats. Currently there are quite a few large colonies of feral cats in Escambia County. The County shelter euthanizes over 6000 cats a year. The premise of CNR is that you capture the cat, bring it to a vet who neuters it, then you release back into the wild. Neutered cats do not reproduce; yet keeping them in the population reduces the number of new cats. Many people have been practicing CNR for a while. What the ordinance passed by the County Commission does is allow people to continue this practice and also make it easier to feed feral cats, without being responsible for the cats. Most of us were told as children not to feed strays, because if you did you became responsible for them. Now anyone can feed and fix Sylvester and not worry about claiming him as their own.
What about Tweety Bird. That is the other side of this argument, the side that lost with our BOCC. Bird lovers, including the Audubon society and PETA, fought against the ordinance. The anti CNR allies believe that stray cats are a danger to bird populations. This argument was countered by the pro CNR people (animal rescue groups, humane society members and the staff of the county animal shelter) with statistics that domestic animals, people and glass actually kill many more birds than feral cats. The anti CNR forces also made mention of diseases that could be spread by stray animals that could affect humans. That argument was deflected by research that showed very little correlation between stray cat populations and disease among humans. The rarity of a disease being transmitted from feral cat to human was so insignificant as to be nonexistent.
Cats and birds might be natural enemies, but cat people and bird people do not have to be. The goal for both groups is the same; reduce the feral cat population.
The bottom line is that CNR is just one step in reducing the feral cat population. The ordinance goes a long way into opening doors for charitable giving and funding sources that will help us take the next step. That step is promoting and funding sterilization. The only real way to reduce the feral cat population is to spay and neuter your pets.
Here is what the ordinance does. It allows animal advocates to capture, neuter and release cats and also allows them to feed feral cats, without being responsible for them. It also prohibits people from feeding or releasing cats in public areas at all and privately owned property without permission.
Is it the best thing the BOCC could of done; No. Is it a start; yes.