Tag Archives: feral cats

TNR Training in Canton Courtesy of Peace for Pets

Peace for Pets is an organization with which I have become involved as part of the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) effort in Canton, OH. I am helping with their community education focus, and I will be one of the presenters for their TNR training program. If you are local to the Canton area and would like to learn more about TNR, here is your chance. Hope to see you there!

Click the arrow in the upper right corner to bigify the flyer above, and click the drop-down menu arrow in the center to download.



Trap-Neuter-Return for perpetuity’s sake

managed TNR feral cat colony

Solid research backs up the claims.

Carefully managed feral cat colonies with TNR programs reduce the number of feral cats, thereby reducing the number of problems associated with them.

Trap and remove programs that attempt to eradicate cat populations are plagued with a never ending supply of cats that take the place of the removed ones, thereby increasing the number of problems associated with feral cats.

Cats managed through TNR receive vaccinations and they no longer mate, so the health concerns and nuisance behaviors are drastically reduced. The altered cats protect their colony from interlopers, so their populations stabilize.

The opposite happens in a trap-remove program. There are no vaccinations to reduce the chances of animal to human transmission of diseases. The cats continue to mate, creating more nuisance behaviors. And the cat population increases exponentially.

Conventional wisdom says that killing cats will get rid of a feral cat problem, and get rid of the health risks to which public health officials raise alarm. But there is nothing conventional or wise about that belief.

The opposite is true. The only way reduce the number of problems with feral cats is to spay/neuter them, and then allow them to manage their own populations.

The truth is, TNR = fewer cats = fewer health risks to humans = fewer nuisance behaviors = a safer and more humane society to live within.

St. James Church in New York City has had a model TNR program for feral cats for many years. Recently, they abruptly decided to stop the program and they forbade caregivers from feeding the cats. The misguided goal was to eradicate the cats, hoping that they would just move on from the Church’s property. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way that cats behave.

Luckily, the Archdiocese of New York agreed to meet with TNR advocates from the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. When they met, they learned that 1) eradication was futile and 2) keeping the managed colony would get them closer to their objective than eradication attempts would. A temporary resolution allowing the cats to stay has been developed, and more permanent planning is taking place.


Sadly, another model program has had an unhappier ending.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, FL have for years allowed a colony of cats to reside on their properties, tended by staff and volunteers. Inexplicably, the hotel chain recently decided to eradicate the cats. They refused to listen to advocates or consult with experts, unlike the leaders at St. James Church.

Loews even went so far as to threaten their staff with reprisals if they chose to ignore the new policy. The hotels further enlisted the services of an exterminator who reportedly is trapping the cats in a manner that leaves them highly stressed, urine soaked, and with bloodied noses.

A worldwide outcry for this small group of cats has ensued, and is likely to damage Loews’ brand as a “pet friendly” hotel. They seem to think the furor will eventually die down, but they may be surprised.

The Loews cats are being relocated and not euthanized, thanks to the efforts of Orange County Animal Services and CARE Feline TNR. Relocation is a risky and non-optimal solution, but it is better than euthanization.

All of this brings up some serious considerations for public and private efforts to establish TNR programs. These recent events suggest that it is not sufficient to create a program without putting serious thought into its future sustainability. Once advocates have succeeded in developing programs, they must find ways to establish perpetuity for TNR’s continued success with specific cat colonies.

Otherwise, model colonies that are functioning well will all be vulnerable to changes in leadership and misguided changes in policy.

As we approach leaders in my community of Canton, OH to create a municipal program, we must think beyond our current scenarios and current volunteers as we create a program that will hopefully outlive us all. We need to think about how to prevent the threats that have faced the St. James cats and the Loews cats.

I want to ensure that Canton’s cats will be protected from those who refuse to listen to research and true wisdom.

Any thoughts or suggestions? We are all ears, ear-tipped and all.

Life is an Adventure!



Saving Canton’s Cats and Why It Is So Important.

Feral cat drawing by BZTAT
Drawing by BZTAT

I and other animal welfare advocates have been appearing at Canton, OH City Council meetings for a couple of months now, speaking on behalf of feral cats in the city.

We are trying to overturn a city run Animal Control program that saw 353 feral cats euthanized in 2011, most of which were only destroyed due to being unadoptable. It is a very draconian program that incentivizes the Animal Control Officer to trap a large number of feral cats and wild animals whose lives are ended needlessly.

Advocates have captured the attention of Canton City Council and the Mayor’s administration. After weeks of contentious debate, Council finally passed a resolution to form a TNR exploratory committee, bringing citizens and government officials together to study the issue and recommend a program. The Stark County Humane Society has decided to cease their contract with the city to euthanize feral cats beginning April 30, 2012. This is progress!

The city remains contracted with the Animal Control Officer whose record has prompted so much outrage in the community. His role will be minimized, and eventually eliminated, however, if an effective TNR program can be developed.

This sort of community effort will require a lot of work. Bringing together  community leaders and volunteers from diverse perspectives has its challenges, but I am hopeful that a positive outcome is imminent.

As I have engaged in the process, a question keeps being asked. Why are the cats so important when there are so many other issues of importance to the community?

For a dedicated animal and cat lover like me, the answer is easy. But to people less connected to animals, they do not see how intertwined pet ownership is to the majority of citizens in every community across America. For them, I have one word for explanation.


When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Americans became acutely aware of how deeply embedded pets are in our lives and in our culture. Never before had it been made so clear that human beings will inevitably take risks to their own safety in order to save their pets. Rather than seek their own safety, residents of New Orleans and other cities refused to evacuate because they could not take their animals with them. Some lost their lives as a result, as did their pets.

Even if you do not care about animals yourself, you have to realize that other people do. Minimizing the value of animal life minimizes the depth of an animal lover’s emotional connection to animals. A lack of concern for animal welfare touches off some very deep emotions for people, and it will ALWAYS be met with hostility.

In addition to that, the way we treat animals, particularly domestic ones whose DNA has been purposely adapted for human purposes, is indicative of how we treat the needs of any living being. When the needs of animals are minimized or neglected, our arrogance leads to a disregard of other vulnerable beings in our culture.

The purpose of this blog is to bring about awareness to the connections between animal abuse and the abuse of vulnerable human beings. The needless slaughter of feral cats when there are better ways to manage them IS ANIMAL ABUSE. I cannot sit quietly by and let this happen in my own community.

I have been asked to participate in the Canton City Council TNR exploratory committee. I will do so with pride, and I will post updates here about the process.

What is happening in Canton is the status quo for Animal Control in the United States. My hope is that I can promote change both within and beyond my community.

Will you join me in that process? What is happening in your community, and what can you do to bring about positive change?





Canton Animal Control: It all circles back to Okey.

OkeyI rescued Okey last year because I was afraid she would get hit by a car. She had some close calls with my own vehicle, and I had seen her dart across the road in front of other cars.

At the time, I thought that traffic, starvation and exposure to the elements were the biggest threats to her life.

Those were immediate threats. I have been learning, though, that there were other threats too. Until recently, I had no idea these threats existed.

The city itself poses a huge threat to stray and feral cats. Heartless and misinformed attitudes have shaped city policies regarding animal control.

Animal control in my city of Canton, OH means certain death for cats on the street.

Thank God no one called animal control on Okey. Three hundred and forty three other cats were not so lucky. That is the number of cats killed by the Stark County Humane Society after being trapped by the city’s Animal Control Officer, Phil Sedlacko last year.

It gets worse.

Mr. Sedlacko has demonstrated “inhumane treatment” of animals in his concurrent position with the Stark County Dog Pound, according to a reprimand last year by his supervisor. Numerous volunteers at the pound claim to have witnessed a pattern of inhumane behavior from Mr. Sedlacko towards animals under his care over many years.

The city has no responsibility over the county dog pound, but they can, and they should avoid contracting with a person who has such behavior on his record.

Despite the presence of a video documenting the incident for which Mr. Sedlacko was reprimanded, and despite numerous complaints from volunteers, city leaders refuse to acknowledge that Mr. Sedlacko is a problem.

A teacher who abuses children is no longer allowed to teach children. Likewise, an animal control officer who mistreats animals should not be allowed to work with animals.

When I asked City Safety Director Thomas Ream about this, he claimed that Mr. Sedlacko had made a mistake. I informed him that inhumane treatment of animals was not a “mistake”. He said we would have to “agree to disagree”.

There is some good news.

Animal welfare advocates have descended upon Canton, and they have become a strong force of influence upon Canton’s City Council. Two Council Members, Mary Cirelli and Frank Morris, have publicly challenged other members to consider other methods of animal control, and they have voiced strong opposition to continuing a contract with Mr. Sedlacko. The rest of Council agreed to modify his contract from a year to 90 days so that further investigation could occur.

Alley Cat Allies, a well respected organization with expertise in community Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program development, is providing considerable support to advocates and the city. They are assisting us in the effort to bring about an effective and humane TNR program for feral cats and providing resources to address wildlife in the city as well.

City leaders will likely put up roadblocks to the effort. They already have. Last night, city health commissioner James Adams expressed concern to a City Council committee about the potential health risks of a TNR program. He stated that he would have to see ecological impact research about TNR before embracing such a program. I later spoke with him and handed him a summary of ecological impact research done by Stanford University. The summary reads,

“While it is true that uncontrolled feral cat populations have the potential to spread disease, the evidence of a negative impact on human health remains fairly low and is largely unsubstantiated even through studies by health departments.”

Mr. Adams told me he had seen references to the Stanford research, but admitted that he had not really looked at it much. He did tell me he would explore it further.

In recent weeks, Canton has become the epicenter of animal rights  concerns in Ohio. We are not looking good in the eyes of animal lovers around the country, and, indeed, around the world. But I, and many other advocates are intent on changing that. We hope to work with our city leaders to bring about change that makes us the epicenter of progressive and humane treatment around the world.

There is a lot of work to be done, but it can be done. Will you join us?

There are a lot of Okey’s on the street counting on you.