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Sunday, Apr 20, 2014

Hillsborough commission’s ‘forward-thinking’ decision will save lives


Regarding “Hillsborough sticking with neuter and release plan for feral cats” (Dec. 4):

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay applauds the forward-thinking decision by the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners to reaffirm its support for the trap, neuter, vaccinate and release program for feral cats in Hillsborough County. This decision will save lives.

History shows that the catch-and-kill method practiced for decades does not work because it does not address the root of the problem: reproduction. On the other hand, communities that have begun to practice TNVR have seen a significant reduction in feral cat populations.

It is unfortunate that those who oppose TNVR, namely the Hillsborough County Veterinary Medical Society, are quick to offer criticism without also offering a viable solution. Meanwhile, humane organizations and area rescue groups work tirelessly in the trenches to reduce the population of feral cats and to save the lives of those already living in our community through our TNVR programs.

Despite what TNVR opponents say, we also are concerned for the safety of our community, which is why we advocate a practice that ensures the vaccination of feral cats against communicable disease. In fact, when the unfortunate and rare incident of a rabid cat bite occurred in July, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay acted immediately by offering a free vaccination clinic in the community.

In addition, as animal lovers, we sympathize with wildlife enthusiasts and wish to reassert that TNVR helps to protect wildlife as it reduces the number of cats being born and stabilizes the population. Furthermore, TNVR programs involve feral cat caretakers who feed them daily, eliminating a need to hunt.

A quick review of feral cats and the proven benefits of TNVR should dispel the fear being spread by misinformed individuals:

Feral cats are not an unnatural species but have been living peacefully alongside humans for more than 10,000 years.

TNVR does not “open the barn doors” to introduce new cats into the environment; TNVR sterilizes and vaccinates the feral cats already in our communities.

TNVR stabilizes the feral cat population by stopping the reproduction cycle, effectively reducing the number of feral cats over time.

TNVR costs less to taxpayers than impounding and euthanizing cats as the sterilizations, vaccinations, and housing of cats is accomplished by private, nonprofit organizations.

TNVR supporters and TNVR opponents have a common ground: the desire to reduce the number of feral cats in our community. It can only be done safely, humanely and at minimal cost to taxpayers through TNVR. We thank the Hillsborough commissioners for recognizing this truth and invite all citizens to unite to save lives, now and in the future.

Sherry Silk is executive director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.