The co-founder and president of Alley Cat Allies, headed to downtown Washington, D.C. yesterday to take a stand for cats. No, Becky Robinson didn't stage a protest at the White House or picket the Capitol, she went to the Smithsonian.
Why would she go to the repository of the nation's treasures?
Robinson was delivering a petition signed by 55,000 people to protest the Smithsonian's funding of a controversial study on cats and wildlife.That study released early this year, claimed that domestic cats kill 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 small mammals (aka mice and other rodents, the reason cats were domesticated in the first place) each year in the United States.
Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats, disputes the study.
Other animal welfare organizations, like the Humane Society of the United States, while recognizing the issue of cat predation is real, say it is unfair for the scientific community and others (I will add here the Audubon Society and other pro-bird groups) to demonize free-roaming cats - who often are not living outside through any fault of their own.
The signatures were delivered Smithsonian Undersecretary of Science Eva Pell, along with an analysis by an independent researcher that found major flaws in the Smithsonian study.
“Americans don’t want an institution that receives taxpayer money to fund a study that essentially declares war on the nation’s most beloved companion animal,” Robinson said. “We are calling on the Smithsonian to disavow this research and stop funding junk science with immediate effect.”
Alley Cat Allies asked an independent researcher, statistician Gregory J. Matthews of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, to conduct an independent review of the Smithsonian study which appeared in the journal Nature Communications. He found major flaws in the study:
The Smithsonian researchers studied a small sample of cats over three summer months in one specific geographic area and extrapolated it to cats all across the United States over all seasons. Some of the studies researchers used to make their case were decades old, including one from 1930. Matthews concluded that had he been a peer reviewer of this paper, he would have graded it unacceptable for publication.
The study trashed Trap Neuter and Return (TNR) programs that Alley Cat Allies and others contend are the most humane way to control free-roaming cat populations. Feral cats stand virtually no chance of adoption at overcrowded shelters and using lethal means only creates a void for more non-spayed or neutered cats to fill.
More than 330 local governments have adopted or endorse TNR and two states, Illinois and Utah, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that support TNR, Robinson said. Several state legislatures are now considering bills that would make it easier for communities to conduct TNR.Even the Pennsylvania legislature recognizes National Feral Cat Day each October.
Today Alley Cat Allies launches a website “Common Sense for Cats” to educate Americans about outdoor cats, debunk myths and explain why they feel TNR is the only humane and effective program to stabilize and reduce outdoor cat populations.