Justice for feral cats and homes for others

Two cat-related news bulletins that crossed my transom recently caught my attention.

First, a National Zoo researcher - whose specialty apparently not-coincidently was migratory birds - was convicted of animal cruelty Monday for attempting to poison a feral cat colony in her Washington D.C. neighborhood.

Nico Dauphine, a researcher at the Smithsonian's Migratory Bird Center, was found guilty after video surveillance camera caughter her placing rate poison in food bowls.

Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy group for feral cats, applauded the verdict and called on the Smithsonian to immediately dismiss Dauphine from her post.

“We are satisfied with this verdict,” said Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies. “Americans care about cats and will not tolerate cruelty towards them. We are grateful to law enforcement and to the prosecutors for treating this crime with the seriousness it deserved.”

Research summaries posted to the Migratory Bird Center’s web site indicate that one of Dauphine’s research projects involved “mounting small cameras on domestic cats that roam outdoors to see how they affect wild bird populations,” put Dauphine in direct contact with cats, says Robinson.

“Her conviction for attempting to kill cats, along with her history of condemning cats in research, leaves her work suspect of major bias. Her work should be discredited and disregarded by the scientific community.”

The Migratory Bird Center produces studies used throughout the country to justify stray cat eradication plans on the basis that free roaming cats destroy large numbers of birds. One Smithsonian study published earlier this year estimated that 1 billion birds are killed by domestic and feral cats in the U.S. each year and recommended cat euthanasia as the answer - which is exactly what the court found the vaunted institution's researcher was doing on her own.

Good news for the hundreds of survivors of a Florida "cat rescue" who had to be rescued again by the Humane Society of the United States in what is among the largest rescues of cats in the country. In Juneits Animal Rescue team helped save 700 cats from wretched conditions.

Placing them posed a challenge until shelters - and individuals - from up and down the East Coast stepped in.

In his blog post recently HSUS president Wayne Pacelle reports that all treatable, adoptable cat was adopted or placed with a shelter or rescue group. In some cases that meant homes with families, in others it meant relocated cats to managed feral cat colonies. Some cats went home with HSUS volunteers.

Here's the best part, rescue leaders did not order the destruction of cats with feline leukemia virus (FLV)  and feline immunodefiency virus (FIV)  also known as feline AIDS. FIV and FLV cats are almost always destroyed immediately at shelters. Yes, their diseases are contagious, feline leukemia more so than feline AIDS.

FLV is transmitted through saliva so even sharing bowls or mutual grooming can promote spread of the disease. FIV transmission occurs most often only through puncture wounds and bites so experts say you can keep an FIP postive cat and healthy cats together if they get along.

Oh great, you say, allowing sick cats to live while healthy cats are destroyed in shelters every day. Yes, their lives will highly likely be shortened by the disease but why deprive a symptom-free cat a chance at life?

The highly-respected veterinay medical school at Cornell University issued a fact sheet that says the average lifespan of an FLV positive cat is two years.

My Suki is ten and still going strong. (Lesson: You can't always believe the so-called experts)

As the keeper of threel "leuk positive cats" and two with feline AIDS (they are kept separately in my heated kitty condo in my barn), I can say with authority that they can live long, symptom-free lives. Suki and her littermates appeared in our log pile shortly after we moved to rural central Pennsylvania. Their mother had turned up at our back door a few months earlier.

She was diagnosed when she was about a year or two old and at the time she was living outside. Today, in the confines of her comfortable home, she thrives. She is bright-eyed and eats (and eliminates) well. She enjoys treats, being brushed and spending time in the sun.

In the Florida case, one lucky feline-leukemia-positive kitty flew with volunteer Lou Montgomery to Maryland’s Rude Ranch Animal Rescue. Another four survivors flew with Best Friends volunteers to Las Vegas and will live at Best Friends Animal Society. Another 11 animals will be housed in an area shelter and cared for University of Florida veterinary school volunteers.

Maybe the University of Florida will publish a more honest and hopeful "fact" sheet based on their observations of the rescued cats.