PETA has joined the list of animal groups who are protesting an ordinance that would allow for stray cats in Baton Rouge to be trapped, spay/neutered, and then released back onto the streets.
The organization sent a letter to the Baton Rouge Metro Council and Mayor-President Kip Holden on Thursday morning, a day after the council voted to defer a vote on the measure.
PETA takes issue with the act of abandoning cats outside, and the impact of outdoor cats who prey on birds. PETA also takes the position that all cats should be indoor pets.
The council will vote on the issue at the Sept. 24 meeting. Advocates of the ordinance say the measure helps gradually control the stray cat population through spays and neuters, while dramatically reducing the number of cats that will be euthanized in the parish. Last year 1,700 cats were euthanized.
Here’s PETA’s full letter:
August 28, 2014
Dear Mayor-President Holden and Members of the Metropolitan Council:
We hope you are well. Our office is hearing from East Baton Rouge–area citizens who are deeply concerned about a proposal that would result in the East Baton Rouge Animal Control shelter refusing to accept unwanted and homeless cats and would legislatively condone the hobby of feeding, neutering, and re-abandoning cats, both friendly and frightened, to fend for themselves on the streets. This dangerous policy would cause animal suffering and an eventual increase in animal control–related taxpayer costs, and we respectfully urge you to oppose it.
PETA is an animal-protection organization, so the proposed policy deeply concerns us because it would undoubtedly lead to animal suffering and an increase in the number of free-roaming cats who procreate outdoors in East Baton Rouge Parish. In your role as public officials, we urge you to consider the liability involved. Not only will denying effective assistance to taxpayers who want homeless cats removed from their properties condemn animals to short, miserable lives (and deaths) on the streets, such a policy is also in direct conflict with the mission of animal care and control authorities and public health agencies.
According to the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, “no evidence exists that maintained cat colonies adequately reduce human public health risks or appropriately address their impact on pets or native wildlife. Several reports suggest that support of ‘managed cat colonies’ may increase the public’s likelihood of abandoning unwanted pets in lieu of more responsible options.” A case in point was recently described at TurlockJournal.com in a story about a cat colony caretaker who reports that it is impossible to keep up with the number of animals who have been dumped and are dying at the site: “For the past 10 years Walker has tended to the cats at the river location but is troubled that the problem is worsening. Many of the cats are dying from distemper or neglect. . . . ‘It’s happening daily,’ said Walker. ‘Last year not a day went by that I didn’t have at least one, possibly two or three cats abandoned.’”1
In another example, Phoenix College in Arizona recently decided to end its “trap-neuter-reabandon” program for cats after approximately eight years because ”[i]nstead of stabilizing the population, it has doubled, creating an unhealthy situation for the cats and the community.”2
A study published in the peer-reviewed public health journal Zoonoses and Public Health found that “[f]ree-roaming cat populations have been identified as a significant public health threat and are a source for several zoonotic diseases including rabies, toxoplasmosis, cutaneous larval migrans because of various nematode parasites, plague, tularemia and murine typhus” and that “free-roaming cats account for the most cases of human rabies exposure among domestic animals and account for approximately 1/3 of rabies postexposure prophylaxis treatments in humans in the United States.”3
The proposed program to trap, neuter, and re-abandon cats in East Baton Rouge is also in direct conflict with Louisiana Criminal Law, R.S. Title 14, which forbids animal abandonment and requires the owners of cats and other animals to provide their animal companions with humane and adequate care. Individuals and groups that promote leaving and re-abandoning homeless cats to fend for themselves outdoors refuse, as a matter of course, to accept the responsibilities of animal ownership, including providing routine and necessary vaccinations and other medical care for even life-threatening illnesses and injuries as well as adequate protection and shelter from the elements and abiding by state and local animal-control and public-safety laws.
It’s also of serious consequence that roaming cats terrorize and kill countless birds and other wildlife who are not equipped to deal with such predators. A 2013 New York Times article reports that feral cats account for the majority of cat-caused wildlife deaths in the U.S., an astounding “2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.”4 The American Bird Conservancy reports that “[c]at predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline.”5
Allowing the presence and growth of colonies of homeless cats doesn’t just endanger wildlife and public health. It also sends a dangerous—and wrong—message to the public, because it implies that cats can and do thrive outdoors without daily attention, parasite prevention, regular veterinary medical care, adequate and safe shelter, and more. Nothing could be more untrue.
We receive countless reports of incidents in which cats—”managed” or not—suffer and die horribly because they must fend for themselves outdoors. PETA’s caseworkers routinely handle cruelty cases involving “outdoor cats” who have been poisoned, shot, mutilated, tortured, set afire, skinned alive, or killed in other cruel ways, often by property owners or neighbors who just didn’t want the cats there, regardless of the cats’ reproductive and/or vaccination status. A gruesome case in point is that of a cat who was allowed to roam untended outdoors in Baton Rouge and was found dismembered in a neighbor’s yard last month.6 In May, a “neighborhood cat” in Sulphur for whom no one would take full responsibility was found struggling inside a garbage bag smelling strongly of bleach. According to animal-control investigators, the cat had to be euthanized, and it was later confirmed that he had bleach in his lungs and had apparently been drowned or suffocated.7 Cats are not safe outdoors.
PETA stands ready to help in any way needed to aid the Parish in passing proven, effective ordinances and programs to address the overpopulation crisis in your community.
Thank you for all your hard work for the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish.
Animal Care and Control Specialist
Cruelty Investigations Department