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Buffalo, Fort Wayne eye neutering feral cats

A feral cat nurses her kittens.
A feral cat nurses her kittens.
Marc Selinger

The second most populous cities in Indiana and New York are both turning to trap-neuter-return (TNR) to curb their feral cat populations, saying it promises to be more effective than the traditional animal-control practice of catch-and-kill.

In Indiana, the Fort Wayne City Council earlier this month tentatively approved the launch of a program in which feral cats will be sterilized, vaccinated for rabies and microchipped at the local Hope for Animals spay/neuter clinic. The cats will then be returned to the outdoor environment from which they originated. The council is expected to give final approval to the program June 24.

According to Fort Wayne’s Animal Care & Control department, the program will not only yield smaller feral cat populations but also minimize rabies risks among outdoor cats, lessen nuisance behavior such as fighting and yowling, and reduce euthanasia rates.

“In 40 years of catching and euthanizing these outdoor cats, we have only managed to quadruple their numbers,” said Madeleine Laird, executive director of the Hope clinic. “We realize this feels counter--intuitive to many people, but we cannot continue pouring city resources into a method that hasn't ever worked.”

In New York, the Buffalo Common Council earlier this month approved an ordinance that declares TNR to be legal in the city and encourages citizens to participate in TNR activities. The new law directs the city’s animal control officers to implement TNR “with the goal of reducing intakes and eliminating the humane destruction of cats.” The city also reportedly budgeted $50,000 to support TNR in the coming fiscal year.

TNR has become increasingly popular across the United States in recent years, with hundreds of local governments now supporting it and thousands of groups conducting it, advocates say.