New trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs across the US

Shelly Kotter, Best Friends community cat program managerBest Friends has long been a friend to cats, not only at the Sanctuary but all across the country. Best Friends’ outreach initiatives to help community cats save countless lives  outside of the Sanctuary and Best Friends pet adoption centers, and provide support for trap/neuter/return (TNR) legislation and hands-on programs. There are six community cat projects, in partnership with PetSmart Charities®, in six communities across the country. Best Friends also helps cats through TNR programs in Utah, Los Angeles and in DeKalb County, Georgia. “The momentum to save lives and keep cats out of the shelter system is gaining more supporters every day,” says Shelly Kotter, Best Friends community cat program manager.

New trap-neuter-return programs in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia

This year Best Friends launched such programs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pima County, Arizona, and Columbus, Georgia. These multi-year TNR projects rely on cooperation with municipal shelters and local organizations, and they utilize onsite staff to help community cats get out of shelters quickly or bypass the shelter system altogether. They join the existing programs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, San Antonio, Texas, and Baltimore, Maryland.

One major victory occurred when the Pima County, Arizona board of supervisors approved the program and passed an ordinance to allow Pima Animal Care and Control (PACC) to participate in the program. Previously, city and county ordinances prohibited the shelter from returning cats to neighborhoods — but now, it’s happening on a grand scale. “We are so excited to be working together to help the cats of Pima County,” says Shelly. “The program is launching full throttle, and includes a PACC facility that will house cats before and after spay/neuter, plus provide office space.”

Outdoor cat shelters

Among other resources provided by Best Friends are community cat shelters. All over Utah, cats are sleeping peacefully throughout the long, harsh winter nights, thanks to Best Friends staffers and volunteers working together to provide warm, dry enclosures. Best Friends recently delivered more than a dozen such shelters to folks who needed them to keep their cats safe.

TNR education

Humane trapping community (feral and stray) catsOne of the most important aspects right now for community cats is the support provided by municipal shelters and local governments. Best Friends was invited to give community cat presentations at the National Animal Care and Control Association conference this year. In one session, Best Friends staff co-presented with Vincent Medley, San Antonio Animal Care Services assistant director, who helps train Best Friends community cat staff in other cities. “Having animal control folks like Vincent onboard makes a huge difference,” says Shelly.

Education is an important component for all of Best Friends’ cat initiatives, and 2015 will provide even more information to help communities deal with their community cats. Staff are working on a comprehensive guide on how to launch such a project to help community cats. “With more than 30 municipalities applying to be one of the community cat project locations, the time is right to provide the information to empower every city to save more cat lives,” says Shelly.

From record-breaking results in 2014, to more folks than ever getting behind TNR, the upcoming year is expected to be the best yet for community cats.

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Photos by Best Friends staff