Community Cats & TNR: Look How Far They’ve Come

Community cat Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) have come a long way in saving cat’s lives

For more than 10,000 years, cats have lived outdoors, “as citizens of the natural landscape,” so eloquently stated on Alley Cat Allies’ website. But in the mid-20th century, thanks to the invention of kitty litter, we started to welcome cats indoors with us as companions in our homes. Not long after, thousands upon thousands of cats were brought into animal shelters, where most of them were killed because they weren’t socialized to people and couldn’t be adopted out as pets. 

Sadly, untold thousands of healthy cats lost their lives needlessly in shelters and in the field because of catch-and-kill policies. These policies were based on the false assumptions that miss out on the truth that it’s perfectly normal for cats to live outdoors. 

With the founding in 1990 of Alley Cat Allies, the fledgling organization that would become the global leader in the movement to protect cats and kittens, perceptions began to change. Alley Cat Allies and other advocacy groups have helped more people understand that every cat has intrinsic value, whether living inside or outside. They deserve to live out their lives to the fullest, without the threat of being rounded up and killed. 

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) began to gain popularity in the U.S. just as it had already done in Europe. Now a mainstream practice, TNR is the only humane and effective approach to address community cat populations. With TNR, cats living outdoors are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, surgically and painlessly ear-tipped on the left ear for identification, and returned to their territory. Caregivers provide them with food, shelter, and medical care. Whenever possible, kittens and friendly cats are taken in for adoption.

Alley Cat Allies was instrumental in gaining wider acceptance for TNR by connecting like-minded TNR enthusiasts in communities across the country. Once a few key community players were connected with help from Alley Cat Allies, TNR took off. 

While TNR had gained significant traction in New York City by 2000, thousands of cats were still being euthanized. When the Mayor’s Alliance was founded in 2003 to transform New York City into a no-kill community, we recognized the need to dramatically intensify efforts to reduce the number of feral community cats entering and being killed at the city’s shelters. 

So the Mayor’s Alliance created the NYC Feral Cat Council in 2004 to provide visibility for the network of people and groups doing TNR in New York City. The following year, we stepped up efforts to expand TNR by creating the NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI). The NYCFCI provided a more robust approach to addressing the community cat issue by offering concrete services and resources, including a broad array of training opportunities, to individuals and organizations caring for community cats and performing TNR. In 2019, we transferred the program to Bideawee.

In New York City and across the country, society’s perceptions about community cats and the value of TNR began to change. And animal welfare policies evolved. More and more national and local organizations began to embrace TNR as the preferred method of managing community cats. 

The Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) position on outdoor cats, as it appears on its website, states: “…we support Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and similar sterilization programs, legislation that allows for and supports non-lethal population control, and coalition-based approaches that involve community leaders, citizens, and stakeholders to implement effective community cat management programs. Programs that attempt to use lethal control to eliminate cat populations are inhumane, ineffective, and wasteful of scarce resources.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) takes a similar position on community cats and community cat programs, stating on its website: “The ASPCA supports humane, lawful, and effective strategies for humanely managing community cat populations, including programs involving trap-neuter-return-monitor (TNRM), return to field (RTF) or, as a last resort, community cat relocation (CCR). Such community cat programs not only provide life-saving options for cats who might otherwise be euthanized when admitted to a shelter but also can stabilize, and even reduce over time, the population of community cat colonies (Levy and Crawford, 2004; Robertson, 2008).”

And the National Animal Care & Control Association’s (NACA) position on the intake of free-roaming cats states “…at every opportunity, officers should [will] work to educate the public regarding humane and responsible co-existence and care of pet and community cats, to include education on the benefits and resources for spay/neuter and vaccination; responsible feeding and management practices for those choosing to care for community cats; and effective methods to humanely deter and exclude animals from homes, structures and targeted areas. It is the position of NACA that indiscriminate pick up or admission of healthy, free-roaming cats, regardless of temperament, for any purpose other than TNR/SNR, fails to serve commonly held goals of community animal management and protection programs and, as such, is a misuse of time and public funds and should be avoided.”

As cities and towns across the country tackle the challenges presented by their community cat populations, many are embracing the wisdom of implementing policies that support TNR. Nearly a decade ago, New York City lead by example when then Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Local Law 59, which endorses TNR as the approved and recommended method for controlling and decreasing the numbers of free-roaming community and feral cats in all areas of New York City, public and private. This landmark legislation recognized TNR as the preferred method of managing feral cat populations. The Mayor’s Alliance was a strong proponent of, and helped to craft, this important legislation.

The Mayor’s Alliance continues to promote TNR because TNR works. “Scientific studies and communities with TNR programs are proof that TNR stabilizes populations of community cats,“ says Becky Robinson, President and Founder of Alley Cat Allies. 

To learn more about TNR and community cats, and how you can become a part of the growing movement to help improve their quality of life, visit Alley Cat Allies and Bideawee’s Feral Cat Initiative.

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Mayor’s Alliance Fills Transport Gaps to Assist Rescue Partners

Transport of Lola in Debbie’s car, two supply deliveries outside ACC

Lola, a 58-pound German Shorthaired Pointer, became an orphan when her owner passed away. But Lola’s luck changed when a Good Samaritan neighbor took her in and adopted her.

Unfortunately, Lola developed skin problems and a troubling lump on her stomach. Lola’s human knew she had to be seen by a veterinarian to determine the severity of these health issues. So he contacted the Mayor’s Alliance for help to find an affordable veterinary facility.

We contacted a longtime partner, the Humane Society of New York (HSNY). The HSNY Animal Clinic has remained open under restricted access during the COVID-19 pandemic for urgent cases and wellness appointments. HSNY’s Executive Director Sandra DeFeo made an appointment for Lola to be examined by one of the clinic’s doctors. 

HSNY asked for the Alliance’s help in transporting Lola to and from her appointment. So we arranged for former Alliance Wheels of Hope driver Debbie Fierro to transport Lola and her human dad at no charge to him. Debbie operates her own private transport service for shelter animals and owned pets called Precious Cargo Pet Transport.

Lola’s appointment day came, and Debbie delivered Lola and her human to the clinic. But instead of sitting idly by waiting for Lola’s appointment to be completed, Debbie made use of the down time. She drove Uptown and picked up a generous supply of donated premium cat litter and delivered it to the NYC Animal Care Center (ACC) shelter in Harlem for the shelter’s foster care team. Then she drove back to the HSNY Animal Clinic, retrieved Lola and her human, and drove them home.

Lola’s exam revealed that surgery was required to remove the lump from her stomach. HSNY once again asked the Alliance to assist with transport for her surgery. For this transport we arranged for Ambuvet Pet Ambulance to transport Lola to and from the HSNY clinic. The surgery went well, and Ambuvet returned Lola to her home the same day.

A few days later, Debbie delivered more supplies donated to the Alliance to ACC’s foster care team. This donation included a litter box with liners, two metal bowls, five bags of litter, and a large carrier. The following week, Debbie completed yet another transport of donated supplies to ACC, including a pet stroller. 

These specialized transports for HSNY and ACC are fulfilling the Alliance’s commitment to provide limited transport for rescue groups and other animal welfare organizations that have transport needs that fall outside the criteria for the Best Friends Northeast Transport Program and Bideawee’s NYC Feral Cat Initiative transports. By providing these limited transports, the Alliance is filling gaps in transport and, in doing so, is helping our partners achieve positive outcomes for the animals in their care. 

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Orphaned NYC Cat Flies High to His New West Coast Home

J Crew and SWATT volunteer, Hanna

It took a village to get J Crew, an orphaned NYC cat, to his new home in Oregon. But despite Covid-19 and extreme weather challenges, volunteer Flight Angels at Southwest Animal Transport Team (SWATT) provided the wings that carried him into the arms of his new adopter.

SWATT is a group of Southwest Airlines employees and retirees, known as Flight Angels. They donate their time and use their travel privileges to transport rescue animals within the continental U.S. SWATT collaborates with Delta Animal Rescue Transports (DART), as well as fosters, shelters, rescues that pull from high-kill shelters, and sanctuaries to transport rescued animals to their forever homes. 

Nine-year-old J Crew’s human dad adopted him from the ASPCA six years ago. Sadly, he passed away in January. His sister Sheila*, who lives in Portland, Oregon wanted to adopt J Crew. So she arranged for her brother’s long-time neighbor to care for J Crew until she could make arrangements to transport him to Portland. 

Sheila reached out to numerous rescue-related organizations seeking help with transport. A Best Friends Animal Society volunteer referred her to the Mayor’s Alliance. We contacted SWATT, who agreed to help, and, in collaboration with DART, set the wheels in motion to arrange a cross-country transport.

Preparing for the Journey

J Crew was alone in NYC except for the neighbor who cared for him each day. That made preparing him for travel more complicated than a typical SWATT / DART transport for a rescue group. 

First, it wasn’t clear how well J Crew would tolerate a harness and confinement to an airline–approved carrier. Both were required for airline travel. So a test run had to be set up. The neighbor who had been caring for J Crew handled this step. 

Next, J Crew had to be examined and vaccinated by a veterinarian to acquire a health certificate for interstate travel. Sheila’s daughter on the West Coast arranged for an employee at Animal General Hospital in Manhattan to facilitate the vet visit. Fortunately, J Crew was deemed medically and behaviorally able to make the trip. 

Meanwhile, SWATT recruited the necessary volunteers to transport J Crew. Navigating uncertain weather conditions across the country, the SWATT team coordinated with DART to schedule the transport to take place on Monday, Feb. 22. 

Travel Day 

Initially, two different Flight Angels were lined up to share the four-leg, round trip flight from New York City to Minneapolis; Minneapolis to Portland; Portland back to Minneapolis and then back to New York the same day. But Hannah, of Delta Airlines, one of the two Flight Angels, decided to handle the entire round trip. This allowed J Crew to have the comfort and continuity of a single travel companion. 

The travelers’ day began early. Hannah picked up J Crew from his West Side apartment at 5:00 AM Eastern Time. They arrived at Laguardia Airport in plenty of time to board the 7:00 AM flight to Minneapolis. 

The stop in Minneapolis allowed Hannah to give J Crew a bathroom break. Then our travelers continued on the second leg of their westbound journey. At 12:44 PM Pacific Time, Hannah and J Crew touched down at Portland International Airport. Hannah met Sheila and her daughter in the airport’s baggage area, and J Crew met his new family. 

Mission Accomplished

Hannah boarded the next eastbound Delta flight. After her second stop that day in Minneapolis, she arrived back at NYC’s Laguardia Airport just before midnight. At the end of her 19-hour journey, Hannah posted on Facebook Messenger, “I’m happy to be a part of it and had a good time today. Thank you guys [referring to her Flight Angels team] for putting it all together and standing by in the control room while I did my part. I know kitty is in good hands now and it’s all worth it.”

Sheila was beyond grateful for the generous, efficient efforts by everyone who contributed to J Crew’s safe transport. “Thank you for the phenomenal job networking J Crew to hitch flights from NYC to Portland,” she said. “It was no small task, with COVID, weather, a cat who had lost his person, and with so many other obstacles. But [you] pulled it off, with the help of some very dedicated volunteers. We are grateful for the fact that although it takes a village, there is a village.”

The Mayor’s Alliance is grateful to have been able to play the role of match-maker in connecting J Crew’s family with the incredible SWATT and DART teams. 

To read more about SWATT’s life-saving work, visit their website.

Footnote: (*The adopter’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.)

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February is Adopt A Rescued Rabbit Month

Have you thought about adopting a rescued rabbit? 

Across the country, animal shelters and rabbit rescues have rabbits of all ages, shapes, and sizes just waiting to be adopted. In fact, after cats and dogs, rabbits are the third most-adopted pets from animal shelters.

In the right circumstances, rabbits can be the perfect pet. If you want animal companionship but not the demands of walking a pet, a rabbit might be the perfect companion for you. 

Why adopt a rabbit? 

According to Cindy Stutts, House Rabbit Society Educator since 1995, and founder of Bunnies and Beyond in 2017, some reasons people adopt rabbits include:

1. Rabbits have distinct personalities and can bond well with their people. They can be affectionate, cuddly, and charming – just ask anyone who lives with a rabbit. Rabbits get to know their owners well, and like dogs, they can be very social and can be taught commands.

2. Rabbits are very clean pets. They can easily be litterbox-trained once they have been spayed or neutered and, like cats, rabbits keep themselves clean with frequent grooming. That means you won’t have to give your rabbit a bath.

3. Rabbits are great for apartment living or if you don’t have a lot of space – they’re clean, they’re quiet, and you don’t have to walk them.

4. Rabbits have long lives. Bringing a rabbit into your family is not a short-term commitment. When housed indoors and cared for properly, pet rabbits can live eight to 12 years or more. We know of rabbits living to be 15 – 16 years old. Fortunately, today rabbit owners can purchase pet insurance. 

“Many first time rabbit adopters choose a rabbit because they don’t have time for a dog, they’re allergic to cats or they’re not a cat person, and they have heard that a rabbit might make a great alternative,” explains Cindy.

“But rabbits aren’t the perfect pet for everyone,” Cindy continues. “As with any new pet, it’s critical that you do your homework before deciding to adopt a rabbit.”

Plenty of resources are available to potential rabbit adopters that provide a great deal of useful information about rabbit care and behavior. A good place to start is the House Rabbit Society website. Here you’ll find guidance to help you make informed decisions about adopting a rabbit. Also seek out guidance from an experienced rabbit rescuer. Rabbit rescue groups not only know the rabbits they offer for adoption, but they also are excellent sources of information about rabbit health and behavioral issues. And they’re there to provide lifelong guidance and support for adopters. 

Bunnies Available for Adoption from Bunnies and Beyond

Meet Oogie and Apple

Oogie and Apple are a pair of juvenile male siblings. Oogie is the Lionhead, and Apple is the black short-haired boy. They are small now and are unlikely to get bigger than about 4 pounds each. Oogie and Apple must be adopted together. They have been neutered and are in foster care. To inquire about adoption, please email

See their full Pet Finder profile.

Meet Randall

Randall is a small black and white bunny who came to the shelter practically emaciated and with an oral wound that had abscessed. He is much better now, but he’ll need frequent checkups to make sure he’s at a good weight and has no complications from his abscess. He’d do best in a bunny-savvy home. Randall has been neutered and is in foster care. To inquire about adoption, please email

See his full Pet Finder profile.

Meet Sophie

Sophie is a small- to medium-sized bundle of hugs and cuddles. She loves when her foster mom picks her up and gives her kisses. Although she is a bit over 6 years old, you would never know it given her binky acrobatics. Sophie has been spayed. We would prefer to place her with a husbun, since she has a leaky eye due to a blocked tear duct. We would consider a doting human, however. To inquire about adoption, please email

See her full Pet Finder profile,

Meet Rosie

Rosie is a medium-to-large New Zealand White/Florida White mix with an award-winning dewlap. This girl is a group favorite! She’s both highly intelligent and very sweet – she hunkers right down for petting, her dewlap puffed out on both sides of her head like an Elizabethan ruff. If you stop petting her, she’ll lick her chops with her unusually long tongue while waiting for you to recommence. Apart from that dewlap, Lola has rather delicate features – a slender face, smallish eyes, and slim front legs. By virtue of her winning personality, he would make a great choice for a first-time bunny owner. She has been spayed and is in foster care. To inquire about adoption, please email

See her full Pet Finder profile.

More rabbits are available for adoption from the New York City Animal Care Centers and these local rescue organizations. 

All About Rabbits Rescue, Inc. (AARR)

Bunnies and Beyond

Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group

Rabbit Rescue & Rehab/NYC Metro Rabbits
The New York City Chapter of the House Rabbit Society

Posted in Animal Care & Control of NYC, Bunnies and Beyond, Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group, Pet Adoption, Rabbit Rescue & Rehab/NYC Metro Rabbits The New York City Chapter of the House Rabbit Society, Rabbits, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Local Organizations Feed Hungry NYC Pets During Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a uniquely difficult time for people around the globe, New York City became the country’s epicenter for the virus in early 2020. Pet owners struggling to care for their pets faced a range of challenges – including food insecurity and diminished resources for pet care. Finding the help they needed to care for their pets became a major hurdle for many NYC pet owners. Some local organizations stepped up to fill the gaps.

Examples of large organizations offering assistance to pet owners were widely publicized. The ASPCA, one of the leading organizations that serves on NYC Emergency Management’s Animal Planning Task Force (APTF) along with the Mayor’s Alliance and numerous other organizations, launched free pet food distribution centers in New York City. They established by-appointment pick-up locations for free dog and cat food and pet supplies in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. As a result of their efforts, thousands of local pet owners were able to access free food for their pets.

Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC), also an APTF member, distributed more than 100,000 pounds of pet food in 2020. They donated pet food to human food pantries in NYC, provided curbside pet food deliveries regularly to 178 clients, delivered pet food to a Queens community housing complex, and held food clinics out of their Bronx Resource Center.

But the ASPCA and ACC were not alone in providing emergency food and supplies to struggling New York City pet owners. Other local organizations adapted their operations to the challenges imposed by the pandemic and forged ahead in their respective missions to provide essential services to some of New York City’s most at-risk pet owners. We’d like to highlight three of these organizations with which the Alliance partnered on food donations and requests for food over the past months.


Since 2008, PAWS NY has been helping some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, particularly seniors and disabled people, overcome the physical and financial limitations they face caring for their pets on a daily basis. Their core program, the Housecall Program, dispatches PAWS NY volunteers for on-site home visits to their clients. These volunteers assist clients with daily pet care, including dog walking, litter maintenance, administering medications to pets, feeding, and watering. The program also attempts to assist clients with other specialized needs, including transporting pets to medical appointments, and in some cases, with temporary foster care for their pets. 

With the onset of transmission risks and social distancing requirements, PAWS NY had to suspend its Housecall Program to ensure the safety of its clients and volunteers. But that didn’t stop them from providing their existing clients with critical services. The organization continues to support its clients through their Pet Pantry and Veterinary Care and Foster and Emergency Care programs. Over the past months, PAWS NY has continued to deliver pet food and supplies to clients, facilitate dozens of veterinary visits, and coordinate foster care for pets whose owners were hospitalized or unable to care for their pets at home. In December, PAWS NY volunteers even made Holiday Gift Bags and delivered them to their clients!

PAWS NY Program Director Carrie Nydick Finch, MS, LCSW says that “suspending the Housecall Program was a heart wrenching decision for us, but we knew we had to prioritize the health and safety of our clients and volunteers. We are so pleased that we were able to pivot and provide increased, and much needed, support through some of our supplemental programs. Since the pandemic began, we have provided $16,385 worth of direct veterinary care and $18,086 worth of pet food to our clients. In addition, our volunteers have provided 1,330 days of foster care to 16 of our clients’ pets.”

PAWS NY recently was featured in Shape Magazine as one of the “Nonprofits that Connect People and Pets to Improve the Wellbeing of Everyone Involved,” and was also featured with a two-page spread in HealthyPet magazine.

Because of the ongoing health crisis, PAWS NY currently is unable to take on new clients. But those interested in receiving services or looking to refer someone can begin the intake process now by emailing Those interested in volunteering are invited to contact PAWS NY. Visit or email or call (212) 203-4760 to find out about their virtual volunteer orientations. 

Healthy Pets Project of NYC, Inc.

Healthy Pets Project of NYC, Inc. (HPPNYC) was created in 2015 to help pet owners in crisis to care for and keep their pet companions at home. By providing support, services, and education, the organization seeks to prevent pet owners from surrendering their companion pets to a shelter. 

As the Covid-19 crisis engulfed New York City, HPPNYC stepped up its efforts to support the needs of the community’s struggling pet owners. Recognizing the crucial bond between people and their pets, and understanding that each pet and each person has a unique story, the organization has provided emergency Pet Food Packages to pet owners in need. In some cases, HPPNYC has been able to assist in providing veterinary care. 

Since late March 2020, HPPNYC has delivered more than 1,100 pounds of dog and cat dry food, as well as 500 cans of wet food. They have been able to assist 25 pet owners with veterinary care, ranging from dentals and spay/neuter to mass removal surgeries. Missy, pictured above with her owner Joannie, on her day of discharge from the Animal Medical Center, had major exploratory surgery in September thanks to HPPNYC.

“We were not expecting our beloved NYC to be hit so hard by COVID,” says Jessica Martin, Executive Director and Founder of HPPNYC, who was named NY1’s New Yorker of the Week in October 2015. “I have a full time job as a teacher, and in March I found myself teaching from home. We knew that we were living through unprecedented times and we were ready. We took all the necessary precautions, and we delivered pet food after hours and on the weekends in our own car to keep everyone safe. The appreciation from pet owners has made it all worth it and we hope to continue to make a difference in pet families’ lives.”

HPPNYC believes that access to information and accessible care is crucial to a pet’s wellbeing, and reduces their chance of being relinquished to a shelter. Their website features a particularly valuable tool for pet owners in its Resources page. Here pet owners can access informative articles on how to care for their pets, as well as information about a wide range of pet care resources available to them.

The Hungry Pet Project

Lindsay Freda, founder of Partnership for Shelter Animals NYC, launched The Hungry Pet Project in April 2020 to help pet owners in financial crisis feed their pets during the pandemic. The Project’s goal is to keep pets in their homes, rather than being surrendered to a shelter or, worse, abandoned to the streets. By partnering with food pantries, they get pet food into the hands of those in greatest need.

Since April, the Project has distributed more than $22,000 worth of pet food (17,690 cans of pet food and 18,630 pounds of dry food) through its food pantry partners, as well as helping homebound owners in need. Lindsay’s current pet pantry partner is North Manhattan Improvement Corps (NMIC).

Lindsay encourages New Yorkers to “adopt” a human food pantry in their neighborhood and donate pet food to the pantry so that it is available to the pantry’s customers who have pets. 

“No one should have to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their pets,” says Lindsay. “Pet food should be available to anyone seeking food assistance. Pets are family.” 

Lindsay founded Partnership for Shelter Animals NYC in 2014 to help improve the lives of abandoned animals at ACC by sponsoring medical care and donating critical supplies and enrichment items. She also created the Smiling Cat Project to help cats with dental disease get the care they need – an expensive barrier to adoption – so they can find homes. 

For more information about resources available to NYC pet owners, visit

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