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Major Decrease in Feral Cat Population

Fairfax County's "trap, neuter and return" program has contributed to the decrease in population, officials say.

The number of feral animals in the care of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter's foster care program has decreased by 58 percent since last year, according to officials at the shelter. 

The animal shelter attributes the changing numbers to a program implemented three years ago: Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR). Volunteers and animal control officials trap feral cats, neuter and vaccinate them. Then, they return them to "managed colonies" of feral cats. How a managed colony usually works is that several volunteers will keep an eye on the cats to make sure they remain healthy and to remove any kittens or semi-feral cats (previously socialized, but lost or abandoned by their owners).

TNR is not without its critics. Some animal lovers argue that the humane thing to do is to put down the cat instead. While the Humane Society and ASPCA support TNR, other groups like PETA oppose it, arguing that feral cats do not have a high quality of life. The Washington Post published an in-depth article about the ongoing debate among animal lovers in the metropolitan area last summer. 

The Fairfax County animal shelter is among the supporters of TNR, and officials tout the decrease in the county's feral cat population as evidence of its success. 

“Trap, neuter and return works. It is a humane solution and we are thrilled that in such a short time the TNR program is showing significant results in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Animal Shelter Director Dr. Karen Diviney said in a press release. “With the help of citizen trappers, we are able to spay or neuter these cats before they contribute to our community’s homeless cat population. TNR is saving lives in Fairfax County.”

Five things to know about the county's TNR program:

  • The county implemented it in 2008 and has since trapped, neutered and returned over 1,800 feral cats to managed colonies.
  • Animal control officials say that from 2008 to 2011 there was a 41 percent decrease in the number of bottle-fed kittens at the shelter.
  • From 2010 to 2011, there was a a 9 percent decrease in the number of pediatric kittens (less than eight weeks old) who needed care at the shelter
  • Over 330 volunteers signed up to help the program in a three-year period.
  • The program is only for feral cats, who are not able to be socialized for adoption. 
Mary Stachyra Lopez January 25, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I've also decided to delete your insulting reply to my question about group affiliation, as it is a personal attack and does not pertain to the discussion (Moreover, you didn't answer the question).
Michele January 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Mary, Many thanks for your moderation to keep the discussion civil. People who insist on belittling others to prove their point only serve to drive others away from their point of view.
Mary Stachyra Lopez January 25, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Thanks for the encouragement, Michelle. I appreciate it!
Karen Woods January 27, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Albert, we all die by attrition; cancer, heart disease, stroke, car accidents, victims of crime, and by many other means.
Albert D January 28, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Karen, that's right! That's why TNR advocates should have absolutely no problem when all their cat colonies die from being shot, poisoned, or re-trapped and drowned. Those are, after all, still methods of dying by "attrition." All perfectly within the rules and requirements of all TNR advocates. This is why, if you do a Google search, you'll find that TNR cat colonies are now "mysteriously" disappearing everywhere, they're all disappearing from "attrition". Cats, shelters, and all are being subjected to TNR advocates favorite term -- attrition. The only thing that TNR advocates are managing to do now is lighten their bank-accounts by "attrition". Their cats still end up dead and gone as soon as possible. What a wonderful success story! :-)

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