DEAR READERS: All the neighbors with whom I have spoken here in Golden Valley, Minnesota did not know that our state’s Animal Humane Society (AHS) is releasing cats, in all weather, to fend for themselves. This is their “Community Cats” program. They have no registered volunteers feeding these cats once they’re released.
In June, I took two black cats that had come onto our property to the AHS. The first one turned out to be one of their “Community Cats,” with the tip of her left ear cut (yet not visibly different at a distance). She had been out all winter. The AHS released her, and she was back on our property 24 hours later.
The second cat was a young male, and he, too, was back on our property 24 hours after being taken to the AHS. As they did for the first cat, the group neutered him and gave him an anti-rabies vaccination, but did not worm him or test him for feline leukemia and immunodeficiency disease. Parasites can cause cats to suffer and die from anemia and starvation, and the viral diseases (and others preventable by vaccine) could infect other cats.
This is not a legitimate or safe way to reduce the overall cat population.
The second cat was very sociable toward me: rubbing against my legs as I coaxed him with food and easily put him in a cat crate. Yet he was deemed “unadoptable” by the AHS behavioral evaluation staff, who also put his age at over 3 years (rather than my estimate of around 10 months).
With a doctoral degree in animal behavior and three books on cat care and behavior under my belt, I find this utterly incomprehensible. The cat was given no time to settle into the shelter environment, where he would naturally be fearful, before coming to trust his new caregivers. He is now settling into our home, after appropriate veterinary tests and treatment for parasites, and we hope to find a forever home for him. Perhaps he was considered not adoptable principally because he is black, a color many people associate with bad luck.
This nationwide practice of TNR (trap, neuter, release) is cruel and unwarranted, putting cats, wildlife and public health at risk. It is part of a broader societal pro-life ideology, based on some feel-good moralistic sentiment that causes more harm than good. It is endorsed by national organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, where the politics and economics of appeasement put such organizations in an ethically untenable position.
Instead of this TNR program, the AHS should be focusing on: establishing group housing for the emotional recovery of rescued cats; working with cities and communities to establish ordinances prohibiting people from allowing their cats to roam off-property; licensing cats and mandating neutering and microchipping.
TNR is advertised as a tool to reduce feral cat numbers. Unfortunately, these programs have been shown to fail to do so.
For more details, see the “Trap, Neuter, Release” page from the American Bird Conservancy: abcbirds.org/program/cats-indoors/trap-neuter-release/
DEAR DR. FOX: We have moved into a new neighborhood, and it breaks my heart when I drive around and hear one dog after another barking and howling.
They are so lonely. We call the police, and they say “talk to the neighbors,” but there’s nobody at home. That’s why the dogs are so lonely. What are these people doing? Do they know how their dogs are suffering? What to do? -- M.K., Cleveland, Ohio
DEAR M.K.: My wife and I have the same problem where we live, in a suburb of Minneapolis.
Our municipal ordinance states: “It is unlawful for anyone to keep a dog or cat that barks, howls or meows excessively or continuously. This includes any noise by any dog or cat that can be heard by any person from a location outside the building where the animal is kept AND occurs repeatedly over at least a five-minute period of time, with less than 30 seconds between each animal noise.”
So check with your local animal control department. In my opinion, this is a nationwide problem, and a sad reflection of the quality of life of many dogs. They are basically pack animals, and suffer when left alone all day. Separation anxiety can lead to other behavioral and medical problems, as well as disturbing others in the community. It can be risky going over to speak to dog owners about their dogs barking and howling as I have learned from personal experience. Best to call the authorities.
Many people who are away at work all day and leave their dogs at home might consider asking neighbors if there are any problems, or using an in-home video recorder to see what their dogs do when they are gone. Much can be done to help dogs feel less insecure when left alone all day, which is a responsibility all owners should embrace.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.)