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Best Friends Animal Society's new online Feral Fiscal Impact Calculator helps communties determine the costs of destroying feral cats as opposed to the only effective way of permanently reducing their numbers through TNR. (Photo by Meredith Weiss)

Best Friends Animal Society's new online Feral Fiscal Impact Calculator helps communties determine the costs of destroying feral cats as opposed to the only effective way of permanently reducing their numbers through TNR.

Photo by Meredith Weiss

NYC Eartips: Summer 2010

Feral Fiscal Impact Calculator Debuts Along with TNR Cost Research Study

by Best Friends Animal Society

Communities trying to solve the problem of homeless cats by trapping and killing them are not only using archaic, inhumane methods but also are engaged in a useless waste of tax dollars, according to an economic study commissioned by Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society. Best Friends' Focus on Felines program is dedicated to finding workable community-based solutions to address the issues of homeless cats.

The study, completed by John Dunham and Associates and funded by PetSmart Charities, serves as core information for a new online Feral Fiscal Impact Calculator that, according to Best Friends, will help county and local governmental entities determine the true cost of removing homeless cats by destroying them.

Bottom line finding: With an estimated 87 million free-roaming, homeless cats in the United States, it would cost governmental entities about $16 billion to trap and kill these cats as opposed to about $7 billion for supporting trap-neuter/spay-return (TNR) programs run by rescue organizations and individual volunteers.

Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative attorney for Best Friends, said: "With the current economic crisis, cities and counties are laying off animal control staff. Everyone wants to see the number of homeless, free-roaming cats radically reduced, but if you can find a humane way to decrease the number and save money, wouldn't this be the best alternative? Now more than ever we can use economic arguments to advance humane approaches."

"After years of eradication programs, we still have an estimated 87 million homeless cats; and trends indicate this number is rising. Eradication only works on an island. The trap and kill method is expensive and it doesn't work, so why continue to embrace it?"

"We are so appreciative of PetSmart Charities for funding this educational study," VanKavage said. "Our hope is that government officials and humanitarians will use our Feral Fiscal Impact Calculator to find out how much their community could save by employing TNR."

Other Key Study Findings

In most American communities, stray cats are a familiar sight. For more than 10,000 years, the species Felis catus has lived beside humans. With the growing population of feral (community) cats, there has been much policy debate on how to handle the situation. Some argue for eradication, but this doesn't curb population growth because some new cats that escape trap and kill will always be born. The humane solution is trap, neuter, and return, a cost efficient, no-kill means of reducing feral cat populations.

Key Quotes from the Study

"Trap, Neuter/Spay, and Return (TNR), is a humane alternative to trap and kill. Spay/Neuter programs have existed since the 1970s for pet owners. The 1980s saw a general decline in the number of free-roaming cats and dogs, but this leveled off by the 1990s. As American society became more mobile, higher relocation rates led to increased pet abandonment. While pet owners and the accessible spay/neuter programs were successful in reducing the number for free-roaming cats and dogs, shelter, trap, and kill policies remained the standard in communities addressing free-roaming animal issues."

"TNR programs have had much success on municipal levels, with some of the most comprehensive being San Diego, New York City, Mobile County, Alabama, Chicago/Cook County, and Jacksonville, Florida." (Best Friends, First Coast, the City of Jacksonville, and Jacksonville Humane Society have partnered in a program called "Feral Freedom." The cats that arrive at the city animal shelter in traps are turned over to First Coast to be spay/neutered then returned to their original trap location. These cats are referred to as "community cats.")

"The city of San Diego had one of the earliest and most successful TNR programs. In the early 1990s, the Feral Cat Coalition of San Diego began programs aimed at curtailing the free-roaming cat population in the city as an alternative to exterminating the cats. Since 1992, not only has the city moved towards being a 'no-kill' community, it has witnessed 50-percent decrease in the feral cat population."

The Feral Fiscal Impact Calculator and associated study are part of Best Friends Animal Society's nationwide campaign, Focus on Felines, which is part of the society's ongoing effort to keep cats safe and out of shelters across the country.

About the Author

Best Friends Animal Society is a nonprofit, membership organization building no-kill programs and partnerships that will bring about a day when there are No More Homeless Pets. The society's leading initiatives in animal care and community programs are coordinated from its Kanab, Utah, headquarters, the country's largest no-kill sanctuary. This work is made possible by the personal and financial support of a grassroots network of members and community partners across the nation.