Hawaiian Island on Path to Exterminate 20,000 Cats

Abby, member of a manged TNR colony in Alabama.  (Photo by Aubrie Kavanaugh)
Abby, member of a managed TNR colony in Alabama. (Photo by Aubrie Kavanaugh)

The county of Kauai, one of the Hawaiian islands, assembled a nine member Feral Cat Task Force to make recommendations regarding the management of the community cat population.  The county paid $30,000 for the report, issued in March 2014.  The task force excluded the president of Kauai Ferals and was primarily comprised of individuals wishing to exterminate cats.

The final report highlighted the Billions and Billions of Birds myth often touted by cat haters and estimated the county’s feral cat population at 20,000.  The 10 year goal, as stated in the report, is for the island to have “zero feral, abandoned and stray cats” which is obviously an unattainable and unrealistic goal.  Gee, maybe they should have let the guy who knows feral cats have some input.

Among the recommendations made by the task force:

  • Expand the cat licensing ordinance to include colony caretakers.
  • Outlaw cats on county property.  Trap any cats found on county property for adoption or killing.
  • Require licensed cat owners to obtain written permission (revokable with 10 days notice) from any property owner willing to allow cats on his property.  Any cats found on property without written permission from the owner will be deemed stray and subject to trapping.
  • Implement a TNR program in two phases:
    1.  For the first five years, TNR colonies must be registered and monitored to maintain at least a 90% spay-neuter rate.  Sick, injured and new cats, including kittens, must be removed from the colony for adoption or killing.
    2.  After the initial five year period, TNR colonies must be registered and will only be allowed on fully fenced, private property.  The county will no longer pay for maintaining its community cats and the financial burden will be shifted to private citizens.
  • The county must hire additional animal enforcement officers in order to conduct the increased cat licensing, monitoring, trapping and killing.

In effect, the recommendations target outdoor cats for extermination – potentially including indoor cats who escape their homes – and punish colony caretakers with licensing fees and unreasonable restrictions making it impossible for them to reduce the colony size over time. The TNR program as outlined is destined to fail by design. This is what you get when you commission a report from people who want to kill cats.

Judy Dalton, one of the token non-cat hating members of the task force, expressed some reasonable concerns in her comments at the end of the report:

If there is going to be a reduction in the numbers of community cats, it is absolutely imperative that spay/neutering services be affordable and accessible to all cats – both owned and unowned. The cost to spay and microchip a female cat at the Humane Society was hiked from $10 to $50 last year – 5 times more than it has been in the past. This is beyond the affordability of most residents on Kauai where a female cat and 4 female kittens and 2 males would cost them over $300,
when a primary concern is putting food on their tables. As a result, female cats didn’t get spayed and their kittens were abandoned. I rescued more abandoned kittens this past year than the past 18 years that I’ve been doing so.
The spay/neuter van needs to continue and be available to feral cats, as it has been in the past and not be denied to feral cats as it was this past year.

In addition, Ms. Dalton lamented that experienced TNR supporters were barred from participating during the decision making work session of the task force, resulting in a lop-sided set of recommendations favoring cat eradication.

It’s up to the Kauai Co Council to consider the recommendations of the task force and determine what action to take regarding its community cats.  Anyone wishing to contact the council with polite comments supporting TNR and opposing cat extermination and the criminalization of cat owners should email: Councilmembers@kauai.gov

(Thanks Nathan for sending me this story.)

39 thoughts on “Hawaiian Island on Path to Exterminate 20,000 Cats

  1. Bad ideas all the way around. They will not achieve their goal and many cats who are both cared for and loved will die. There is a better way – TNR works, providing low cost/free SN works. Catch and kill does not.

  2. So, it’s going to be expensive, inhumane, and ineffective. Yep. Sounds like government in action.

    I can’t imagine where they think that they’re going to be 10 years from now, but I will bet you big money, it isn’t going to be “zero feral, abandoned and stray cats”.

  3. “Polite comments”……I just can’t imagine myself saying anything polite to such idiots. But this is another prime example of what can happen when such a council listens to such a ‘group’ of people that are so biased. Unfortunately, these people manage to put themselves in a position where they can claim “expert” status. More reasonable and better informed people need to make themselves known as the “go to experts” in the field.

  4. My brother and sister in law live on Kuai. I’ve contacted them about this again. It’s no different on the beautiful islands than it is in the lower 48…ignorance and lack of scientific evidence runs rampant. Killing is always the answer with people like this.

  5. Nitwits…. I sent a (nice) email with a link to Allet Cat Allies. Maybe they’ll get educated before they do something stupid. Now I have a valid reason for not wanting to ever go to Hawaii. I’ll say it again. Nitwits….

    1. When you write to them, just keep in mind that they don’t care about cats. Stressing the “humane” aspect is of no use. They will consider you as yet another soft-hearted cat lady who does not have the power to do anything and dismiss you. Perhaps it will be more effective to point out that how this will cause a lot of bad publicity, which will hurt their little tourism industry, which then will then cause them to lose money, and also point out that punishing people who do TNR is going to get the opposite result. People ain’t going to stop feeding the cats because you make up some unenforceable rules. Despite that there are many people don’t care about cats, there are also many people who consider cats’ lives more important than the risk of getting fined. And because they will punish people who do TNR, people are just going to feed the cats without going through the trouble to do TNR, as it is a lot of trouble to do TNR as it involves a lot of work and makes you a lot more visible than just feeding the cats.

      1. Agreed. w/GmailIsDown (@GmailIsDown) – your last sentence sooo true.

        “And because they will punish people who do TNR, people are just going to feed the cats without going through to do TNR, as it is a lot of trouble to do TNR as it involves a lot of work and makes you a lot more visible than just feeding the cats.”

        When in the past I helped with several colonies of cats at different locations – It could get dangerous for the cats and even for myself – even though I had support with a local rescue group – I used to feel like a stealth cat helper. And lots of hard work (and expense)…but worth it.

  6. Seems to be the only thing that gets hardened hearts attention – money. I won’t be going to Hawaii that’s for sure. No dollars for killers from me.

  7. They paid $30k for a report?? They should have rather spent that money toward TNR efforts, those work! I’ve been to Oahu years ago and we had plans to visit the big island at some point in the future..well, they certainly won’t see my $’s now. I don’t support this.

  8. This is so not right.I go to kauai every year for vacation.I now will not return to Kauai to spend my tourist dollars, until kauai changes its stance on all cats

  9. I am a TNR advocate… for places where it’s appropriate. That’s most places in the US, but NOT in the Hawaiian islands. Those estimates for bird kills that are floating around are, as you say, sketchy at best, but it doesn’t matter in this case: it’s a fact that cats kill birds. On islands like these, even a few individual birds killed per years makes a difference to many of the endangered species.

    This is possibly the first time I completely agree with the anti-cat person quoted in the article: the guidelines don’t go far enough. I’m generally against animal licensing or other restictive laws on pet ownership, except in this case. The right to own a cat should be severely restricted in special, unique and FRAGILE ecosystems like this.

    And because it’s an island, there is a good chance that eradication efforts could work better than TNR if they try hard enough.

    I know this isn’t a popular opinion here, but please consider that it’s not coming from a cat hater: I work for a no-kill shelter, volunteer for three other cat-only rescues and participate often in the TNR efforts locally; I own an indoor/outdoor cat. I let her outside because I know she can’t harm the animal population where I live; I went door-to-door and did a TNR campaign in my own neighborhood and it worked GREAT, there hasn’t been a single new kitten spotted in three years.

    But be honest: I’ve seen it, you’ve probably seen it: TNR doesn’t always work the way it’s “supposed” to. There is one rescuer I’ve been volunteering with for 5 years, and she’s been doing consistent TNR in one section of town for over 15 years. It hasn’t made a single, noticeable change.

    1. Surely it has made a noticeable change in fact that cats are not making kittens that would otherwise suffer and die? How much suffering do you think she’s saved in her efforts? Quite a lot, I would imagine.

      And if it isn’t working like it’s “supposed” to, then there’s another factor at play that needs to be addressed. TNR isn’t an entity unto itself.

      As for the island – we’ll agree to disagree on this one. The idea of “native species” goes right out the window the moment you introduce humans into the equation.

      1. Please see my comment below – TNR is failing despite multi-pronged and concerted efforts in the area. It’s simply a fact that TNR doesn’t always work, and isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that’s appropriate for EVERY location. It hurts our cause if we lie to ourselves about that.

    2. If the island decides it wants to be cat free, I would propose they go about it in a way that does not cost lives. If not, I would propose they partner with the people who know how to manage feral cats. In any case, I believe their current plan, if implemented, will fail.

      1. I guess we simply disagree. The current plan COULD work if they try hard enough. Invasive species eradication efforts have worked on many other islands with a variety of different species more difficult than cats (like rats and goats). I would love if it could happen without killing any cats, but I don’t think that’s feasible in this case. Normally I wouldn’t advocate for killing cats, but again, this is a special place with special endangered species and outdoor cats are a direct, known threat.

  10. I attended one of the task force meetings, and it was obvious from the outset that little was going to come out of this effort. It was more or less fixed from the outset.

    It was almost comical to watch all the arm-waving and backpedaling when the I used the word “eradication”—as if this isn’t in fact what they are proposing (without the courage to say so). The whole thing was a farce.

    I presume the folks in favor of the eradication effort are also willing to pay for it. On Ascension Island — one-sixteenth the size of the Kaua‘i — it cost nearly $2,200 (in 2013 dollars) for each of the 635 cats eradicated over 27 months (nearly 40 percent of which were pets). Is it any wonder there was no mention of such costs in the task force’s final report?

    Peter J. Wolf

    1. Hi Peter – we met at No Kill 2012! Is there any data available about the number of cats there are now on Ascension as compared to before the eradication of the 635 cats? Who did pay for the eradication on Ascension Island? My best – Karen

      1. UK taxpayers paid via the UK Foreign Office, ~650,000 GBP including eradication and monitoring. Project led by the RSPB Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Ratcliffe et al 2009/2010 report stated 74 sterilized pet cats remained, imports still allowed if neutered. Parkes et al 2014 paper repeats pet cats are neutered, citing Ratcliffe!

    2. Thank you for your efforts, Peter. I imagine in five years’ time, they’ll start looking at “other solutions”.

  11. I volunteer to foster some of these cats and kitten here on Kauai. I always thought why don’t they make a cat sanctuary? Just get a small building some where and put the cats there. Also have a cat adoption facility there and even add a room where people who can’t own pets can come and play and bound with them like in Japan. I know Japan has centers that all you do is come and play with the animals there and it also provides therapy for people and children. There is also the issue of 90% of homes on Kauai don’t allow pets not just cats are getting kid but all pets are.

  12. Creating tough, mandatory laws like licensing, bans on feeding outdoor cats, killing instead of trap-neuter-return, have been proven ineffective in communities for many years. They are created by those too lazy to actually resolve the issue. The most important factor that will determine success is passionate, hard-working leadership that is not content to hide behind tired myths. Leaders that show a community that they care for the community cats will win public support. Once communities understand that something is being done to control the cat population, they usually embrace having a trap-neuter-return program and community morale improves. Catching and killing cats has been a futile effort used by animal control and shelters across the country for decades.
    Continuing an approach that is clearly not working is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, it is also shows blatant disregard for efficiency and value—at a time when the economy is at the forefront of everybody’s mind. Investing in spay/neuter and trap-neuter-return demonstrates a socially responsible (and compassionate), efficient approach to serving the animals and the public. Trap-neuter-return reflects a community’s humane ethic that cats deserve to live out their lives in their outdoor homes. Money, instead of being spent on useless killing, should be used to protect the cats, support the colony caregivers and provide the surgeries. It is a tragedy that needs to end, and you have the opportunity to do just that, please consider establishing a sanctuary where the community cats can live out their lives, and establish good will on the Island that locals and tourist alike will appreciate.

    1. “…The most important factor that will determine success is passionate, hard-working leadership”

      I agree it’ll take a lot of money and work to stop and reverse the cat problem, but the “R” part of “TNR” has no place in Hawaii. I’d love it if they’d trap them and transport them all to the mainland – I’d love if those 20,000 cats could live out their lives somewhere where they weren’t a huge threat to endangered species. Maybe those so strongly opposed to killing them could fundraise to build a sanctuary on the mainland.

      Also, killing cats HAS proven effective in some situations, especially on island habitats where cats are treated solely as an invasive species and not a pet. The Galapagos, just one example. And yeah, it took a lot of money and man power, but it worked. So let’s not lie to ourselves that “it would never work”.

  13. Cybersuzy- I find your statements do not add up. Very conflicted.
    After over 40 years of doing TNR in many many different locals with results, I find that there must be serious mitigating issues to your friends TNR efforts.
    If she is not TNR at least 70% of the colony in short order she will not be able to manage it. So if she is only doing one cat here and there she is not practicing TNR appropriately. And your statement does not hold one ounce of substance.

    1. This isn’t an amateur – she’s a seasoned veteran in the battle against cat reproduction. She’s overseen the sterilization and adoptions of thousands since she started working in this region, and along with education campaigns, targeted advertising, low-income support for food/vaccinations, barn cat programs, transporting kittens to other rescues, adoption events, managing multiple foster homes for cats, kittens, orphans, taming feral kittens, etc.

      In some places, TNR is working, it others it is not, and where it’s failing it’s not because we’re half-assing it. It’s because TNR DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK. The bad area of town I wrote about above (note: not a single, neatly defined “colony”, but a large mobile home park with mix of ferals, semi-tame neighborhood cats fed by everyone, and owned cats) was hit hard by a large TNR campaign back when she first moved into town, and then again about 8 years ago, each time probably hitting that “70% goal”. And every couple months since we take at least a dozen cats/kittens from the area to the spay/neuter clinic (including owned, “owned”, and feral).

      The very important failing of the typical TNR mantra is that the resident cats’ mere presence is NOT enough to keep other cats from coming in from surrounding areas – the carrying capacity is much denser than you’d like to believe, probably because there’s plenty of food and hiding places. It also doesn’t help that it’s a high flux housing area with people moving in and out constantly, bringing in new cats/kittens and sometimes leaving again before they learn about the spay/neuter program. All they have to do is leave just one or two kittens behind.

  14. A lot of corporations hold meetings and perk trips to Kauai. I think it’s time for us to ask our employers to give a pass to Kauai.
    Perhaps a online petition to raise awareness and ask corporations to find a more humane locale.

  15. 20,000 cats (a bogus high estimate courtesy of ABC I am sure) they spent $30,000- they could have S/N every cat on the island for that. This smells to high Napalli….

  16. NOT Task Force, Task FARCE! A shameful, arrogant and deceitful outcome for what could have been a unique opportunity to collaborate for a humane and REAL solution. Instead, the decision is simply a ruse to disguise the real agenda: job security! Look at the annual report from these governmental agencies regarding their “take” of invasive species and then compare the results with the outrageous cost to the taxpayer!!! PLUS – these agencies have no oversight or accountability. No wonder they think they’re God! DISGUSTING.

  17. “The county paid $30,000 for the report,” Do you know how many cats could have been spayed and neutered with these funds???!!!!

    Trap Neuter Return…or I won’t be back to your island.

  18. What the hell happened to Paradise? I think it’s full of bastards who don’t give a damn about animals! I definitely wont return to the Islands and I hope these postings cost them big time! Evil bastards!

  19. I made sure I let them know in my email that if they choose to kill the cats on their island I would choose to vacation elsewhere and that I was sure many more cat lovers would do the same. Thanks for getting the word out, paws and fingers crossed we can save the cats. Hawaii sounds more like Hell then Paradise with their draconian pet policies.

  20. And now the unqualified Director of the Kauai Humane Society has done this: We have been given some “guidelines” by the Kauai Humane Society for how they will deal with feral cats. The most troubling guideline is that we CANNOT bring in a total of MORE than 5 cats in one day to get spayed/neutered. We never know how many we are going to get on nights when we go trapping, and we have volunteers who trap all around the island. We guess this means that all trappers need to be in constant phone contact while trapping: “I have 3.” “OK, I have 3 also, which one of us is going to let one go?” And you can just imagine similar conversations… Certainly, we could keep the number we trap in excess of the 5 cat limit in traps for another day. But ferals do NOT do well spending time in traps, and we consider keeping them in traps for longer than necessary to be unacceptable and harmful.

    Last week, one of our trappers caught 9 cats in one night — an amazing accomplishment! When the trapper took the cats in to KHS the next day, she was told that there was a 5 cat limit: and that was the FIRST time we had heard that. In trying to sort that out, we received an email from the Director saying that the staff at the front desk had misunderstood, and there was NO limit. (NOTE: the trapper was allowed to have all 9 fixed that day, as a one time thing.) Fast forward a few days, and we are presented with these guidelines from the Director. Here is the language from the guidelines: “Please bring in no more than 5 feral cats at a time. We may accommodate more than 5 feral cats in our surgery schedule and only on a space-available basis. We recommend that you check our surgery schedule in advance in case of non-surgery days.” OK, so we *might* be allowed more than 5 in certain circumstances which we will not know until we show up at KHS with trapped ferals.

    How are we supposed to make a dent in the number of ferals with limitations like this? Certainly, there are days when we do NOT trap any cats. And there have been plenty of days when multiple trappers each catch several cats. Also, sometimes we have to go back for several days in a row to trap either a specific group of cats or the litters of kittens that seem to always be present. Are we now only permitted to bring in 5 kittens, even if the litter is bigger? We have been told that if we are going to conduct a mass trapping — of more than 10 — we should call ahead of time to schedule a special “feral fix” day. Trapping is opportunistic: we can’t plan how many cats we’ll get, so how can we know AHEAD of time how many we are going to trap on any given night?

    We have also had to call each and every week in order to find out what days spays/neuters will be done for ferals that week — with no set days from week to week. Now this. Where does it end? We desperately need an alternative to conducting spays/neuters at KHS, and we are hopeful that some island veterinarians will help us find a solution.

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