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LAAS Feral Cat-TNR Plan Criticized, OC Animal Care Accused of 'Cat Dumping'

ANIMAL WATCH-On October 7, 2019, Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager and Councilman Paul Koretz proudly attended the public unveiling of the long -awaited Draft EIR Citywide Cat Program, to enable an estimated $60-million plan for trapping, sterilization and release of 20,000 feral cats a year in the city. 

As discussed in Los Angeles Citywide Feral Cat-Trap/Neuter/Release Plan: A 'Fix' or a Fraud?, the City's $1.3 million analysis (prepared by the Bureau of Engineering) not surprisingly concluded that the environmental aspects of this program would have a "less than significant impacts, without any required mitigation, on biological, water resources and human health hazards." 

In other words, 20,000 cats dumped in communities to be fed in public areas and roam  --and poop -- on private and public property, with the fecal matter soaking into the soil and washed to the ocean through LA’s storm drains, will NOT affect local neighborhoods, the environment or health of Angelenos nor the ocean habitat of Southern California marine life. 

Still, the local Trap-Neuter-Release activists who spoke at the community meeting in Northeast Los Angeles unilaterally called the proposed program "too restrictive." 

They stressed that they do NOT want to be restricted from Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA's) identified, nor do they want to be limited in the times of day/night and length of feeding periods. 

The EIR provisions are, unfortunately, merely guidelines and are not enforceable. There is no penalty or consequence for ignoring them -- thus these Environmentally Sensitive Areas are not really protected at all. (Guidelines are shown in Table ES3 of the DEIR, p. ES-14 --p. 30 of the pdf.)  

There is no way to count the number of areas the City has decided to qualify as environmentally sensitive areas. However, there are two maps contained in the report).  

The report does not indicate exactly how this well-funded City study determined that the City's feral cat population has suddenly dropped from the initial estimated 1 million or 3 million feral cats in the City to the exact number of 226,000, which is approximately one feral cat per acre. 

Or, is that the real purpose of the report--to just set a precedent where an amount can be projected each year to cover further inestimable rising costs? 

SAME WEEK -- CAT RELEASE IN ORANGE COUNTY CHALLENGED 

Ironically, on October 4, in nearby Orange County, Animal Care Director Mike Kaviani received a cease-and-desist letter from Attorney Christine Kelly of The Animal Law Office to stop “dumping” impounded cats on the streets of various OC communities. 

Kaviani is accused by five Orange County-based Rescues and additional individuals of an illegal application of the Return To Field (RTF) program by the action of bringing animals out of the shelter and directly onto the streets, and the letter points out that animal abandonment is not authorized by the law. 

Among the members of this alliance is Sharon Logan and Paw Protectors Rescue, described by Attorney Kelly as "involved in the seminal shelter reform lawsuit, "Sharon Logan v. Orange County Animal Care." 

Attorney Kelly adds that, "This letter is written only after numerous exhaustive attempts to resolve the issues contained herein informally and through the administrative resources available to my clients."

The letter asserts that what OC Animal Care is currently trying to implement is nothing short of abandonment, and if there are abandonment laws against the general public, those laws should also apply to OC Animal Care. 

It is a misdemeanor in California to abandon pets. One law simply says that it’s illegal to purposefully abandon an animal (Cal. Penal Code § 597s). A more general statute criminalizes leaving animals without proper care and attention in any building, enclosure, lot, street, or other public place (Cal. Penal Code § 597.1). In this case, there’s no requirement that the abandonment or neglect be purposeful. 

Cal. Penal Code § 597s. Abandonment of domestic animals, states: 

  • Every person who willfully abandons any animal is guilty of a misdemeanor. CAL. PENAL CODE § 597.1. Failure to care for animals; misdemeanor; powers and duties of local officers and veterinarians; hearings; liability for costs; forfeiture. 
  • Every owner, driver, or keeper of any animal who permits the animal to be in any building, enclosure, lane, street, square, or lot of any city, county, city and county, or judicial district without proper care and attention is guilty of a misdemeanor. 

Attorney Kelly's 8-page letter concludes, ". . .I would appreciate you taking your time reviewing these outstanding issues and to cease and desist from the needless killing of animal by way of abandoning them on public property." 

TNR VS. RTF  (Trap-Neuter-Release) vs. (Return To Field) 

The Million Cat Challenge explains that "While acceptance has been growing for community-based TNR programs for decades, return-to-field (RTF) programs operate similarly to traditional TNR programs, with the exception that the cats have been admitted to a shelter at some point in the process." 

"In some cases, the shelter performs the neutering and in others, the cats are transferred from the shelter to an offsite clinic. In either case, the cats are returned to their trapping locations by shelter staff, volunteers, or partner organizations." 

In other words, there is no indication the RTF cats must be classified as "feral."  It is possible that owned cats are being released from the shelter and released on the streets--with the only requirement being that it is allegedly at their "trapping location." 

There is no explanation of their care after that point, whereas, the TNR'd cats are supposedly being released into existing colonies where someone has agreed to feed them regularly. 

Even if they are placed in a colony, how well-suited is a formerly pampered pet for survival (let alone happiness) in a group of cats that have honed their skills of eliminating competition for resources? 

LOGAN:  OC ANIMAL CARE WRONG TO RETURN SHELTERED CATS BACK INTO NEIGHBORHOODS 

Sharon Logan (Paw Protectors Rescue) wrote a scathing and touching Op-Ed which appeared in the Orange County Register on July 1, 2019, regarding the OCAC practice of RTF -- releasing unclaimed/unadopted pet cats from the shelter into the streets. In it she describes that it "gives the impression to the general public that cats can take care of themselves, and it’s fine to dump them–after all, the Orange County animal shelter is doing it." 

Here are a few excerpts: 

From September 2018 through June 2019 Orange County Animal Care released more than 1,000 cats and kittens back into Orange County Communities , these cats and kittens were left to fend for themselves on our streets, in our parks, in fields and even at malls. 

Some had never been socialized to humans, and quickly faded into the brush, or scooted behind trashcans to hide. Others, accustomed to friendly faces and food served in a bowl, were confused and alarmed by their fate. 

Then there were those for whom this was nothing new. They realized their shelter respite was over, and what that meant. They knew what hunger was, what thirst was, what danger was, and they knew that could strike at any time. They knew because this wasn’t new: they had been abandoned before.

Other cats that may be “swept up” in RTF and TNR programs include pet cats that people have abandoned, kittens born outdoors but still young enough to be fully socialized to people, loosely owned outdoor cats that no one takes full responsibility for, lost cats, and owner surrendered cats. Currently, cats living outdoors without clear owners are collectively referred to as “community cats.” 

ARE BOTH TNR AND RTF OPTIONS UNDER THE LA CITYWIDE CAT PROGRAM? 

Los Angeles Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette told CBSLA News on August 30 that the City is "considering funding" a program that would address the issue of stray (which could be merely lost pets) or feral cats. 

She stated that LA Animal Services centers took in 7,002 cats and kittens in May and June. Compared with June 2018, kitten intake was up 20 percent and cat intake was up 15 percent, and officials said it had become difficult to board them all in the space they have." She did not say how many were feral and how many were just owned/outdoor pets that were not spayed. 

Thus, it does not sound like LA Animal Services intends to limit its TNR program to just feral cats, because lost, roaming or unidentified owned pets are referred to as "strays." Is this by any chance the subtle announcement that RTF may to some extent already be practiced in the city of Los Angeles and increase with the approval of the EIR? 

If there is no space at the shelter, and they are being released to “rescues” in increasing numbers, could this account for the recent reports of hoarding. 

LA CITY OFFICIALS REFUSE TO MAKE CAT OWNERS RESPONSIBLE 

Both GM Barnette and Councilman Paul Koretz have adamantly REFUSED to ENFORCE MANDATORY SPAYING/NETUERING OF CATS or even consider cat licensing and/or mandatory microchipping to increase responsibility of cat ownership and the chances of identifying lost pets, reducing the concept of cats being "disposable," and providing an opportunity for cats to be returned home.  

UNTIL OFFICIALS OF THIS CITY THEY AGREE TO MAKE OWNERS RESPOSIBLE, SHOULD TAXPAYERS BE PAYING FOR A $60 MILLION DOLLAR PLAN TO RELEASE CATS INTO THE STREETS? 

LOS ANGELES COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH:  RABIES IN BATS ALMOST DOUBLE IN 2019 

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department reports that from January 1 through October 15, 2019, 45 rabid bats have been found. This was almost double the entire total in 2018, when only 27 were reported for the entire year. In 1029, 2 were found at schools, 2 were at public parks, 1 was inside a home, 33 were outside of homes, (including 3 outside of apartment buildings), and 7 were found outside of businesses. Many were in the City of Los Angeles (see map and  Zip Codes on report.) 

RABIES DANGER FROM FERAL CATS INCREASING 

Feral or stray cats are always a danger of the contact with rabid bats because fallen or sick bats are an attractive toy for cats. 

FLORIDA:  Stray cats boosting rabies risk in Brevard. 16 rabid cats reported statewide in 2018  

Health officials wonder if TNR (trap, neuter, release) plays a role. 

Feb. 8, 2019 -  Marcia Carlin kept "Termite" crated next to her desk at the Humane Society of South Brevard, where she's the manager. Her daughter had found the black kitten in the lot of the Dog Spot Hotel on Industry Drive, with a broken leg and a bite wound on its tail. 

Termite was testy, so Carlin reached into the cage to pat his tummy. Termite bit her right thumb, drawing blood.  

"I never would have thought rabies," Carlin said. "He didn't bite me out of meanness." 

A day later, Termite began panting and chewing on his good leg. He had to be put down. Tests confirmed rabies. Termite was the fourth rabid stray cat reported in Brevard since July. 

Over the last six months, from July to January, bites or scratches from the four rabid stray cats in Brevard resulted in 13 people requiring costly rabies shots to save their lives. 

Statewide, there were 16 rabid cats reported last year, the most since 2005, according to state health data. 

Florida health officials aren't sure what's behind the spate of rabid stray cats. They speculate about natural cycles of the rabies virus, insufficient vaccination efforts and more raccoons and coyotes. 

But there is another theory gaining traction among some public health officials: the growing popularity of an approach by animal services and pet shelters to save homeless cats from being euthanized by putting them back on the street, usually after being spayed and neutered. The controversial practice is known as TNR for trap, neuter and release.  

What's killing sea otters? Parasite strain from cats 

Genetic link found between deadly pathogen and wild and feral cats on land. 

An August 22, 2019, release by the University of California - Davis announces: 

Many wild southern sea otters in California are infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, yet the infection is fatal for only a fraction of sea otters, which has long puzzled the scientific community. A new study identifies the parasite's specific strains that are killing southern sea otters, tracing them back to a bobcat and feral domestic cats from nearby watersheds. 

“We now have a significant link between specific types of the parasite and the outcome for fatal toxoplasmosis in sea otters,” states Dr. Karen Shapiro. “We are actually able to link deaths in sea otters with wild and feral cats on land.” 

But Dr. Shapiro and her collaborators noted in their paper that, in addition to infecting and killing sea otters, T. gondii can infect and kill other marine wildlife. . .but the data supporting this link are more robust in sea otters," according to Forbes. In 15 Reasons why Scientists say Feral Cats are a Disaster, Environment Reporter, Joan Meiners sets the record straight on some important questions about feral cats in this article in this article in 2018, where she examines closely the myths and truths about feral cats. 

Her introduction reads, "Feral, free-roaming cats have been documented by dozens of studies to be indiscriminate killers of wildlife and the cause of at least 63 species extinctions. . .But while the evidence of their hunting prowess is overwhelming, there is little proof that cats are effective at controlling urban rats, which studies have shown are not their primary prey." 

"Outdoor cats also carry a dangerous parasite that has been linked to schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, memory loss and learning problems. Many Americans support programs to protect wild cats in our midst. Here's what science has to say about why we love a species that might be making us sick." 

NO INVISIBLE DOME OVER LOS ANGELES TO CURTAIL CATS 

Even if you don't live in the city of Los Angeles, and even if your community does not NOW have a notable feral cat problem, there is no invisible dome or impermeable border that will stop the spill-over into your area. 

And, if a colony (usually 10 to 100 cats) becomes a nuisance and is under threat on one block or in a community, you may wake up one morning to discover the feeder has moved it and the colony is now your closest neighbor. 

Cats migrate freely to new locations, bringing with them all the problems Los Angeles and Orange County are lamenting. And not all are "fixed." A large percentage will be unaltered strays in the community of ferals are roaming to find a food source, so there will be the nightly yowling and fights inciting dogs to bark and new kittens appearing in your garage, tool shed or on your back porch – making you feel guilty if you don't feed them or take them to a shelter, where you will be reminded verbally or by implication that YOU are now the cause of their potential euthanasia. 

LOSS OF PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS 

Remember, all types of nebulous, idealistic terms have been developed and coined to distract or hide from you the fact that your private property rights are being invaded or reallocated to donation-engendering "humane" feral cat-TNR  programs. Although not all agree that placing domestic cats outside to fend for themselves is "humane," it brings in astounding revenue to non-profit animal organizations -- and now to animal shelters -- at your expense.  

We must be sure that all laws are observed for humans and animals -- both of whom can suffer when governmental agencies ignore safety and welfare laws.

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Photo: OC Register. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.