In a beautiful, pet friendly Boca Raton community, resplendent with jogging trails, bike paths, gazebos and bougainvillaeas, live a colony or two of feral cats. They live under bushes, hide in backyards, and generally avoid all human contact.
In 2013, the community of Trieste followed the predominant approach to feral cat management through TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return). Humane advocates and animal lovers tempted the feral cats with food in order to get them into the traps. Once the cats were neutered and vaccinated, they were then released back into the community where their colonies would stabilize and gradually be reduced in a compassionate and effective manner.
Whether someone with a dislike for the cats was out counting them or arbitrarily guessing, a recent measure was adopted by the board of the community ordering residents to stop feeding any of the feral cats after deeming the feral cat community a nuisance stating that:
"feeding and harboring of feral cats violated the definition of legitimate pets in the community, as those may only be kept in the residence, and not be allowed to go unattended in the yard as “wild animals” risking the health and well being of the community residents."
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are more than 70 million stray and feral cats in the United States.
Scientific studies have shown that TNR effectively reduces colony size as breeding cycles finally come to an end. Feral cats become less visible; hence the end of mating, roaming, and screeching in the middle of the night. It is a far more humane and kinder option to continue to provide food and water for the feral colony than the alternative.
Tragically, 70% of all cats entered into shelters are euthanized; 100% of feral cats are killed in shelters because they are rarely adoptable.
Residents in Trieste have been feeding the cats and state these are not "wild animals." In fact, stray and feral cats are not the same. Stray cats were once owned, however feral cats have been born in the wild and never domesticated. Stray cats will approach humans, while feral cats tend to stay away from being touched.
The feral cats have even been praised as eliminating the rodent problem in the intracoastal community, and while the cats have been fed by residents, there have been no bird fatalities.
Lynne Koenigsberg, a resident of Trieste, and an animal advocate helped to organize the TNR and appropriate vaccinations for the cats. She continues to feed the cats and stated the following in a reply to the Board:
"The Board's decision to TNR the feral cats was humane; however, their sole purpose was to prevent the colony from growing, and then to starve them to death! They consider these living beings a nuisance merely because they exist! I will not abide by the Board's inhumane stance regarding the feeding ban of these cats. This ruling is inherently cruel and inhumane!"
Alley Cat Allies is a national organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of all cats. Please click here for more information about the humane treatment of feral cats.
Lynne is now circulating a petition and collecting signatures. In the interim, animal advocates have no intention of letting the cats starve to death.
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