Clark County - Neighborhood Cats Response to State Veterinarian

Neighborhood Cats
the feral cat experts!
September 2, 2008
Board of Directors
Bryan Kortis
Executive Director
Meredith Weiss
TNR Director
Emma Cobb
Gordon Stull, DVM
Board of Advisors
Anitra Frazier
Author, The New
Natural Cat
Julie Levy, DVM,
University of Florida
Mary Max
The Humane Society
of the United States
Patrick McDonnell
Creator, Mutts
Esther Mechler
Michael Mountain
Best Friends Animal
Clark County Commission
500 Grand Central Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89106
Dear Chairman Rory Reid, Vice Chairman Chip Maxfield and the Honorable
Clark County Commissioners,
I am writing in response to the letter sent to you by Dr. Anette Rink of the State
Veterinarians Office pertaining to the proposed addition of Chapter 10.06
amending Title 10 of the Clark County Code. While I am not a veterinarian or
public health officer, I am considered one of the leading experts in the United
States on feral cat management, having worked closely on feral cat issues with
The Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, and numerous other
organizations and municipalities, and having written and produced many of the
leading educational materials in the field.
To summarize Dr. Rink’s argument against the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)
program which the amendment would authorize, she cites numerous problems
often associated with the presence of feral cats in the environment, including
nuisance behavior, wildlife predation, the attraction of larger predators, and, most
especially, the risk of infectious diseases both to people and their pets.
It is not my place to dispute whether Dr. Rink accurately portrays the extent of
these hazards. However, I will point out that describing a problem is not the same
as proposing a solution. To whatever degree feral cats pose the risks described by
Dr. Rink, the fact is there are now at least tens of thousands of the cats roaming
Clark County and nothing is being done about it. Notably, while opposing TNR,
Dr. Rink fails to propose any other alternative method for reducing the cats’
numbers and reducing the dangers she claims they pose.
Because TNR is a relatively new approach to feral cat management, there is often
confusion surrounding it. TNR does not create the presence of feral cats in the
environment – it is instead an attempt to reduce their presence and the potential
for disease transmission through a combination of sterilization and vaccination.
TNR offers many advantages over the traditional animal control approach of
trying to eradicate the cats, an approach which has never succeeded in a
widespread and populated area. There are foremost the many volunteers who will
provide the needed manpower, the willingness of the public to bear most of the
costs, and the avoidance of creating “vacuums” which are soon filled by new cats.
Because TNR is the sole method which offers a realistic possibility of resolving feral
cat overpopulation, it is increasingly embraced by communities. Ordinances enabling
TNR programs have passed in Cook County (Chicago), Salt Lake City, Baltimore,
Indianapolis, Santa Cruz County, numerous townships in New Jersey and many other
communities as well. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, on
its official website, favorably describes the managed colony approach as a possible
solution to an overabundance of feral cats. The Burlington County Health Department
(NJ) has approved and seen good results from a county-wide TNR program. Academic
studies by leading researchers have proven TNR can work as well.1
Allow me to also note that when it comes to rabies, no less a public health authority
than the World Health Organization has declared that attempting to control the disease
through eradication does not work, but widespread vaccination does.
In the end, Dr. Rink’s letter is a strong argument in favor of an effective community
approach to reducing the number of feral cats in the environment. By passing the
proposed amendment, the Clark County Commission will be taking the first, very
important step towards making that a reality.
Bryan Kortis, Esq.
Executive Director
See, e.g., Levy, J.K., et al., “Evaluation of the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return and adoption
program on a free-roaming cat population,” Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association 222:
42-46 (2003a); Mendes-de-Almeida, F., et al., “The impact of hysterectomy in an urban colony of
domestic cats,” International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine 4:134-141 (2006);
Reece, J.F., S.K. Chawla, “Control of rabies in Jaipur, India, by the sterilization and vaccination of
neighbourhood dogs,” The Veterinary Record, 159: 379-383 (2006).
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