New Lawsuit Questions The Efficacy Of TNR Cat Programs

| by Phyllis M Daugherty
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Animal activist and Albuquerque resident Marcy Britton has asked a judge to order the city of Albuquerque to halt its support for programs that trap, neuter and release feral cats to various communities, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

 Mayor Richard Berry and Barbara Bruin, the city’s Director of Animal Welfare, are named as defendants in the lawsuit that alleges they have “failed to take proper actions to protect animals from ongoing cruelty,” reports KRQE News.

Britton states in her complaint that, “Albuquerque works with the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society on a TNR program in which feral cats are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated and returned to wherever they were found,” a practice which amounts to the abandonment of cats and violates city and state laws.

Britton is not alone in her objection.

On September 16, 2013, the State of New Mexico, Department of Game & Fish, sent a letter to Mayor Berry of Albuquerque encouraging the City and the Animal Welfare Department to “discontinue support” of the Trap-Neuter-Return policy which releases feral cats into the city’s streets.

The letter, signed by Cal Baca, Chief, Wildlife Management Division, states:

“In 2012, Best Friends Animal Society partnered with Albuquerque (City) Animal Welfare Department to begin a three-year Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, funded by a grant from PetSmart Charities. In addition, the City has worked with New Mexico Animal Friends to cover the cost of sterilizing street cats. The Department of Game and Fish (Department) encourages the City and the Animal Welfare Department to discontinue support of these programs."

This is second attempt Ms. Britton has made to try to stop what she considers a cruel program, but the Animal Welfare Department states it is reducing the impounds (incoming cats/kittens) to the shelters and therefore reducing the euthanasia rate.

Last year, Britton filed a petition to stop the TNR program and lost, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Last week she filed an appeal in District Court asking it to “prohibit Albuquerque’s government officials from violating animal cruelty laws.”


In a June 2, 2014, article by the Albuquerque Journal entitled, "One Giant Litterbox," Department of Animal Welfare programs analyst Jim Ludwick is quoted as saying, “There are likely hundreds of feral cat colonies in neighborhoods all over town, though numbers are difficult to estimate.

“Easier to track are the numbers of cats impounded yearly at the city’s two shelters, numbers that indicate TNR is working," Ludwick added. “In 2007, the year before the program was adopted, more than 12,300 cats were taken in; by 2013, just under 7,000 cats were taken in.”

Albuquerque residents interviewed by Rick Nathanson for "One Giant Litterbox" don’t agree that merely shifting the problem of stray cats back into the streets and onto people’s private property, rather than accepting them into the shelter, is an acceptable solution.

Mendy Mills, who lives in the Kirkland area, asked, “Exactly how does spaying or neutering these animals solve my immediate problem? These are not people’s pets. They are wild animals, they are unadoptable and they continue to destroy my property and my neighbors’ property.”

The summer of 2014 was the second summer in which she could not use her swamp cooler because of the smell of cat urine, Mills told the Journal.

 “Feral cats get up there and spray the cooler and all around the roof; then, when I turn the cooler on, the entire house smells like cat urine,” Mills said. "I pull that odor into every room in my home. Do you have any idea what that smells like?”

The reporter confirmed by climbing a ladder that piles of cat feces were mixed in with the gravel on the flat roof of Mills’ home.

“Nobody likes the idea of euthanizing these animals,” Mills told him, “but as a taxpayer I expect the city to step up and do whatever is necessary.”

Another resident told the Albuquerque Journal: “I’m not an animal hater, but these cats are destructive. If they’re going to trap the cats, they need to move them away permanently, and if that means euthanizing them, then that’s what they should do.”  

Veterinarian and Albuquerque Journal columnist Dr. Jeff Nichol states that the colonies are not going away, but the point of TNR is to stop the kind of growth experienced in the past. He explains that success is negatively impacted by the number of unaltered cats that are “dumped” into existing TNR colonies and continue to reproduce. 

He also admits that there are legitimate public health considerations in releasing cats, such as rabies and parasites, and ecological considerations, like damage to wild birds and vegetation.


Is TNR, which releases cats into the streets to fend for themselves, humane or is it animal cruelty?

Is TNR a callous abdication of the responsibility of local governments/animal control agencies to demand accountability by cat owners for spaying/neutering, microchipping and licensing their pets so that abandonment laws can be enforced for cats?

Does TNR imply that cat owners who abandon their pets are excused because leaving TNR’d cats in the streets is widely publicized as OK?

Does animal control have the authority to create programs to re-abandon former pets regardless of the impact on the health, safety and quality of life of humans and other animals in the community?

These questions persist and although there are no easy answers or solutions, hopefully the ongoing debate will lead to new resolutions.

Read more: L.A. Animal Services' TNR 'Cat Program' Threatens Public Health And Safety (Part 3)

 Sources: KRQE, ABQ Journal (2) / Photo Credit: WikiCommons