Feline defenders pounce on township anti-cat proposals



Feral and stray cats have found themselves in the municipal crosshairs in the Philadelphia area and outside of Harrisburg in recent weeks but local and national cat defenders are coming to their rescue.

In South Newton Township west of Carlisle, a rabid cat bit a toddler several months ago. Hysteria ensued and a plan was hatched to round up and kill all free roaming cats.

Efforts by local animal welfare advocates and the national advocacy group Alley Cat Allies have put the kibosh on that plan for now. The community plans to meet to discuss the issue Tuesday at the fire house in Walnut Bottom..

Let's put the issue of cats and rabies in context. First, rabies cases overall declined last year in Pennsylvania by 15 percent. In 2012 there were 385 cases statewide and by far the biggest transmitter was raccoons.

As the Department of Agriculture has said, cats make up the highest number of domestic animals but it's a fraction of overall cases statewide and let's face it, there are far fewer free roaming dogs in this state who would be exposed to rabid wild animals and far more irresponsible pet owners who abandon unspayed or unneutered cats and fail to get animals vaccinated.

Washington D.C.-based Alley Cat Allies is offering to vaccinate every animal in the township against rabies for free, as long as the township drops its plans to euthanize the feral cat population.

A local group, Nobody’s Cats Foundation has stepped up to provide the township with information and assistance with a trap, neuter and return program, according to the Carlisle Sentinel.

Foundation president Christine Arnold called the proposed solution to euthanize the cats unethical and hopes that the township will implement a different method of population control.

 “In my view, trap and kill is not ethical, it’s extremely expensive, and it doesn’t work,” she told the paper. “So any township considering trap and kill will quickly discover if they implement that strategy, that they aren’t going to address the root cause of the problem, they are just going after an effect, and it will result in more expense, more controversy and more conflict in the future.”

Meanwhile, outside of Philadelphia, Radnor Township is scheduled to vote on a proposal at its Aug. 26  to force anyone feeding stray cats to get them vaccinated for rabies.

Cat lovers, and Alley Cat Allies' legal team showed up at the meeting earlier this month to voice their opposition to the idea.

In a perfect world all cats would be healthy and happy and curled up next to their dog friends by the fireplace. But Pennsylvania is cruel place for an abandoned cat. Sadly in my central Pennsylvania community the answe to all questions related to cats is "shoot 'em." I am sure elsewhere in the rural reaches of the state the feeling is the same.

The Radnor officials want to make criminals out of the kind-hearted. Why not institute a trap, neuter return program? If people are interested in caring for the cats, but do not have the ability to catch them or the funds to get them vaccinated (and spayed and neutered) then why not make it a community effort?

Radnor Township is hardly a poverty stricken community (avereage per capita income in 2011 was $51,000). And there were no rabid cats found in Delaware County last year - or the previous five years which was as far back as I checked - which had one of the lowest overall rates of rabid species among the state's 67 counties with only 5 cases (2 bats,1 skunk, 1 fox).

The good folks at Best Friends Animal Society reminded me of .national study on rabies in cats, to wit:

Approximately 92 percent of rabid animals reported to the CDC during 2010 were wildlife. Cases among domestic animals included 303 cats (4.9 percent), 71 cattle (1.1 percent), and 69 dogs (1.1 percent).3 Since 1960, only two cases of human rabies have been attributed to cats.

More on the Radnor Township battle in the Delaware County Times.

The Nobody's Cats Foundation will host a special two-hour seminar on the basics of trap, neuter return on Aug. 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the foundation’s facility at 3909 Hartzdale Drive, Suite 905, Camp Hill. To sign up contact@nobodyscats.org.

To help encourage TNR in local communities in adviance of National Feral Cat Day (Oct. 15) Alley Cat Allies is offering awards of $5,000 to shelters that. dopt lifesaving policies for stray cats. For more info on that program click here.