Tag Archives: stray

Animal Shelters [TNR = Trap, Neuter, Re-Abandon]

4 Aug

Ok, I think we’ve established that Alley Cat Allies (ACA) are integral in promoting TNR, and also a bit sketchy as an organization. We’ve talked at length about the disputed history of TNR, the ACA’s domination of Google Search, their manipulation of language, their exaggerated timeline of “success” and we’ve covered the employee reviews of that non-profit organization. There is more to discuss regarding them, but let’s take a pause with the ACA, because this paper is not about them-directly. Yes, ACA is linked very closely with TNR, but it’s TNR that I want to focus on in my research. So we’ll take a pause on ACA and discuss some other issues with TNR before going back the the ACA’s many problems.

Animal Shelters:

Bottom line is animal shelters are chronically overwhelmed, under-funded, and under-supported by both politicians and the community at large.


There are too many animals and not enough shelters, people, or money to support them:

The following grim stats were gathered by dosomething.org, and are an example of the scope of the problem:

According to The Humane Society, there are about 3,500 brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the US and 10,000 rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in North America.

It’s impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States. Estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.

Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.

The main reasons animals are in shelters: owners give them up, or animal control finds them on the street.

Many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.

About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.

According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2% of cats and only 15 to 20% of dogs are returned to their owners.

Only 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered. Overpopulation, due to owners letting their pets accidentally or intentionally reproduce, sees millions of these “excess” animals killed annually.

25% of dogs that enter local shelters are purebred.

Each year, approximately 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed every year because shelters are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes.

21). https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-animal-homelessness


Costs incurred by the Shelter:

Running an animal shelter is expensive, and many shelters have to turn away animals due to lack of funds.  Shelters often have to resort to euthanasia if they cannot afford to keep an animal for the remainder of that creature’s life.

An approximate average cost of owning a feline is anywhere from $491.00 to $3125.00 for the first year and
subsequent yearly cost of $310.00 to $1169.00. (Foster & Smith). When it comes to canines the average cost of owning a dog for a first year $374.00 to $658.00 (www.icanimalcenter.org) and following years anywhere from $287.00 to 2485.00. (Foster and Smith).

Costs of owning a pet may include:  supplies such as food, bowls, litter, leashes, etc , vaccines, deworming, spay/neutering, preventative care like dentals, monthly medications such as flea medicine & heartworm, grooming. As an example, The total cost of simply animal supplies such as bowls, food, leashes, toys, collars, etc. for the Camden County Animal Shelter (CCAS) was $35,000, not including any form of Veterinary care. And the above list of potential costs of caring for a dog or cat was by no means, exhaustive.  And you have to think–that’s per cat or dog. See the above section for estimates of how many dogs and cats animal shelters house and multiply these costs.  The amount quickly becomes astronomical! 

The animals themselves cost money, but the physical shelter also costs money to maintain.  Since they are housing multiple animals they need to make sure that living conditions are suitable. This means that working heating and air condition units are an absolute necessity, along with utilities, feed storage, pest control, dog runs and shelters are just a few of the many things that need to be updated.  One example of routine shelter costs comes from Pearl River Township animal shelter.  In 2003 they had to update some of their equipment and published the costs. Pest control ran them $576, new dog runs and shelters $1,200, feed storage $1000, and A/C units $700 (Cashion).

There are still more costs of running an animal shelter: It is required by state law for animal shelters to carry liability insurance and workers compensation insurance in case a visitor and/or employee gets injured or bitten by an animal.  For the Camden County Animal Shelter, insurance ran $43,313 in 2006.  In addition, different kinds of licenses are required to run a shelter such as a kennel licenses, and those different licenses and fees can cost $298 and are required to be renewed every few years. (Egan, B).

Perhaps the most important cost a shelter has are its employees.  Without much money to support the needs of the animals, the salary of the shelter employees also suffers. Many shelters have their own on-site veterinarians along with executive directors, veterinary technicians, director of developments, general and operation managers, and animal control workers. All of them garner relatively meager salaries compared to those working in other areas of their field. From a national standpoint the average salary of the Executive Director (non-profit) is $51,146 and the Director of Development (Non-profit) is about $43,502. Veterinarian’s salaries are around $67,220 and their technicians receive earnings of approximately $25,018. General operations manager’s salary is $36,856, operations managers make $37,871, and animal control officers receive an income of approximately $30,723 (payscale). Animal shelter staff must be passionate about their jobs and their passion is what must drive them, not their salary (Germann, J). 

Animal Shelters are severely understaffed all due to lack of funds. It had been found that some larger shelters have a staff to animal ration of 1 employee to 600-1,000 animals, with an average ratio of 691 animals to one employee (Cashion, 2003). It is difficult to imagine that animals are getting the proper care, no matter how efficiently a staff member is working, with the sheer mass of animals one person is responsible for. 

Which is why volunteers are integral to a well functioning shelter. With regulations based on safety and (insurance liabilities) the type and quantity of volunteers may be limited.  Many volunteers are at the core of shelters and without them a shelter may crumble and unfortunately the animals are the main recipients of the repercussions of this occurrence. Without the care and attention these animals deserve, they are not getting an equal opportunity to find a home.  

Even if a shelter receives funding from local government based on taxes, it is not nearly enough to run a well-functioning kennel with all the proper necessities, resources, employees and supplies. Fundraising and donations are the main source of funds for those shelters as well as those (which are many) that do not receive money from the government. Depending on how well a shelter is at raising funds, has a direct impact on how well they are able care for and adopt out these homeless animals.


For many shelters the amount of debt they are faced with increases each and every year and piles on the debt they already encompass from past years.

Here’s an example of what sounds like a lot of revenue being exceeded by operating costs:  Total revenue and support for CCAS in 2010 was $101,232 in donations and $48,903 in grants ($150,135). The shelters total operating costs for 2010 was $1.2 million (1,049,865 in the red).

In a second example, compare to 2010 revenue and total costs for the Camden County Animal Shelter to their 2006 costs and revenue. In 2006 their total revenue reached $564,380 while their total operating costs were $548,099. This leaves a deficit of $16, 281 (Egan, B).

Because of all these overhead expenses, many shelters are in some sort of deficit year after year that never disappears. Monmouth County SPCA stated, “It costs approximately $250,000 per month to fund all the important programs of the MCSPCA. We need to receive donations of over $250,000 per month just to maintain normal operations throughout the year. Unfortunately, because the amount we receive usually falls well short of the minimum required amount, we operate at a deficit each and every month” (Germann, J).

                   22). https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/38418/PDF/1/play




So you see the problem.  Next time we’ll talk about how animal shelters are funded



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.

Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) is actually Trap, Neuter, Re-Abandon an Intro

26 Jul

I feel very passionate that Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) is inhumane/cruel and ineffective. It is very popular where I live in (hot) Arizona, and I just hate it for many reasons. Which I will specify in detail in these posts. I spent a disproportionate time arguing against it with neighbors on the Nextdoor app, but have decided a better use of my time would be to write a research paper on the matter. Using facts and legitimate sources, not just feelings and experiences. In this blog series, I’ll be posting some of my (yet to be edited) findings. I hope you will read with an open mind and really think about this information rationally, as I am attempting to do.

Why is there an Outside Cat Problem:

Cats are either born outside, or they had been owned and that (irresponsible, heartless) person left them outside to fend for themselves.

The cats are living in substandard conditions on the street.

In the elements, all weather (sometimes 120F here in AZ, 140 triple digit days last May-Oct), and natural phenomenon such as hurricanes or drought.

Breeding, fighting, spraying, scratching, digging in plants,

Being preyed upon, getting hit by cars, 

Eating wildlife, exchanging diseases with each other, 

Using the urban setting as a litterbox, which spreads disease and parasites.

A rescuer begins feeding.  This habituates these outdoor cats to people, gathers them in one place at a certain time, and nourishes the cats.

A live trap is set and (hopefully) all the breeding cats are collected and taken to the shelter.  Whether females are included, depends on funding. Being inside a trap is stressful to the cats, as is going in a car, being taken to an unfamilar place, being around loud, unfamilar animals and people, and getting a shot in order to be able to castrate.  It’s all very traumatic and stressful to these outdoor cats, just as it is to ANY cat.  

The toms are neutered, and it takes only minutes of a veterinarian’s time.  They do not even need to be fully anesthetized and put on gas to sustain the unconsciousness.  The sedation is much lighter, and the vet dexterously neuters each cat relatively quickly.

Spaying is a bigger job.  The queen has to go under full anesthesia, sustain unconsciousness with gas inhalant, have supplemental oxygen, and more monitoring equipment for vitals, and usually always (I sincerely hope!) a 2nd person in the room to monitor, help, and in case of emergencies.  Going fully under is a higher risk, longer procedure, and more costly as a result.  TNR programs may have the funds (and motivation) to spay, or they may not.

Honestly, all cats should have an FIV/FeLV test, a rabies, FVRCP, and the optional FIV vaccines since they are outside, and get dewormed.  At least.  These items are highly dependent on funds, and as such are usually neglected for the TNR cats.

After the castration, sometimes cats are allowed to recover in the shelter, sometimes there’s no space or time.  So the cats are dumped back outside, sometimes while still a bit groggy and disoriented.

Then the cats are outside fending for themselves in the elements.

(this repetition is not a mistake, or copy & paste error. As you can see, the cat lives are much the same post-neuter)

Fighting, spraying, scratching, digging in plants,

Being preyed upon, getting hit by cars, 

Eating wildlife, exchanging diseases with each other, 

Using the urban setting as a litterbox, which spreads disease and parasites.

Neutering will not change ingrained behavior patterns.

Cats can still spray, fight each other, and be a nuisance in neighborhoods.

Neutering cats does not change their health outcome living in a high-risk urban outdoor environment.  They can still get preyed upon, hit by cars, and the other bad ends.

Neutering does not change a cat’s diet.  They may still eat birds and wildlife depending on availability of food, food-competition, and hunting drive/instinct.  

Zoonotic disease can be passed on in this way:  A cat hunts a vole or bat.  That vole/bat was carrying rabies.  Or a raccoon is attracted to the cat food, and the territorial cats get in a scuffle with it. The cat shows signs of rabies, but it lives outside so either nobody notices or the cost is prohibitive to seek medical treatment for a cat that isn’t owned.  A dog comes by and the furiously rabid cat aggresses, or a child tries to pet the cat, or a well-meaning person tries to trap the cat to take it to the vet.  The cat bites in any of these scenarios.  You have a dog with rabies, that can spread it to other dogs, cats, and people.  You have a child bitten by a rabid cat.  You get an adult bitten and scratched and having to do lengthy and costly rabies prevention measures.  That’s just three examples.  There are countless diseases and parasites that can travel from cats to other species.

Neutering is not whole-animal health.  The cats will no longer breed, but neutering does not protect from disease or parasites. Or other health concerns.

So what has been accomplished?

An outdoor cat with a high-risk life was neutered, and now is an outdoor cat…With a high-risk life. It doesn’t breed. But people don’t stop dumping pets outside either.  The root cause of the problem has not been resolved.  So even though the TNR cats aren’t reproducing, they can still add more and more to the colony.  Without adoption and death, the colony size either remains the same, or actually grows in size.

This is just a raw outline of the procedure and problem. Stay tuned for more specific details.