Planned Improvement at Sutter Co Pound

Cat #A098641 at the Sutter Co pound, as pictured on PetHarbor.

Some good news for feral cats at the miserable pound in Sutter Co, CA:  Beginning September 1, healthy community cats will no longer be accepted by the pound.  As I’ve said many times, I see no justification for impounding feral cats anywhere – unless it’s a temporary impound as part of a TNR program – so I’m glad to see Sutter Co stepping up.  I hope they will develop a comprehensive TNR program in partnership with the community in order to further advance this effort.

Unfortunately the article announcing the change at the Sac Bee website adds in this unsourced claim at the end:

In order to have a significant impact on that feral population, half of them would have to be captured and euthanized – or 75 percent would have to be captured, sterilized and then let go again.

It’s not clear to me if that claim is attributable to Kate Hurley, director of the UC Davis Shelter Medicine Program, who is quoted in the article in connection with her work at the pound.  Regardless of the source, I know of no study indicating that killing half of a community’s cats would result in a “significant impact” on the population.  Obviously killing half of any population reduces it temporarily but as far as having a meaningful impact goes, I interpret that to mean something measurable in the long term.  Anyone?

9 thoughts on “Planned Improvement at Sutter Co Pound

  1. If killing off half of the population made a significant lasting impact on the overall population, it would have worked long ago in areas where “catch and kill” is still the order of the day.

    It’s a stupid statement.

    1. That was my thought exactly – catch and kill would have taken care of the problem a long time ago! We would not be having this discussion! Obviously, catch and kill is not the answer! TNR is the only way to manage feral cats.

  2. A population ecologist would know–I’m just making a wild guess. But it’s possible that killing off half the population would result in an increase in the birth rate among the remaining cats. Males would have wider territory for roaming, cats would have more prey available, diseases would be less likely to spread quickly, so the remaining cats might live longer and have more litters. The only thing I’m sure would NOT happen is a permanent decrease in the number of feral cats in Sutter Co. Besides, I don’t really believe the Sutter Co. pound knows how many ferals live there. It’s hard to get an accurate count and estimates tend to vary a lot (by thousands). But I’m glad to hear the pound won’t be accepting and killing ferals–that’s a step in the right direction.

    1. In the Sacramento Bee’s recent investigative series about Wildlife Services, the obscure federal agency that has killed hundreds of thousands of coyotes among many other animals, the point was made that when you kill a lot of coyotes, you just end up with more coyotes, and they get smarter. We’ve certainly driven large predators (wolves, tigers) to the brink of extinction, but with medium-sized and small predators, killing seems to backfire. And it’s wrong regardless of the animal’s size. I’m glad Sutter Co. won’t be accepting ferals anymore.

  3. Speaking of Catch and Kill and how it does not work –
    I watched an award-winning (Sundance) documentary on PBS POV last night – Granita – How to nail a dictator.

    The title alone should tell you but its about the Guatemalan genocide that U.S. tax dollars helped finance –

    Couldn’t help but compare how our animal control system is pet genocide financed by our tax dollars.

    But the documentary made me feel hopeful….hard working good people prevail….for real.

    Granita is a grain of sand…it represents that it takes a grain of sand to tilt towards justice….Viva la NO Kill!

  4. So at least half of them will be killed anyway? That….stinks. I dont know a whole lot about feral cats and over-population with them because the only things we get around here are maybe one or two cats a year, and those are strays (or at least, I think so).

  5. The unattributed claim is, I’m quite sure, a reference to a 2004 paper in which the authors report: “The model predicted effective cat population control by use of annual euthanasia of ≥50 percent of the population or by annual neutering of >75 percent of the fertile population” (Andersen, Martin, & Roemer, 2004).

    I rather doubt the Bee reporter has read the paper. More than likely, he saw the figures mentioned by TNR opponents, who, as is their habit, tend to misrepresent the science—and ignore the larger context.

    Longcore et al., for example, refer to the paper when they write: “If adoption is sufficiently high, it may offset immigration to colonies and even reach the 50 percent removal threshold necessary for population decline” (Longcore, Rich, & Sullivan, 2009). But that 50 percent removal threshold is based on their being no sterilization whatsoever. As sterilization is increased, fewer cats need to be removed (via adoption) in order to achieve an eventual reduction in the overall population.

    The “primary objective,” write Andersen et al., “was to compare the efficacy of TNR programs versus euthanasia [i.e., trap-and-kill] programs as methods of cat population management” (Andersen et al., 2004). In other words, sterilization-only (with no removal of any kind, either for adoption or for extermination) vs. trap-and-kill-only (with no sterilization).

    The authors never even consider adoption programs, which, they note “are similar in effect to euthanasia because these cats are permanently removed from the free-roaming cat population.” Nor do they consider emigration between cat colonies, though they point out that “a substantial number of owned cats are reported to be adopted strays” (Andersen et al., 2004).

    And that’s just the beginning. Their model also doesn’t consider a host of critical factors, beginning with the difference in resource allocation between the two methods: the army of dedicated TNR volunteers go to great lengths to save lived, but will have nothing to do with trap-and-kill efforts. And, as Andersen et al. point out, “traditional animal control is often constrained by resources and rarely sustains active cat population management on a broad scale” (Andersen et al., 2004).

    Interestingly, Longcore et al. refer to the model to support their rebuttal to the claim that TNR “eliminates colonies under prevailing conditions” (Longcore et al., 2009). A careful look at the paper, however, reveals that the model has little to do with prevailing conditions.

    Nico Dauphine, the former Smithsonian researcher convicted late last year for attempted animal cruelty after rat poison was found in cat food outside of her apartment building, also referred to the Andersen et al. paper:

    “Andersen et al. used mathematical models to compare the effectiveness of removal versus sterilization in reducing numbers of free-roaming cats. They reported effective cat population control through removal of at least 50 percent of the population or annual neutering of more than 75 percent of the population. They noted that: “TNR programs are not likely to convert increasing cat populations into declining populations or even stable populations until the neutering rate is quite high.” Under prevailing conditions, where immigration of new cats attracted to feeding stations is frequent, such high rates of sterilization may never be attained” (Dauphine & Cooper, 2009).

    Not surprisingly, she stopped there. The very next sentence reads:

    “Nevertheless, population decreases under TNR programs have been recorded” (Andersen et al., 2004).

    The bottom line? The model developed by Andersen et al. simply does not reflect real-world conditions. As a consequence, its results are of very limited use in the debate over how to manage our population of stray, abandoned, and feral cats.

    Peter J. Wolf

    Literature Cited
    • Andersen, M. C., Martin, B. J., & Roemer, G. W. (2004). Use of matrix population models to estimate the efficacy of euthanasia versus trap-neuter-return for management of free-roaming cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 225(12), 1871–1876.
    • Dauphine, N., & Cooper, R. J. (2009). Impacts of Free-ranging Domestic Cats (Felis catus) on birds in the United States: A review of recent research with conservation and management recommendations. Paper presented at the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference: Tundra to Tropics.
    • Longcore, T., Rich, C., & Sullivan, L. M. (2009). Critical Assessment of Claims Regarding Management of Feral Cats by Trap-Neuter-Return. Conservation Biology, 23(4), 887–894.

  6. I am not exactly sure of the system, but San Diego has a catch, fix, and release feral cat program. I have not heard much negative about it. Just in case anyone wants to check into it???

  7. Hi Shirley, Of interest is an aspect regarding animal protection “facts”, statistics, formulas, models, research or studies for which accurate info is in short supply. I periodically remind cat and animal advocates that the same cat, feral and TNR research or study is often interpreted to support both pro and con! Same with feral cat/TNR policy or position statements. The statement that you ask about above (with origins in the 2004 paper from Andersen Martin Roemer) is used by TNR advocates as well, to cite the 50% removal or killing (and the 75% to TNR — I first learned about the need to TNR 70%+ from Clifton/Animal People in 2002.) Recent examples of the 50% removal:

    June 2012
    Kate Hurley of UC Davis in Sutter County, California: Approval of phased approach to feline intake reduction

    Michelle Lerner of APLNJ in presentation at HSUS Expo 2012

    See also:

    2009: Evaluation of euthanasia and trap–neuter–return (TNR) programs in managing free-roaming cat populations
    PM Schmidt, TM Swannack, RR Lopez, MR Slater – Wildlife Research, 2009.

Leave a Reply