Community cats put at risk by overreaching federal employees

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has stated repeatedly that it has “no national policy concerning trap-neuter-release programs for feral cats” (quoted from their blog).

Yet recently, in a letter on official letterhead sent to policymakers in Escambia County, Florida, USFWS staff claim that the “agency strongly opposes free-roaming, domestic or feral cats” and trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs. The letter also threatens possible legal action if the county does not “eliminate free-ranging feral cats.”

Sadly, the letter seems to have been effective. After the threatening letter was received from the feds, the community cat program discussion was dropped from the Board of County Commissioners’ meeting agenda at the last minute.

It appears that the USFWS is willfully allowing individual staff to create de facto regulations that bypass the required public hearings and policy debate needed to establish official policy. They are using implied authority to exercise enforcement of a policy that they deny exists, and in so doing, they are jeopardizing the lives of community cats and thwarting efforts to humanely manage community cat populations.

TNR is the only humane method of community cat population control — and it works, especially when it is part of a shelter-integrated program run in cooperation with local animal control agencies. Such programs have proven to be highly effective in stabilizing and reducing stray, feral and free-roaming cat populations in communities as diverse as San Jose, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Baltimore, Maryland; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This activity by a federal agency is troubling to say the least and flies in the face of humane best practices, as well as the preferences of the pet-loving American public.

I hope that you will join Best Friends in making your voice heard by your elected officials and USFWS’s director, Daniel M. Ashe. We believe strongly that Mr. Ashe needs to ensure that his staff abides by the agency’s officially stated “no policy” position. Please send a message to your U.S. senator and representative and urge them to demand that the Government Accounting Office intervene to put an end to this abuse of agency discretion and violation of the public’s trust.


Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society