Tag Archives: definitions

Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare [TNR = Trap, Neuter, Re-Abandon]

11 Aug

Last time, we talked about semantics.  The Humane Society (HSUS), is not associated with your local shelter, and a very small amount of their money is granted to any shelter.  The vast majority of HSUS funds are kept for its own agenda (27).  I told you we would discuss what the primary agenda of HSUS is if it’s not the rescue of dogs and cats. 

Before we get into that, lets review animal rights vs. animal welfare, because the difference will become pertinent to this discussion, and the following posts as well.  Important note:  These terms are politically and emotionally charged so I tried to get (extra!)-valid sources, and I also tried to find a source aligned with each respective side for their own definition.  Because both sides of the ethical divide believe their philosophy is the most sensical and humane, there was a decided slant when they defined the opposing view.  I also tried to do very minimal editing, just changing slight things so the sentences flow, but never the meaning.

An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling, and humane slaughter. Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment.1 Protecting an animal’s welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs.

  1. https://www.avma.org/resources/animal-health-welfare/animal-welfare-what-it

I think it’s fair to say that many people believe that animal welfare and animal rights are one and the same. And while there is definitely some overlap, from a technical perspective, as I alluded to above, they are actually opposing viewpoints.

Believe it or not, the definition of animal rights is actually very difficult to nail down, depending on if you ask a lawyer, an animal rights advocate, or a philosopher.

But we can stick to defining it at one core principle any person would agree with- animal rights concerns itself, in large part, with the notion of the legal entitlements of [non-human] animals that pertain to giving that animal:

  • An independent life and thus the freedom to pursue its activities as it chooses to do so within a set legal framework.
  • At the very least, basic considerations and rights (on par with similar human ones) that would allow them to avoid needless suffering.

Affording rights to animals is not about letting them do whatever they want or allowing them every single right a person has, but it is about allowing them to have the possession of their own life and the avoidance of suffering that may be imposed upon them by humans.

With respect to this and current law, an animal is not a legal person. Your dog is technically a piece of property and not its own legal entity, as a human would be. In other words, your pet dog is closer to having the legal status of the chair you sit on than it does a person.  [Animal rights activists] are for the right of an animal to choose its own destiny much like a person can. Animal rights is about ensuring humans cannot use animals in many of the same ways they once did (and still do) use slaves. It’s about giving animals the right to their own destiny, a destiny that’s not chosen, by and large, by someone or something else.

                       28). https://study.com/academy/lesson/animal-rights-ethics-arguments.html

My takeaway points:

Animal welfare is observable, measurable, and evidence-based.  It is (supposed to be) practiced by all entities that work with animals in any capacity.

Animal rights is a philosophy, and it is difficult to implement or measure because historically that is not how our system has been built.  Animal rights is more of an ideal and future goal.

In my opinion, the largest difference between animal welfare and rights is the use of animals.  The animal rights side does not believe humans should be engaging with animals for research, work, entertainment, food–nothing. Animal welfare proponents acknowledges that society already uses animals for a multitude of things.

It’s a judgement call where you stand, and your decision has implications for the rest of our discussion.  So next time (promise!) we will talk about what HSUS wants to accomplish as an organization.

Concept Discussion [Trap Neuter Re-abandon]

28 Jul

Words such as ethical and humane are difficult to define because (very divergent) personal belief-systems and personal experience color both terms.  Welfare is a provable condition, by design.  It uses quantitative parameters to ensure animal health and freedom from suffering and cruelty.

Speaking of personal experience, my 15 years of employment in veterinary hospitals (and prior to that over 1,000 volunteer hours in animal settings) influences my judgments in the following vocabulary terms.  Intentionally for propaganda, and unintentionally out of ignorance, these words are being used to persuade.  But they might not be the most accurate way to describe the reality of the situation.

Here’s what I mean. The term “feral” is overused, as is “wild” in the context of abandoned pets being left to fend for themselves.  Feral implies the cat is unapproachable (and will probably remain that way long-term).  Using wild to describe un-homed cats suggests these cats belong outside, are proficient in meeting their own needs without intervention, and cannot be tamed (and would not like it).

I would argue very few cats in colonies (or shelters, or homes) are truly feral.  Do they get amped up and scared, especially with unfamiliar people doing unfamiliar things to them, or in strange places-absolutely!  Most cats get stressed and hate travel/change.  But given time to calm down, and with some patience, would they make a good pet? Yes!  I have a big problem with the notion that some cats are “unadoptable” and must be feral forever.

I can’t tell you how many times a client was in the exam room with a growling cat in the carrier, and they told me said cat was “feral.” If I had to guess I would say at least once a week.  And I can’t tell you how many times that growling cat in a box could be taken out, handled to get vitals, and ended up tolerating the appointment–most of them.  In 15 years, out of all the cats that came into the veterinary hospital being called feral, probably 12% were actually feral, and probably just 5% of those had to be sedated to proceed with their appointment.  So the perception of feral and the incidence were drastically different.

I think feral is a loaded term that justifies abandoning healthy, potentially-adoptable cats in urban streets.  And don’t get me started on wild.  These cats are not independent for the most part.  They do require human intervention, because even actual wild cats were not living in population-dense, urban landscapes.  And genetically they differ from their wild ancestors–ever see an F1 Bengal vs. a domestic shorthair?  You can see that genetic difference in their behavior!  And most of the cats that are dumped were once pets, or they are genetic offspring of pets.

Bottom line: Roaming or stray are more accurate terms for this situation. 

Furthermore, I disagree that some cats are outside cats, and can’t be taken indoors.  Habituation and localization are real.  The feeding part of the TNR process uses these concepts to train cats to gather in a certain area at a certain time, with other cats and humans present.  The cats are trained to get in the traps.  Why not use habituation to get cats more comfortable with people and train cats to stay inside?  The cat may hate it at first.  There are strategies, products, and medications that can assist in the process.  Patience, persistence, and calm can go a long way in getting (and keeping) a cat inside.  Spend the time and effort, and in most cases it can happen.  If you don’t believe me, just look at YouTube and you’ll see about a thousand success stories.  And indoor cats are exponentially safer than the ones outside!  People who say some cats are just outdoor, and can’t be taken inside don’t have a wild cat problem, they have a priorities problem.

Throughout my research paper, I will argue there is little difference between the initial dumping of cats by irresponsible people, and the “release” part of TNR.  Just because the TNR has good intentions doesn’t make throwing cats outside the right thing to do.  The cats are neglected in both scenarios, dumping or release.  TNR is also not sustainable, and my research will show how TNR colonies maintain their original numbers or increase their numbers without death (either euthanisia or most times, hazards outside) and adoption.  Neither euthanasia or adoption are mandated in TNR.

After being involved in animal hospitals for 20 years, seeing what patients come in, I believe there are some things worse than death, and euthanasia is often a kindness.  I have seen horrible things, and was sometimes even relieved to see an animal ‘put out of its misery’ (there are reasons, that I will not describe here, that this is a common phrase).  And the procedure itself is compassionate, done by a veterinarian who loves animals so much that they completed 5-8+ years of college education, and took a job that is both time-consuming and relatively low-paid.  The process of euthanasia is also (for lack of better word) clean, meaning no messy hit-by-car, dog-mauling, human abuse, and no undue suffering like heat stroke, slow starvation, or disease process kills the animal.  It’s the poke of an IV or needle, and an injection which acts quickly on the brain and stops the heart. I believe euthanasia is much less cruel than trapping, neutering, and putting an animal back outside in the elements with all the hazards.  Before you think death is the worst thing, check out some of the 85% morbidities faced by outside cats.  Like I said before, there are worse things than death.  Why are we choosing that fate for these cats we’re trying to help?  After neuter the job isn’t complete–let’s work on adoption, education, and prevention.

Vocabulary & Sources [TNR-Trap, Neuter, Re-Abandon]

27 Jul

There is quite a bit of lingo to cover before we talk about how TNR started, what it’s mission is, if it’s implemented correctly, if it is working, and if it’s ethical. Many of these words are subjective, and carry a lot of emotion, so I tried to find legitimate sources for each word/concept I try to define here. Still, there will be disagreement that all of these are accurate to every group. I’ll do some discussion about that in the next post. Also, this page contains ALL sources for my entire research paper.



Animal Abandonment Law and Legal Definition

Animal abandonment means leaving behind an animal alone or permitting the animal to be abandoned in circumstances which might cause harm to the animal. 

6) https://definitions.uslegal.com/a/animal-neglect/


a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

8) https://www.dictionary.com/browse/compassion


Synonyms for dumping

12) https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/dumping


Ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives.  Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy.

Many people want there to be a single right answer to ethical questions. They find moral ambiguity hard to live with because they genuinely want to do the ‘right’ thing, and even if they can’t work out what that right thing is, they like the idea that ‘somewhere’ there is one right answer.  But often there isn’t one right answer – there may be several right answers, or just some least worst answers – and the individual must choose between them.  For others moral ambiguity is difficult because it forces them to take responsibility for their own choices and actions, rather than falling back on convenient rules and customs.

9) https://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/intro_1.shtml


 A] feral cats have had very limited (or no) interactions with humans and have reverted to a wild state.

3) http://www.fureverhomeadoptioncenter.com/furever-home-


B] A feral cat is proposed by this study to be a cat that is unapproachable in its free-roaming environment and is capable of surviving with or without direct human intervention, and may additionally show fearful or defensive behaviour on human contact.

4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23966002/#:~:text=




As cats develop, there are numerous stimuli (sounds, smells, sights, and events) that, when they are unfamiliar, can lead to fear and anxiety. Habituation is the process of getting used to and not reacting to those stimuli by continuous exposure under circumstances that have no untoward consequences.

5) https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-



Synonyms for humane

Words Related to humane

12) https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/humane


Localization is the process during which the kitten develops attachment to particular places.

5) https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-


Natural attrition- 

A] a gradual reduction in the number of people who work for an organization that is achieved by not replacing those who leave

14) https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/attrition

B] A euphemism for natural death or death caused by old age.


Animal Neglect Law and Legal Definition

Animal neglect or abandonment is a common type of animal cruelty where people do not provide adequate care for animals in their charge. The neglected animal may be their own pet, a farm animal, or wildlife. A neglected animal is not provided with proper food, water, veterinary care, shelter and socialization. . .  Neglect may be deliberate abuse or simply a failure to take care of an animal. 

All U.S. states have animal cruelty laws, and 46 states and District of Columbia treat some forms of abuse as felonies. Most states’ animal cruelty statutes contain provisions that address the minimum standards of care for an animal. Definitions of terms such as adequate food, water, shelter and veterinary care are also included in these provisions. 

6) https://definitions.uslegal.com/a/animal-neglect/


A free-roaming cat is defined as a cat living outdoors at least part of the time. This may be a pet cat that is allowed to spend time outdoors, a lost or abandoned owned cat, a tame un-owned cat, or a feral cat.

7) https://vet.osu.edu/attitudes-and-perceptions-towards-free-roaming-cats


Socialization is the process during which the kitten develops relationships with other living beings in its environment.

5) https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-


The earliest stages of feline development are as follows: 

prenatal; n

neonatal, from birth to 2 weeks; 

transitional, from 2-3 weeks; 

socialization, from 3-7 weeks. 

Human contact and handling are important at 3-9 weeks. 

Social play peaks at 9-14 weeks.

The juvenile period lasts from 7 weeks to sexual maturity at 4-10 months,

Cats reach social maturity at 36-48 months. 

the adult period lasts from sexual maturity to death. 

Cognitive decline occurs during the senior period.

2) https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2017-12-15/feline-



Stray cats are socialized to humans – in most cases they were once pets who have either become lost or were, unfortunately, abandoned,

3) http://www.fureverhomeadoptioncenter.com/furever-home-



Sustainability is a holistic approach that considers ecological, social and economic dimensions, recognizing that all must be considered together to find lasting prosperity.

10) https://www.mcgill.ca/sustainability/files/sustainability/what-is-sustainability.pdf


An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling, and humane slaughter. Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment.1 Protecting an animal’s welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs.

  1. https://www.avma.org/resources/animal-health-welfare/animal-welfare-what-it


Scientists learn about the genetics of domestication by assessing what parts of the genome are altered as a result of animals living with humans. The research team lead by Washington University compared the genomes of domestic cats to wild cats to look for specific areas of the domestic cat genome that experienced rapid changes.

They discovered that compared to wildcats, housecats have more mutations on genes involved in mediating aggressive behavior, forming memories, and controlling the ability to learn from either fear or reward-based stimuli. The cats with domestication-friendly gene mutations mated and passed those traits down from parent to kitten until there was a good-sized population of less aggressive cats.

11) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-difference-between-ho_b_13436022


Zoonotic diseases are defined as being common to, shared by, or naturally transmitted between humans and other vertebrate animals. Humans are infected with zoonotic agents from direct contact with the infected animals, contact via contaminated food or water, from shared vectors, and from the shared environment. Direct contact with cat feces (enteric zoonoses), respiratory secretions, urogenital secretions, or infected skin and exudates, as well as bites and scratches can result in human infections.  

18). https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/ defaultadv1.aspx?pId=11181&catId=30088&id=3852234


1) https://www.avma.org/resources/animal-health-welfare/animal-welfare-what-it

2) https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2017-12-15/feline-


3) http://www.fureverhomeadoptioncenter.com/furever-home-


4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23966002/#:~:text=


5) https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-


6) https://definitions.uslegal.com/a/animal-neglect/

7) https://vet.osu.edu/attitudes-and-perceptions-towards-free-roaming-cats

8) https://www.dictionary.com/browse/compassion

9) https://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/intro_1.shtml

10) https://www.mcgill.ca/sustainability/files/sustainability/what-is-sustainability.pdf

11) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-difference-between-ho_b_13436022

12) https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus

13) https://books.google.com/books?id=wWkpDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT132&lpg=






14). https://www.charitywatch.org/charity-donating-articles/


15).  https://www.alleycat.org/about/history/#:~:text=


16). https://www.phillyvoice.com/meet-the-people-who-care-for-


17). https://www.lifewithcats.tv/2012/10/31/


18). https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/ defaultadv1.aspx?pId=11181&catId=30088&id=3852234

19). https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=11181&


20). https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/18/12/12-0664-t1