After hearing residents debate the pros and cons of trap-neuter-release for feral cats in Las Cruces, New Mexico, City Councilors voted 4-2 on Monday, to reject a proposed TNR (trap-neuter-release) measure within the city limits.
Officials had described the proposal as a "decriminalization" of feral cats, because, rather than creating city-sanctioned feral cat colonies and managers, the TNR provision proposed removing penalties for abandonment by people who released cats that had been spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies and ear-tipped, reported the Las Cruces Sun.
The city's broader ordinance proposal, which was being considered at the same time, would, conversely, prohibit anyone abandoning cats or feeding free-roaming cats that aren't microchipped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies and ear-tipped, said animal shelter Director Beth Vesco-Mock.
Cats entering the shelter that lacked the requirements still would have faced euthanasia, Vesco-Mock said. And a person would have to pay to reclaim the cat if it wound up in the animal shelter.
Several animal advocates reminded the Councilors that feral cats are already present in the city, and a trap-neuter-release provision would prevent as many of them from reproducing.
Some residents had argued that the TNR measure could help reduce high numbers of cats being euthanized at the city-county animal shelter, known as the Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley.
Critics worried about the impacts of cats on wildlife, mainly birds.
City Councilor Nathan Small stated that he empathizes with TNR proponents, because he owns a cat that had been feral. He said he and his wife caught it and, after two years, it has become tame. Still, he said he doesn't think allowing for feral cats is the right decision inside city limits, where there's a high density of development.
Counclor Small said he would back trapping, neutering and releasing cats into "catteries," contained spaces for 10 to 15 cats.
"Ultimately, I'm unable to support the full decriminalization approach," Small said.
Councilor Pedroza said she had "way too many problems" with the feral cat proposal to support it. She said she questioned whether enough people would follow through with all of the steps of properly maintaining the feral cats.
Councilor Gill Sorg, also an Audubon Society member, said he believes rather than a TNR program, the city should put more money and emphasis into educating people about spaying and neutering, and responsible pet ownership.
Councilor Levatino said she appreciated input from opponents and proponents of the feral cat measure, but she thought the council should have taken its cue from Animal Services Director Vesco-Mock, who is the city's main expert on the matter.
Some residents reminded the Council that the feral cat proposal also raises legal liability questions.
Source: LCSUN News
The Los Angeles County Health Department is warning residents about interacting with feral cats after a case of typhus was reported in Manhattan Beach.
The identity of the victim was withheld, and details about how the individual contracted the disease were not disclosed by the agency.
The Health Department advises that the best way residents can prevent the spread of the disease is to keep their pets isolated from feral cats and their fleas, a widely known carrier of Typhus.
Pets should be kept inside and current with their flea medication, officials say.
Animal owners should also spay or neuter their pets to prevent breeding with feral cats.
Madeline Bernstein, President of spcaLA, adds that homeowners should place screens over building access holes, secure external trash storage, and eliminate any outdoor food sources.
By 11:30 p.m. the Palos Verdes Patch posted, “ Typhus Reported in the South Bay ... Rancho Palos Verdes officials warn pet lovers to stay away from feral cats.”
MOUNT WASHINGTON RESIDENT SURVIVES MURINE TYPHUS
Following are some excerpts from a case of Endemic Murine Typhus in the Mount Washington area of Los Angeles in 2011, posted on the Highland Park Patch. The victim’s name is Paul Nawrocki. Paul said he never heard of Murine Typhus until he nearly died from it.
One Sunday at the end of March 2011, Paul thought he’d come down with the flu. “By Wednesday, I was really sick,” said Paul, who remembers that he couldn’t keep anything down, even water. “I knew something was seriously wrong so I went to the doctor [on Thursday].” Paul’s wife Jill remembers that in addition to fever, chills and other flu-like symptoms, Paul “couldn’t lay down flat because he couldn’t breathe.”
“By Friday night, says Jill, “Paul’s fever had spiked to 105 degrees, his blood pressure had dropped alarmingly, and his blood oxygen levels were so low he was danger of hypoxia, which can cause hallucinations, seizures, comas and even death. His liver had shut down, his stomach had shut down, and he had internal bleeding.” Less dramatically, Paul had also developed a rash on his chest. And it was the rash that finally gave Dr. Pocock the clue to the disease. Paul had Endemic Murine Typhus.
What Is Murine Typhus?
According to the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, Endemic Murine Typhus is an infectious disease caused by bacteria (either Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia felis) that is transmitted by the bites of infected fleas. Joe Ramirez, a Health Specialist with the Vector Borne Disease Surveillance Unit, said that any animal can carry infected fleas but the highest percentage is found on infected rats, opossums and feral cats.
Feline-loving Paul had started feeding a pair of wild cats that had appeared in his back yard, reported the Patch.
A California Public Records Act request on file with the City regarding Brenda Barnette’s proposed “Cat Program” has caused the head of a local feral cat feeders (TNR) group to question why someone would exercise the right to review pertinent government documents. Mark Legassie of L.A. Feeders also issued a warning against “trying to raise trouble and stop this new program.”
A very surprising e-mail on 11/6/2013 from Mark Legassie, the Founder & Chairman of L.A. Feeders, Inc., questioned my reason for utilizing the California Public Information Act to obtain information regarding the proposed Los Angeles “Cat Program,” which I discussed in a recent three-part series on Opposing Views. (www.opposingviews.com)
Here is what Mr. Legassie wrote. I will let readers decide whether they believe this is intended to be threatening or merely a simple inquiry. I am protecting Mr. Legassie’s e-mail address, although it is easily verifiable on the Internet. I have also removed the physical mailing address used on my formal inquiries to public officials, which he chose to place in the email, and the addition of which may have made him believe I would be intimidated:From: [email protected] To: [email protected] Sent: 11/6/2013 5:04:58 P.M. Pacific Standard Time Subj: Council File 12-1508 To: P. Daugherty, xxx x xxxxxx xxxx x , LA 900xx I've seen your request for public records re: the CEQA study for the proposed cat program. Why are you requesting them? If you are trying to raise trouble and stop this new program, you'll be in for a big fight from many animal welfare organizations, including mine. I promise that we'll dig relentlessly and fight tirelessly to discredit your out-of-date views and opinions. We won't stop until your short-lived influence will no longer be a threat to the welfare of animals in this city. You can either make friends with the animal welfare organizations in this City, or start a fight with us. If you chose the latter, you will lose. Take your pick -- we hope it's the former.
Founder & Chairman
LA Feeders, Inc.
The request for documents to which he refers were regarding former Mayoral Aide Jim Bickhart and GM Brenda Barnette and the manipulative handling of money for a CEQA report donated by four major donors—Best Friends, Found Animals, ASPCA and a local donor (who also provides spay/neuter services but wished to remain anonymous.)
The $52,000 for the CEQA review was donated by organizations that could realize benefit from a positive report allowing unlimited Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) of feral cats throughout L.A. And the money was placed, without a City Attorney’s written opinion, in the codified Animal Welfare Trust Fund, which strictly prohibits the use of that account for new programs and/or animal/pet sterilization.
The “Cat Program” also proposes to divert millions of dollars from the City Council-established Pet Sterilization Trust Fund restricted for only owned pets (mainly in low-income families) to allow this taxpayer money to be used to spay/neuter feral cats.
TRAP/NEUTER/RELEASE (TNR) IS ALIVE AND WELL IN L.A. WITHOUT GOVERNMENT FUNDING
As indicated below by Mr. Legassie, Trap/Neuter/Release programs are rampant throughout Los Angeles without City funding and seem to prosper well from direct private donations. According to www.LAFeeders.org, L.A. Feeders is a 50l(c)3 organization. On the website, it claims:
“As one of the largest community cat feeding organizations in the world, LA Feeders has a simple goal -- to ensure every neighborhood (stray) cat in Southern California is fed…As of Nov 2011 we have 350 members feeding over 8000 community cats in the Southern California area.”
In a January 31, 2011 post, Mr. Legassie writes that Brenda Barnette was a special guest speaker at a recent LA Feeders' membership meeting.
MR. LEGASSIE IS A FORMER NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL OFFICER
It seems strange that Mr. Legassie would object to public inquiry when, as the former Treasurer of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, he defended himself and wrote about the importance of transparency in government and accounting. In a post on the Highland Park Patch on 12/20/11, entitled, “Letter to the Editor: ASNC Audit Charges are 'Trumped Up;'” Mr. Legassie writes:
“Here are important details to help understand the series of events for the most recent round of items brought up by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) via Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council (ASNC) President Martha Benedict and Treasurer Judy Knapton...I handled more than $100,000 in public funds, giving more "say so" to the actual ASNC stakeholders than ever before and pretty much flawlessly accounting for it until the last few weeks…“ http://highlandpark-ca.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/letter-to-the-editor-asnc-audit-charges-are-trumped-up
Mr. Legassie later addressed concerns raised by his posting the following invitation for feeders to vote the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council election:
Message 1 of 1, Oct 7, 2012
To: All LA Feeders members
I need your help this Saturday, 10/13 to protect homeless pets and animal welfare funding in the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council (ASNC). Have your say in Los Angeles government -- homeless pets need your vote this weekend more than ever before. PLEASE RSVP BY EMAILING DEPOT@... IF YOU CAN MAKE IT TO A POLLING PLACE NEAR MY HOME IN HERMON BETWEEN 10AM-2PM THIS SAT 10/13. Don't worry-- as LA Feeders members you are eligible to vote, and we'll tell you the names ahead of time and exactly how to vote (step-by-step) and where to go.
BONUS: Help LA Feeders this Saturday by voting in our Neighborhood Council elections and you'll automatically be put on the RSVP list for the next food depot on Sat, Oct 13th at 2pm, right after the elections close, and be guaranteed at least 45 pounds of Meow Mix cat kibble (for a $15 suggested donation) and possibly up to 80 lbs. No need to bring bags since it's pre-bagged this time by the company! Don't think your eligible? If you filled out the LA Feeders questionnaire available online and sent it in, then you're eligible.
He, again, responded in the Highland Park Patch:
Founder of local non-profit organization accused of bribing constituents for votes
Posted by Mark Legassie, October 14, 2012 at 11:03 PM
“Yesterday my 501(c)3 public charity organization LA Feeders (formerly FAST- Friendly Arroyo Seco Trappers), held it's regular weekly food depot at Ramona Hall. The pet food is distributed at our cost (usually 25 cents on a dollar) to the poor and others that are caring for stray cats, dogs and even guinea pigs… “Last night a friend contacted me and said she heard an accusation at the Ramona polling booth that I was giving out pet food in exchange for votes!..I'd like to state for the record, we were *not* exchanging food for votes.” http://highlandpark-ca.patch.com/groups/mark-legassies-blog/p/bp--pet-food-for-votes
WHY WOULD MR. LEGASSIE OBJECT TO PUBLIC INFORMATION INQUIRIES?
Why would a former Neighborhood Council official and charity director take issue with someone making an inquiry regarding a funding aspect of a governmental program that proposes to divert City taxpayer/donor pet sterilization money to stray/feral cats and may create the possibility that non-profit entities paying for a CEQA report could potentially benefit?
LOS ANGELES HAS ALREADY BEEN “BULLIED”
Los Angeles Animal Service employees, City officials and many animal activists have endured a long string of bullies, the latest of which was the siege of terrorism by the ADL-LA (Animal Defense League—LA), which included threats, vandalism and harassment and ended with City officials being threatened if they did not confirm the Mayor hiring Brenda Barnette as L.A. Animal Services General Manager.
From his experience as a Neighborhood Council officer, Mr. Legassie should be aware that the City Council must not be influenced by threats and must base its decisions only on what is best for Los Angeles. And, activists—including myself—must not be deterred from making inquiries and expressing opinions.
Let’s hope Mr. Legassie’s e-mail is just poorly stated and easily misunderstood and that his motive in writing was merely to inform me his support of TNR and not really to be a Bully for Brenda Barnette's Cat Program.
The City of Los Angeles is on the verge of making a major, intrusive decision regarding the lives of all residents and property owners as the City Council votes on how thousands of stray/feral cats will be “managed” within the city limits. The public and Council should not be deceived that this is just about cats. The proposed “Cat Program” will affect every animal, child and adult in the city. It will affect those who own/rent property, maintain a business location, and especially those who suffers from allergies, asthma, or anyone with an immunosuppressive disorder; such as, AIDS.
This Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program should be of imminent concern to any woman who is—or intends to become—pregnant. It will affect schools and employees in any building on public land where feral cat colonies may be established. It will impact landlords who have tenants with health conditions affected by cats, and it will affect other animals exposed to highly concentrated numbers of fleas and other external and internal parasites transmissible through contact with cats or cat feces, or which can become airborne.
While Trap-Neuter-“Return” was formerly used for feeding existing cats, ONLY with the permission of the landowner or administrator at the location, under the Los Angeles Animal Services’ proposed plan, the program is Trap-Neuter-“Release” (meaning new cats can be brought to any area) and it will become an entitlement to establish a feeding station for stray/feral cats on any street, sidewalk, alley or public easement in any community (with the exception of small “environmentally sensitive areas.”) In addressing the issues of “community cats”, the health and safety of humans has been ignored.
Be aware that the proposed “Cat Program” eliminates the rights of property owners to remove the cats or interfere with the encroachment of the cats on private property. It grants a legal status with special privileges to volunteer cat feeders (called “cat colony operators”) to maintain and feed feral cats at your property line and exempts them from responsibility for the roaming of the cats and any nuisance/destructive acts by the cats.
The proposed Trap/Neuter/Release Program planned for Los Angeles will not solve the problem of stray cats because it lacks elements of addressing the lack of responsibility by cat owners who fail to keep pet cats indoors and who abandon them and, instead, makes feral cats an immeasurable, expensive burden on Los Angeles taxpayers.
VOICE YOUR OPINION
It is not too late for you to voice your opinion and have an impact on whether Los Angeles should become a stray/feral cat sanctuary city. If you live in Los Angeles, immediately contact your Council office and Mayor Eric Garcetti at www.lacity.org. If you have a business or plan to open a business in Los Angeles, this may be your only opportunity to address this issue before your find feral cats impacting your clients/customers, with no legal options.
The Bureau of Engineering states that November 4 is the last date to comment to their feral-cat expert, [email protected] However, it is unlikely that facts or public opinion will get much consideration there. The Bureau of Engineering has received a $52,000 payment from special-interest groups through a City fund. The”Cat Program” written by Brenda Barnette and Jim Bickhart of former-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office was submitted as a “guideline” for the development a Mitigated Negative Decision allowing the release of thousands of stray/feral cats, and denying property owners the right to have them removed or to stop them from encroaching on yards, porches, business locations was part of that Program.
WHAT OTHERS IN TNR-PROGRAM AREAS ARE SAYING:
TORONTO - “Harding Boulevard…just hasn’t been the same since the ‘neighbors from hell’ moved in, residents say.,The feline group dwelling on Harding Blvd. is one of over 300 registered Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) cat colonies in the city, some of which exist on residential streets.
“The devastation and damage they’ve caused is incredible,” says long-time Harding Blvd. resident Jane Flanders. “I have to clean out half a recycling bag full of feces from my front lawn all the time. … They’re killing all the songbirds in my backyard.”
“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.
“The Edmonds City Council has voted 6-1 to add cats in the "Running-at-large” ordinance already on the books. The law is aimed at preventing animals from freely roaming in the city, according to King5 News. (Sept. 05, 2013)
“This decision to include felines followed testimony from numerous residents in regard to the nuisance and dangers posed by outdoor cats--ranging from the diseases they can carry and transmit, to the birds and other wildlife they kill, and the fur, fleas and other parasites they leave after lounging uninvited on outdoor furniture in neighbors’ yards.
“Dr. Rick Gerhold at the Center for Wildlife Health at the University of Tennessee, states in a 2011 article entitled, Cats as Carriers of Disease, that toxoplasmosis has been associated with increased risk of schizophrenia, autism disorders, other neuro-inflammatory diseases and can occasionally cause eye damage.
“The parasite thrives and reproduces in the intestines of cats and can cause neurological impairment that lead to abortions and birth defects in humans and is a major cause of systemic infection and death for immune-suppressed patients,” he writes.”
LOS ANGELES ‘CAT PROGRAM’ IS NOT ABOUT LOVING OR HATING CATS
This is not an issue of whether you love or hate cats. Nothing is more tragic than seeing homeless cats huddled under greasy cars and trying to dash across busy streets. However, Brenda Barnette’s plan will not address those issues. The cats will still be outside with no human protection, and the proposed “Cat Program” will further alienate them in the community by legalizing their intrusion into private property, where they can create an imminent to children, adults and pets.
The rights of the cats and the “colony operator” to feed will become a statute and will defy universal warnings against feeding pets outside because it attracts wildlife (raccoons, coyotes, skunks, etc.,) which will further endanger the cats themselves (and humans and pets.) There is also no remedy in this program for the numerous rodents and insects that are attracted to outdoor food and water sources. Although the promoters of TNR would like to have us believe that everything is picked up neatly to the feeder after the cats have eaten, in fact in many areas, bags of dry food are merely dumped on the ground because not all feral cats eat at the same time.
The L.A. “Cat Program,” will have a devastating effect on residential/commercial property rights all over the city. It includes what are called by the Bureau of Engineering “minor changes” to the Los Angeles Municipal Code which will affect value of property in the city by increasing the number of (sterilized or unsterilized) owned cats allowed per property; and exempts stray/feral cats from any limitation on numbers or location (other than a few “environmentally sensitive habitats.”)
Two prior Opposing Views articles (links below) have discussed the impact on private property rights and the political and financial maneuvers that transpired via Jim Bickhart and Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette to produce the proposed “Cat Program” and assure it received a Negative Mitigated Declaration under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review.
The four non-profit groups that donated the $52,000 for this review/decision are all involved in providing spay/neuter services in their own facilities and will benefit from the multi-millions of dollars that is available through grants and donations and augmented by City funds diverted from the Pet Sterilization Trust Fund for owned animals to feral cats through passage of this Program.
WILL TRAP/NEUTER/RELEASE REDUCE L.A.’s FERAL CAT POPULATION?
Estimates of how many stray/feral cats exist in Los Angeles (or any large city) is purely speculative. The Feral Cat Caretakers’ Coalition website states that, “The Department of Animal Services estimates there are 3 million feral cats and kittens in the Los Angeles area alone.”There is no indication of how this was computed or that the feral cat population in Los Angeles is growing or that there is any crisis that requires the City to give away millions of dollars to subsidize the proposed program.
In fact, the “Cat Program”is counterproductive in that it proposes reducing the money allotted to sterilizing OWNED cats (and thus reduce the real source of the problem) BEFORE they are allowed outside by owners.
The only formula that has been offered in regard to whether TNR can be effective is the theory applied to disease control which states that 70% of a species population must be vaccinated against any specific disease before it is an effective deterrent. Thus, it is has been speculated that 70% of a stationary cat population (in smaller towns where there is little migration) could result in a status quo—in other words, attrition would be approximately the same as the number of kittens produced by the remaining 30% of unaltered cats. This is not applicable to large cities with transient animal/human demographics.
BUREAU OF ENGINEERING DIVERTS DOG-LICENSE/PET STERILIZATION FUNDS
Oddly, the Bureau of Engineering approved, in its CEQA decision, a change in the Animal (Pet) Sterilization Trust Fund which would allow dog-license money to be diverted from its city-designated use of providing spay/neuters for ONLY owned pets (mainly low-income residents) to allow payment for sterilization of (unlimited numbers of) feral cats.
It would have seemed they should have omitted any comment on this issue. Under what authority can the Public Works Department change how State and City designated animal-related funds can legally be spent?
HOW WAS THE GENERAL PUBLIC NOTIFIED OF THE ‘CAT PROGRAM’?
Copies of the “Notice of Intent to Adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration” by the Bureau of Engineering (a de facto defendant in the lawsuit by the Urban Wildlands Group which caused this “cat study” to be performed) were mailed to a limited number of interested parties by the Bureau of Engineering, according to a notice on October 3, 2013. This complex document appears to be available in English only, which means many L.A. residents may not properly understand it or the consequences, even if they find out about it and try to locate it.
It stated that “circulation” of the Initial Study for a 30-day Public Review Period from October 3 to November 4, 2013, “…is intended to give interested parties an opportunity to comment on the proposed project.” Most city residents have little interest in a “cat program’ and won’t know they will be affected.
Since we had not seen any public/media notice about a “Cat Program” that would allow feral cat colonies to be set up all over the city under TNR, we decided to see how the average city resident could obtain this “Notice.” First, we went to the City website, www.lacity.org. From there, we searched separately for “cats,” “TNR,” “Cat Program,” “feral cats,” and “CEQA”—all ended up being redirected to unrelated linksor showed “no results.” Then we reviewed the “Notice” and realized that you needed to enter http://eng.lacity.org/techdocs/emg/citywide_cat.htm Why didn’t we think of that?!!!
(Unfortunately, an attempt to view the site on November 3 discovered that “the address can’t be found…”)
WHY DIDN’T THE PUBLIC KNOW ABOUT THIS PROPOSAL?
The proposed ‘Cat Program’ was devised by LAAS GM Brenda Barnette and former aide to Mayor Villaraigosa Jim Bickhart (not an attorney.) It was brought to the Animal Services Commission as a completed document and Commissioners were asked (and lobbied by Bickhart at the meeting) to approve funding by special-interest donations. There was NO public hearing at any time before that to discuss the elements of the program.
Only Commissioner Kathleen Riordan opposed the use of the codified donation trust fund in this manner without a formal City Attorney opinion. She also wrote that she was concerned about some of the LA Municipal Code changes to land use in the “Cat Program” that were not set for public hearing. Commissioner Riordan questioned the lack of public input under the Brown Act open-meetings law.
A California Public Records Act response reveals that Bickhart provided her with legal advice regarding public input on the program and stated that she would not get a City Attorney’s opinion. He also told her that no item in the proposed Cat Program could be voted on by the Commission prior to a CEQA review, in an e-mail from his personal e-mail account, dated August 13, 2013, the night before the Commission meeting.
IS THE PROPOSED ‘CAT PROGRAM’ GOOD FOR CATS?
Anyone who has trapped a feral cat knows that re-trapping the same cat is almost impossible. That means that a cat who becomes injured but is still mobile or one who becomes ill in a colony is almost impossible to isolate for care.
Although they are supposedly vaccinated before they are released into the colony, by being outdoors they are subject to constant exposure to diseases. And, under a T-N-Release program, new cats with unknown health histories can be introduced from shelters or other areas inside/outside the city and infect the colony.
Sadly, it is not unusual for feral cat colonies to be abandoned by a “feeder” for various personal, financial or health reasons. This results in a large group of unfed, desperate, covetous cats who had become dependent now competing for the small amount of available food from other sources in an area, including garbage bins, outside pet food, and small prey (birds and rodents.)
Many wildlife experts criticize making any feral or wild animal dependent upon a human and causing it to lose its fear of natural predators (including humans) thus suppressing its natural survival instincts and hunting/foraging skills by providing an artificial food supply.
‘CAT PROGRAM’ WILL NEGATIVELY AFFECT LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES
The Bureau of Engineering is insuring us that this proposed program will have a “less than significant potential impact.” On WHOM? The impact on the city will be greatly significant and greatest in low-income areas where residents can least afford to have their communities’ health/safety and privacy rights endangered and where they have the least time and money to address the resultant problems!
BRIEF BACKGROUND ON TNR AND REQUIRED CEQA REVIEW
The Urban Wildlands Group, includingthe Los Angeles Audubon Society and several additional bird conservancy groups, won a law suit in late 2009 against the City of Los Angeles. The judge found that the City had been illegally implementing a TNR program using City funds for the spay/neuter of feral/stray cats in violation of the provisions of the Animal (Pet) Sterilization Trust Fund, which restricted these funds/vouchers to owned cats and dogs. A permanent injunction was entered in early 2010. The injunction remains in place unless and until the City reviews its TNR program under CEQA
However, the injunction does not affect individuals or groups who wish to Trap/Neuter/Return feral cats using donated or private funds to accomplish this. This is also true if this Cat Program is not approved. TNR has proceeded in the City, but it is being done by private donations and funding. The feeders, however, are subject to trespassing, litter, and nuisance laws, and the City's ban on feeding non-domesticated mammalian predators (e.g., skunks, raccoons, and coyotes).
IS IT REALLY TRAP-NEUTER-“ABANDON”? – CA PENAL CODE VIOLATION
Feral cats are not “wild” animals. They are former pets, or the offspring of domesticated pets which have been abandoned/dumped outside by owners or have been born to a cat that is left outside without human protection/socialization.
The proposed program includes the “release” of feral cats and indicates it is a life-saving option for thousands of feral cats impounded in the City’s animal shelters. California Penal Code prohibits willful abandonment of any animal; and “Releasing” into the streets any domesticated animal over which a human has had control is “abandonment.”
CA Penal Code 597s.
(a) Every person who willfully abandons any animal is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) This section shall not apply to the release or rehabilitation and release of native
California wildlife pursuant to statute or regulations of the California Department of Fish and Game.
FERAL CAT FEEDERS (STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT)
While large feral cat/TNR organizations conduct major fundraisers and solicit funds, the feral cat feeder (for the most part) is on her/his own and provides for the cats from personal funds, other than for the spay/neuter and vaccinations when the cat is first trapped.
You may have a hard time even identifying who is doing the feeding, because cat-colony operators do not have to be identified to attain an official status. They are not listed, monitored, licensed, permitted, or sworn by the City. They do not even have to live in your neighborhood. They are nameless individuals who deny ownership of unlimited number of cats they either spay/neuter and return to a location or bring from other areas.
The “feeders” are well meaning and dedicated; however, the October incident in which a 19-year Los Angeles Fire Department engineer and his mother became engaged in a physical confrontation with a stray-cat feeder in midcity L.A. demonstrates how emotional this issue can become. Los Angeles Fireman and His Mother Charged with Beating Woman Feeding Feral Cats
Here are a few liability matters that were conveniently overlooked in the “Cat Program.” Feral cat feeders (“cat colony operators”) do not claim ownership of cats, so who does the property owner notify if there is a serious incident involving any/all of the cats adjacent or encroaching on his/her property?
How will barking-dog issues be handled? This is already a problem, which will be exacerbated by increased stray/feral cats walking on block walls, fighting, yowling and roaming through yards. Do the dog owners then have to remove their dogs?
Feral cat feeders (“cat colony operators”) do not have a legal status under city law but are being given special privileges and entitlements to use of public property that others do not have (for instance, you cannot even feed pigeons in a large area of Los Angeles – LAMC 53.43, because of the health hazard their excrement creates.). Who is liable if the feeding of stray cats results in an injury caused by negligence or by the cats that have been placed at that location. Does the City pay the claim or will the homeowner be sued since it is on his/her sidewalk?
SHOW US THE MITIGATION
The Los Angeles City Bureau of Land Management’s Mitigated Negative Declaration does not tell us how the dangers to wildlife all over the city will be “mitigated.” It merely restricts cats from being fed near a few environmentally sensitive habitat areas and removes all limitations on stray/feral cats being fed anywhere else.
The “mitigation” establishes entitlements and diverts funds designated for owned pets to be used for stray/feral cats; it increases the number of altered or unaltered cats per property and does not require microchipping; and it removes all limits from the number of unowned (feral) cats that can be on any city property.
The so-called “mitigation” proposed in the report by the Bureau of Engineering is merely to allow TNR in ALL areas of the city, except those few locations designated as environmentally sensitive. The sole mitigation there is to not allow feeding within one mile. Feeding is allowed by The Los Angeles River (including in the downtown Los Angeles area) and the Pacoima Wash, both areas where the cats will be in tremendous danger from predators.
But we are not to worry, if someone feeds cat closer than a mile from the habitats, the Department of Animal Services with less than 60 full-time officers responding to hundreds of calls a day for extremely demanding, dangerous, and often life-threatening situations will also become feral-cat-colony cops?
WHAT SHOULD CITY DO WITH THE PROPOSED “CAT PROGRAM”?
The proposed ‘Cat Program’ raises alarming problems for property owners and all residents/businesses in the City of Los Angeles. It needs to be rejected in its present form by the City Council. At a minimum, public hearings at all Neighborhood Councils need to be held, advising stakeholders of the full implications of this proposal. Public meetings should also be scheduled in non-governmental venues and with interpreters available.
Any ‘Cat Program’ must be sent to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee and Planning Department for thorough consideration and evaluation before the Council votes.
An embarrassing thing happened to L.A. Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette just as she was rehired by Mayor Eric Garcetti to reduce the city’s pet overpopulation for a hefty $208,000 per year, and right after she was prominent in Councilman Paul Koretz’ campaign to ban purebred puppy sales in pet shops.
A Los Angeles animal activist noticed that Brenda Barnette and her daughter Mary Alice Davis (who works for Best Friends Animal Society at the Northeast Valley city shelter) were listed on the Breed Show roster for Portuguese Water Dogs on May 23, 2013, at the Southern California Portuguese Water Dog Club, under the following listing:
PORTUGUESE WATER DOGS, Puppy Bitches, 9 months and under 12 months
(8) CUTWATER IT HAD TO BE YOU, WS43376901. 05/29/2012. Breeder: Frances
Archambault & Jane Harding. By Ch. Cutwater Wine And Dine Me – Ch. Cutwater The Best is Yet to Come. Owner: Mary Alice Davis/Brenda Barnette.
Daniel Guss, a Los Angeles writer and animal advocate, said he unexpectedly came across this very interesting dog show roster dated May 23, 2013. In order to save the LAAS Commission, City Council and Mayor from being deceived by Barnette, Guss announced the posted information at the Council meeting on Oct. 4 and the Commission meeting on Oct. 8, and produced links.
Not being familiar myself with dog shows and breeding, it is not obvious to me exactly what the activity implies in terms of whether this dog is being bred, is spayed, or is being shown with the intention of future breeding. However, the same dog with the same listing is also shown in the Catalog of the Channel City Kennel Club.
Daniel Guss pointed out that, when she was confirmed as General Manager with the support of Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Paul Koretz, Barnette was quoted as follows by the Los Angeles Times on July 14, 2010:
Barnette told council members that she had once bred a litter and had not shown dogs for several years ... “I’m not breeding. I’m not planning on breeding,” she said. “My dogs are spayed — except one who's neutered.”
We all know old habits are hard to break, but this new development, along with the major string of widely publicized faux pas in mismanaging the Department of Animal Services for the past three years, doesn’t really establish an atmosphere of confidence in Brenda Barnette.
Barnette is now asking the council and mayor to allow her to divert millions of dollars from the City’s Pet Sterilization Trust Fund for dogs and cats belonging to L.A.’s low-income residents so that she can funnel it into spaying/neutering feral cats for which accurate auditing is problematic. This would be accomplished by changing the wording in the L.A. Administrative Code from “pet sterilization” to “animal sterilization.”
Should city officials or any of us buy into a “Cat Program” that will usurp the property rights of Los Angeles residents/businesses, endanger cats and wildlife, and divert unending millions of tax and dog-licensing dollars to nonprofit organizations to perform spaying/neutering of stray cats, based upon Brenda Barnette’s demonstrated record of lack of transparency and management skills?
IS THE CITY AVOIDING THE APPEARANCE OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
In Part 1, we discussed, among other issues, the further erosion of private property rights in the City of Los Angeles by enactment of a proposed feral cat Trap-Neuter-Release “Cat Program” (TNR) developed by Brenda Barnette and Antonio Villaraigosa’s Mayoral Aide Jim Bickhart.
Since then, there is a new reason for concern. City Councilman Paul Koretz, Chair of the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee (responsible for objective review of the City’s Engineering Department’s “Cat Program” study) and Mayor Eric Garcetti (who will be the final signatory on the proposed code amendments if this program passes) have been announced as the guests of honor at a fundraiser for one of the leading Los Angeles TNR proponents and beneficiaries, Stray Cat Alliance, within days of the “Cat Program” coming before them for approval.
City officials so far have exhibited an alarming lack of understanding or concern about the daily (and nightly) impact of feral cat “colonies,” consisting of dozens or hundreds of cats in a single area adjacent to residential/commercial properties all over Los Angeles. Lest we forget, any known recurring nuisance, health or sanitation situation must also be reported to prospective buyers upon attempting to sell property.
There is absolutely no consideration in this Mitigated Negative Declaration by cat experts in the Bureau of Engineering about the serious health risks posed to anyone who is allergic to cats or fleas/parasites, those who suffer from immunodeficiency disorders, or women who are pregnant.
This “program” defies the city’s own policy about wildlife protection by allowing absolute legal immunity to “feeders” to dump cat food in outside areas to attract other wildlife, birds and predators (including coyotes) to the location. It also places the cats in jeopardy of being injured or poisoned by people who dislike or fear them, and leaves property owners/renters with no legal alternative to remove them from their property and prohibit feeding in their community.
SHOULD LOS ANGELES GO INTO THE ‘FERAL CAT BUSINESS’?
There is no need for the City of Los Angeles to go into the “feral cat business” as promoted by L.A. Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette. According to L.A. Animal Services’ own reports, there has been no sudden crisis — no explosion in the number of feral cats coming into city shelters or reported by the public.
There are a few more reasons why the sudden push to divert and spend City Trust Funds on stray cats is suspicious. Firstly, the status quo does not interfere with TNR. There is no current prohibition on feral cat trap-neuter-return/release by private individuals, as long as it does not create a nuisance on private property or a danger to the community. There is no restriction on how much donated money a nonprofit can collect and expend on spay/neuter of feral cats in Los Angeles. (Plus, millions of dollars in grants are offered to nonprofits from such businesses as PetSmart for TNR programs.)
The only restriction that currently exists is that the City of Los Angeles cannot be in the feral cat “business.” In other words, the City cannot use tax money or money donated for shelter or owned animals in the Animal Sterilization Trust Fund to pay for surgeries on feral/stray cats by nonprofit or private partners (which would quickly exhaust available funding for low-income residents’ owned pets).
Diverting and depleting this fund would only add to the problem. The more logical solution to the feral cat problem is to increase the number of owned cats that are spayed/neutered and therefore more likely to be kept indoors (especially in lower-economic areas). An unaltered cat can exhibit very obnoxious indoor behavior. For that reason, they are likely to be put outside and be abandoned and become feral.
Animal Sterilization Trust Fund
The City’s Animal Sterilization Trust Fund (reported balance $2,852, 668.81 on Aug. 31, 2013) is and has always been prudently restricted by the L.A. Administrative Code to provide spay/neuter assistance/vouchers for owned pets. Funds are allocated by City Council from taxes, donations from the public, and a percentage of dog licensing fees.
Animal Welfare Trust Fund (AWTF)
The Animal Welfare Trust Fund (reported balance of $1,555,394.34 on Aug. 31, 2013) is prohibited from being used for any aspect of spay/neuter and can only be applied to existing Department of Animal Services programs. It cannot by law be “gambled” on unproven plans — no matter how well intentioned. These restrictions were established by the City Council to maintain the sanctity that assures donors their money is safe from corrupted interests.
The funding for the CEQA report for the Los Angeles “Cat Program” by Barnette has already violated both of these provisions of the Animal Welfare Trust Fund by creating a “special” account within it to funnel $52,000 in targeted money to pay for a California Environmental Review Act analysis by the city’s Bureau of Engineering (new program) and by spending it on a program designed for spay/neuter (feral cats).
No City Attorney’s opinion was issued stating approval of this misuse of the fund or developing separate accounts within it for expenditures not otherwise allowed.
WHY DIDN’T THE PRIVATE DONORS JUST ORDER A CEQA REPORT?
Barnette and Villaraigosa Deputy Jim Bickhart established a special account in the fund to “park” money donated by four nonprofit organizations to pay for the CEQA report by the City’s Bureau of Engineering. Primarily the money came from two major groups, Best Friends and Found Animals, both of which operate spay/neuter clinics that would stand to derive benefit from changing these funds to allow spay/neuter of feral cats.
Best Friends and Found Animals each contributed $17,500 toward the total $52,000 charge by the BOE. Another organization or individual donated $8,5000 to spay/neuter services but kept their identity private by channeling it through the California Community Foundation. The balance was reportedly donated by the ASPCA, which has just announced its ASPCA Spay/Neuter Clinic will be opening in Los Angeles.
There was at least one special reason why funding for the CEQA report needed to come through a City account. (Remember, the City Attorney never issued an opinion on this.)
If the $52,000 was paid directly by the nonprofit organizations for a Bureau of Engineering CEQA report, it would have been required to be put up for bid to allow outside qualified companies to compete with for the opportunity to offer their services.
However, the outcome of the study by private professionals would have been uncertain. Mayoral Deputy Jim Bickhart stated in an e-mail obtained through a public information request:
The Commission should authorize an expenditure from the Animal Welfare Trust Fund to purchase services to create environmental documentation in support of a contemplated Department of Animal Services program.
Thus it appears Bickhart was quite confident of the outcome of the “environmental document” because it was being done within a city agency.
It would seem the BOE was also a de facto defendant in the lawsuit which created the injunction against TNR, by virtue of being a Los Angeles City department. If that is true, there certainly was added benefit for the City being able to mitigate its own environmental impact.
JIM BICKHART ADVISES ON HOW TO AVOID CPRA (California Public Records Act) REQUESTS
The following may explain my inability to obtain responses from Los Angeles Animal Services through California Public Records Act requests regarding agreements/arranging the financing of the CEQA report: Mayoral Aide Jim Bickhart recommended that Commissoners and Brenda Barnette use their personal email accounts to avoid having to disclose information to the public.
Subj: some notes on use of correspondence in the public sector
During my tenure in the Mayor’s office I’ve been subjected to no fewer than a half dozen Public Records Act requests for my City e-mails and other documents. I can attest that it’s a royal pain to be forced to comb through hundreds of e-mails at the behest of someone who's on a “fishing expedition” for one reason or another…A key rule we in the Mayor’s office are told early on is, “Don’t put anything in an e-mail you wouldn’t want to see in the newspaper later on.” It’s good advice that I should have told you a long time ago…
So I would suggest that you take this precaution: If you don’t want what you say to be subject to possible public disclosure, don’t put something in writing to a public official’s work e-mail account.
NO CITY ATTORNEY’S OPINION ON FUNDING
In response to a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request “for information of a formal or informal opinion re use of $52,000 from the Animal Welfare Trust Fund for a Cat Program,” an Oct. 17, 2012, response from then-City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich, signed by Assistant City Attorney Dov Lesel (assigned to oversee L.A. Animal Services), states: “…we are only aware of an attorney work product document that would meet the requested criteria, and it is exempt from disclosure under Government Code 6254(k).”
In other words, no opinion was issued.
A response on Dec. 4, 2012 from Ross Pool of L.A. Animal Services to a CPRA request for a copy of a City Attorney’s opinion, dated Oct. 4, 2012, states: “I have checked with management and they don’t have a formal letter. All approvals were verbal.”
However, that response transmits an e-mail from Villaraigosa’s mayoral aide Jim Bickhart, advising a deputy city attorney who filled in at the Commission meeting where a vote was taken:
... I strongly believe that, if and when the question arises during today’s Commission discussion, the commission is well within its purview to authorize an expenditure from the Animal Welfare Trust Fund to purchase services to create environmental documentation in support of a contemplated Department of Animal Services program. Jim Bickhart, Office of the Mayor
On Oct. 2, 2012, prior to the Personnel & Animal Welfare Committee (PAW) of the City Council also unanimously affirming expenditure of $52,000 from the AWTF, Managing City Attorney Valerie Flores wrote: “I agree that we should postpone the issue for City Attorney analysis. Unfortunately, we are unable to staff the Personnel committee today.”
So, why wasn’t the item postponed? The Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee received a letter and testimony advising them that there was no formal or informal City Attorney’s opinion on this matter at the Oct. 2, 2012, meeting.
Councilman Dennis Zine asked Barnette if there was a City Attorney opinion and she said “Yes.”
The Committee took Barnette’s word and did not ask to see such opinion. Neither did the City Council. Based upon Barnette’s word, both bodies approved placing the funds in the Animal Welfare Trust Fund and spending that money on a program specifically prohibited under the Administrative Code provisions governing that Trust Fund.
11L.A. Animal Services, Mayor and Council Set To Give Feral Cats Property Rights in Los Angeles (Part 1)
A “Cat Program” developed by L.A. Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette is awaiting the green light to spread over the city of Los Angeles, ravage private-property rights, ignore health and safety issues for people and animals, and establish Los Angeles as a Sanctuary City for Feral Cats.
While a property owner or renter may, under local and State trespass/nuisance laws, remove (or have removed) a human or other animal who enters, urinates, defecates or otherwise damages his/her property, that will no longer be true of cats. Under the proposed L.A. City Feral Cat Program, felines will gain an inherent right to be on your residential or commercial property and conduct themselves, well, like cats.
TAKING FERAL CATS TO SHELTERS BECAUSE THEY ARE A NUISANCE WILL BE PROHIBITED
This is not a scare tactic — it is a reality. And it will apparently be voted into law soon, unless constituents demand that their city council representatives back off the emotional hype and pressure from feral/stray/community/“feral freedom” cat groups who want us to believe merely sterilizing and re-abandoning stray cats into the street (which is a violation of state law) is a humane solution to homelessness for unowned felines.
I, like thousands of Angelenos, am willingly ruled by the whims and demands of a very vocal, irresistible rescued kitty whose former owner put her outside and left to enter drug rehab. I live in a mid-city Los Angeles area where life is filled with daily reminders of the brutal realities of the streets, where outdoor cats — fed, sterilized, or not — do not do well.
Abandoned and feral cats sit under greasy cars and peer out, terrified of the unnatural enemies who stalk, chase and throw objects at them, accelerate vehicles to try to hit them, or place toxic substances in food to sicken or kill them. Somehow I can’t wrap my head or my heart around what part of this proposal is “humane.”
THE TRAP-NEUTER-RELEASE TAKEOVER
On Oct. 3, 2013, the L.A. City Bureau of Engineering released a “Notice of Intent to Adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration” on a project identified as, Citywide Cat Program (W.O. E1907610). This was the result of a required California Environmental Quality Act analysis which they conducted specifically to enable Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR).
The goal is to rid the city of a pesky injunction that resulted from a lawsuit by the Urban Wildlands Group regarding the negative effects of feral cats on the environment, including the impact on birds and wildlife, in an earlier TNR program. The injunction also stopped the misuse of city spay/neuter money designated for owned animals but being used to perform sterilization of stray cats and then dump them back into the streets.
Much of the concern by the Urban Wildlands Group was the fact that Los Angeles has never been interested in nor attempted to enact a program that addresses owner responsibility to not allow cats to roam and to require microchips so they cannot be abandoned without penalty. No such mitigating measure exists under the currently proposed “Cat Program” either. Merely trapping some of the abandoned animals and then abandoning them again after they are altered is proposed as a satisfactory solution.
In simplistic terms, the Bureau of Engineering, a city department and de facto defendant to that lawsuit, was paid through a city charitable fund (which we will discuss in Part 2) to develop a Mitigated Negative Declaration saying that it is now OK to do what the judge said the city cannot do.
The mitigation measure offered by the report is merely to exclude the formation of cat colonies on “environmentally sensitive areas or parks.” The rest of the city, including right next to your private yard, is open to feral cat colonies and their caretakers or feeders. There is no mitigation of the impact on the property owner or residents.
PROPOSED ‘FERAL CAT PROGRAM’ ELIMINATES CAT LIMITS FOR OUTDOOR CATS
The Project Description includes the establishment of a “Cat Program involving the citywide coordination of actions and activities that will accomplish increased spay/neuter of cats.” The proposed program also includes “increasing the number of cats that may be kept [per property] without a kennel permit to five cats; allowing the feeding of free-roaming cats in colonies, and exempting cat colony operators from cat kennel permit requirements.” (Thus feral cats and cat-colony operators do not need permission.)
If the “Cat Program” proposed by Los Angeles Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette is approved by city council and the mayor, feral cats can be established in a cat colony of dozens or even hundreds on any public property adjacent to your home or business, and you will have no right to remove them when they invade your nearby property. There will be a feral cat feeder who comes regularly to dump food at the “feeding” location to assure that the colony remains your close neighbor.
CATS BECOME VICTIMS OF COYOTES AND OTHER PREDATORS, INCLUDING HUMANS
Another sad consequence of feeding cats outdoors is that the food attracts other predators to whom the cats themselves become victims. These predators may include raccoons, birds of prey and — especially — coyotes. Anyone who has ever called the city’s Wildlife Specialist to complain about neighborhood pets being attacked and/or consumed by coyotes is told the number one deterrent is to not leave food outside. The “Cat Program,” therefore, violates the City’s own prohibition.
IS IT KIND TO TEACH FERAL CATS TO TRUST HUMANS?
Cats can increasingly become victims of those who do not want them in the community. By making stray animals dependent upon humans for food, we also remove their fear of humans who may harm them. Few communities would say that stray cats are “welcomed,” and because there are still carryovers of taboos about cats, unfortunately there are still those who wish to hurt them — just because they are cats. Thus, retaining their innate fear of other species (especially humans) is a self-preservation tool that is absolutely essential to homeless outdoor cats.
HOW HAS TRAP-NEUTER-RELEASE WORKED IN OTHER AREAS?
The feline group dwelling on Harding Blvd. is one of over 300 registered TNR cat colonies in the city, some of which exist on residential streets.
“The devastation and damage [the cats have] caused is incredible,” says long-time Harding Blvd. resident Jane Flanders. “I have to clean out half a recycling bag full of feces from my front lawn all the time. … They’re killing all the songbirds in my backyard.”
“About 13 feral cats that have been trapped and spayed or neutered were reportedly released to occupy the quaint boulevard near Kingston and Birchmount Roads. They use backyards as living rooms and front porches as urinals, residents report.”
Los Angeles firefighter Ian Justin Eulian, 37, and his mother, Lonieta Antonietta Fontaine, 70, are facing charges for battery in the beating of a woman feeding stray cats in the West Adams district. The alleged incident occurred after the intrepid cat feeder threw kibble in Eulian’s face during a verbal altercation.
At first the 37-year-old Los Angeles Fire engineer and his mom denied assaulting the 47-year-old woman on Sept. 14. But a surveillance camera captured the entire incident, prosecutors said.
Eulian, who was off duty at the time, approached the woman at about 12:20 a.m. while she was in her parked car in the 2500 block of West View Street in Los Angeles. An argument took place between the two about the woman feeding feral cats in the neighborhood.
He then leaned into the victim’s car, according to the allegation, and continued to yell at her about her the feeding stray cats. That was when the victim "threw small pieces of cat kibble at Eulian to push him back, and he allegedly punched her," according to prosecutors.
Lonieta Fontaine allegedly approached the car and "slapped the victim several times," prosecutors said.
The beating escalated, they contend, "Eulian then pulled the victim out of her car and allegedly punched the victim once or twice more as she fell to the ground motionless."
When the cat feeder regained consciousness, Eulian and Fontaine helped her back into her car and accompanied the woman to her home, prosecutors said. They reportedly told her that she had tripped and hit her face on the car.
But--prosecutors say—the entire incident was caught on surveillance cameras located on a nearby building.
Eulian and Fontaine each face one felony count of battery with serious bodily injury and one felony count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury. Eulian was additionally charged with an enhancement for causing great bodily harm.
If convicted of all charges, Eulian faces up to seven years in state prison; and Fontaine faces up to four years in state prison.
He is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 17, and Fontaine’s arraignment will follow on Oct. 18 in criminal courts in downtown Los Angeles.
There is no indication whether the woman continued feeding feral cats at that location.
Source: LA Times
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.”
The letter continues that, while Game and Fish Dept. supports spay-neuter programs for responsible pet owners, feral and free-roaming cats are not companion animals.
It also explains that, although supporters of such TNR programs refer to the released felines as “community cats,” in fact, these cats are nonnative predators introduced by humans.
Rachel Shockley of Fish and Game contends that TNR programs have not been shown to stabilize feral cat populations, as claimed, and that the number of feral cats continues to grow as food is provided.
The letter expresses serious concerns about the impact on wildlife, “Studies show that, even when fed daily by humans, cats continue to hurt wildlife. A finding by Courchamp, et. Al, in 2000, found that “supplemental feeding of free-roaming cat colonies may lead to hyperpredation and increased densities of cats, and free-ranging cats compete with native predators.”
Jim Ludwick of the city’s Animal Welfare Department says he plans to continue with the TNR program, as video footage shows large numbers of feral cats roaming streets and collecting in yards of residents.
Source: ABC Birds
A Florida Southern College program that launched this spring to provide on-campus feral cats with shelter, vet care and food has been suspended indefinitely because of health concerns, reports The Ledger.
"It seemed like a great idea at the time," said Terry Dennis, the school's vice president of operations. The campus was already home to more than a dozen wild cats, and having them taken to a vet and provided for by students appeared to be a humane way to go, he added.
"It all sounded good until we started hearing the opposite side,” he said.
The "opposite side" was a representative of the Polk County Health Department who contacted the school, Dennis said. "They called and asked 'have you been getting calls about what you're doing with the cats?'"
School officials quickly learned the trap-and-release method of dealing with feral cats may have enthusiastic supporters but it also has some very rational and concerned critics.
Health experts advised that the housing provided for the cats could attract other wild animals, such as possums or raccoon, which could have rabies or be vectors for the deadly virus that could then spread to humans, Dennis said.
"They are concerned about us bringing in other things besides the cats," he said.
Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County, also noted the potential dangers of attracting other wildlife.
"While we empathize and appreciate the caring efforts of those looking out for the well-being of Polk's wildlife, I can also understand the potential risks involved," Chloe said in an email response. "In the past, the health department has strongly advised against leaving food out for animals".
"The food can attract raccoons, which could put them in contact with children, adults, dogs and cats," Choe wrote. "Raccoons can carry rabies and expose people or domestic animals to the disease."
"Although feral cats may not frequently approach people, the potential for cat bites still exists," he added. "Cat bites can also lead to serious bacterial infections. Furthermore, cats can carry toxoplasmosis (a parasitic disease) that can infect children and cause serious infection in an unborn child if the mother is exposed."
School officials said they have not removed the cats, but the official program had to go.
"We have got to err on the side of caution," Dennis said. "We really do not know for sure this is a bad program, but we are hearing two different sides of the story."
"During the summer, the SPCA did come over here for two days with their mobile van and spay and neuter 18 cats — the only ones they could find after two weeks of feeding them," he said. "They gave them a full physical and then released them."
"In a year or two years from now, if everyone gets on the same page about this, we certainly would not have an issue with bringing the houses back out. I would love to put them out there," he told The Ledger.
Source: The Ledger
Harding Boulevard—a picturesque street leading to Scarsborough Bluffs Park, which overlooks Lake Ontario--just hasn’t been the same since the ‘neighbors from hell’ moved in, residents say.
These new neighbors are not burly bikers, not a heavy-metal band and not drug traffickers. They are feral cats. The feline group dwelling on Harding Blvd. is one of over 300 registered Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) cat colonies in the city, some of which exist on residential streets.
“The devastation and damage they’ve caused is incredible,” says long-time Harding Blvd. resident Jane Flanders. “I have to clean out half a recycling bag full of feces from my front lawn all the time. … They’re killing all the songbirds in my backyard.”
About 13 feral cats that have been trapped and spayed or neutered were reportedly released to occupy the quaint boulevard near Kingston and Birchmount Roads. They use backyards as living rooms and front porches as urinals, residents report.
“This award-winning, stupid policy that the City of Toronto now has--they’re forcing it upon us against our will,” Flanders told Metro News. “It stinks to high heaven here.”
“Trap-neuter-return” (TNR), has increasingly become the city’s way of dealing with abandoned, stray cats that become “wild” within a generation and reproduce in the streets and under people’s houses. By sterilizing them, the cat overpopulation is supposed to decrease, but that’s not much consolation to homeowner’s whose property has become the involuntary depositories of often dozens of feral cats.
A benefit to the budget of city government is that TNR is done by individuals volunteering their time and money to trap the belligerent and often terrified animals and get them “fixed;” then drop them back in the same location where they were found (although some skeptics say the “R” in TNR and also stand for “relocate,” which means dropping them off on someone else’s street or property.)
In recent years, “Trap-neuter-return” (TNR) has become Toronto’s way of dealing with a problem that is a political nightmare because of the vocal factions on both sides. TNR was scheduled to became part of the Toronto animal bylaw on Thursday, reports Metro News
Whereas a 311 complaint used to get homeless tabbies “locked up in shelters,” says Animal Services vet Esther Attard, “now the policy is we’ll trap them, sterilize them and return them back to their location of origin” — even if that’s right beside your house.
That approach is experiencing a backlash. Wildlife conservationists say the outdoor colonies are destroying songbird populations; residents say they are destroying their lives.
But the policy also has its supporters, some of which have undoubtedly been the recipients of donations from the very residents who are now seeing their property values and quality of life plummet.
The Toronto Feral Cat TNR Coalition website states, “The Ontario SPCA’s now has a sustainable supply of free cat dry and canned food at the Newmarket location. This food will be available to any feral cat colony caretaker who has completed the Training Workshop.”
RESIDENTS WHO OPPOSE TNR CALLED “PROBLEM NEIGHBORHOODS”
At least 11 “problem neighborhoods,” where locals oppose the feline settlements, were identified by the Toronto Feral Cat TNR Coalition--a team of volunteer cat-rescue groups that carries out the city’s TNR strategy, according to Metro News.
At their worst, says the Coalition’s Roxanne St. Germain, some residents have “poisoned cats and gotten very aggressive with caretakers.”
In March, the TNR Coaltion sent representatives to Harding Blvd. to deal with its colony. Neighbors made it clear they wanted the cats gone. But, instead, volunteers TNR’ed the feral felines and found a resident willing to feed the non-reproducing returnees twice a day on her porch, states Metro News.
HARDING BLVD. RESIDENTS SAY THEY WERE NOT CONSULTED
Harding residents argue that the Coalition never consulted them before establishing a cat colony in their neighborhood and they want it moved. The Coalition says moving such colonies elsewhere isn’t good for the cats because they are territorial.
Coalition leaders say the city’s feral cats--estimated at more than 100,000-- can’t be adopted into households. Because they are too wild to be domesticated, many ferals are taken to shelters and euthanized —a trend the coalition hopes to curb using TNR to stop them from reproducing.
You don’t have to like cats,” says Denise Harkins, president of Action Volunteers for Animals, part of the Coalition. “But they are entitled to live just as much as human beings are.”
ARE CATS MORE ENTITLED TO LIVE THAN BIRDS?
Phil Drinnan, who lives a block from Harding Blvd., argues birds are entitled to live just as much as cats, and ferals have been mauling the Bluejays and Orioles that used to swoop into his backyard. “We had to take our bird feeder down,” he told the Metro News.
The Toronto Wildlife Centre gets inundated with calls about animals injured by outdoor cats, says education coordinator Erin Luther. “They are the biggest threat to songbirds other than habitat loss.”
SHOULD THE PUBLIC HAVE A SAY BEFORE TNR IS ENACTED?
Dr. Liana Zanette, a University of Western Ontario professor who studies wildlife populations, says it’s unfair that the public has no say in whether TNR should become part of the city’s bylaw. “Usually, if there’s an environmental problem, then there’s an environmental impact assessment and a public decision should be made about what to do,” she says.
Zanette argues TNR doesn’t work because people dump their unwanted cats into existing colonies. But municipalities often find it cheaper to rely on rescue groups to deal with the cat overpopulation crisis, she says.
IS TNR COMING TO LOS ANGELES NEXT?
Few residents of Los Angeles are aware or understood the significance of the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee of the Los Angeles City Council approving $52,000 donated by such benefactors as Best Friends Animal Society and the ASPCA in October 2012 to be used for a CEQA to establish a TNR (“Cat Program”) in the city of Los Angeles.
Then, at the June 25, 2013, meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services Commissioners, Item 3D was an update on the “Cat Program” (CEQA). However, the extensive report prepared by Brenda Barnette, General Manager, is NOT available on line for review by the public. The report can be requested from the Department of Animal Services at (888) 452-7381 or through any Los Angeles City Council office.
Barnette's report (dated June 20, 2013) is titled, Discussion Item: Proposed "Cat Program" Purpose and Program Description." On Page 3, it states under DRAFT CAT PROGRAM PROJECT PURPOSE AND DESCRIPTION:
"In order to proceed with a CEQA study, the Department prepared a "project description"...the Cat Program is intended to authorize TNR and the Department's measured support for it without the Department embarking on a major TNR program of its own.”"
At the July 23, 2013, meeting of the LAAS Commission, General Manager Barnette announced that the CEQA Environmental Review Document will be released soon for public review but gave no indication that its purpose would be clearly explained to the public and its availability widely advertised.
(Note: Anyone interested in this issue should also review Urban Wildlands Group vs. City of Los Angeles, et al (Case No. BS 115483).filed on June 26, 2008. The court agreed with the plaintiffs that the City had been conducting a TNR program without an environmental clearance, and a modified court injunction was issued in March 2010 and is currently in effect.)
SHOULD THE EXPERIENCE OF TORONTO BE A WARNING FOR LOS ANGELES?
It is doubtful that residents of Los Angeles--nor Neighborhood Councils, businesses or homeowners associations--will be specifically alerted to the fact that an environmental impact study available for review is for the purpose of enacting a TNR program in the city of Los Angeles and could seriously affect their private property rights. Nor will property or business owners be made aware that their property could suddenly be invaded by feral cats which they cannot remove under a new law ordaining TNR programs.
The issues that are facing Toronto residents are alarming and create serious public health and safety concerns in addition to wildlife issues. Coyotes, already a problem in urban areas of Los Angeles, are often attracted to locations where feral cats are being fed.
Perhaps the TNR woes of Harding Boulevard should be taken seriously by Angelenos. It looks like Los Angeles could be next!