Columbia’s new ordinance is entirely misguided, ignoring decades of science about the nature of feral cats (“City passes new feral cat ordinance,” July 5). Worse, it points fingers at the very people it should be thanking.
Feral cat caregivers do not need to be “held accountable” for reaching into their own hearts and wallets to provide a valuable community service. Feral cats are hardly a new phenomenon, in Columbia or anywhere else. The reality is that these cats would exist with or without caring people to look after them. Outdoor cats thrive in every landscape and have for thousands of years.
Scientific research shows feral cats to be just as healthy as pet cats, but they are not socialized to people and cannot be adopted. Nationwide, more than 70 percent of cats who enter shelters are killed there — at a high cost to taxpayers and donors, and with zero benefit to the community.
As dozens of cities across the country have recognized, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only effective course of action for feral cats. It makes the cats healthier and stabilizes the population — no new kittens. And it actually helps the cats be better neighbors by ending behaviors associated with mating, like yowling, spraying and fighting.
By discouraging TNR through this burdensome and restrictive new law, residents can expect a mountain of unintended consequences. Rather than punish the very people who are to be praised, Columbia city leaders would be wise to take responsibility by actively encouraging and funding Trap-Neuter-Return.
The community would be far better served for it.
Becky Robinson is president of Alley Cat Allies in Bethesda, Md.