Opponents of community cat programs: A desperate struggle for relevance

No good deed goes unpunished.

I’ve never cared for that expression. How could I? After all, anybody who’s dedicated his or her life to saving the lives of animals knows very well the numerous rewards involved.

Still, our good deeds do sometimes attract the attention of the naysayers — an increasingly small number of opponents more interested in preserving the status quo than in implementing lifesaving programs. This is exactly what happened recently in Miami-Dade County, Florida, following news of the success Miami-Dade Animal Services (MDAS) is having with their Trap-treat-and-return program. According to a story in the Miami-Herald, approximately 30 percent of cats brought into MDAS last year were killed, compared with about 75 percent in 2011.

Obviously, there’s much more work to be done if Miami-Dade is going to fulfill their commitment to become a no-kill community — including, of course, the adoption of policies that don’t discriminate against pit-bull-terrier-type dogs — but their progress with cats is both undeniable and commendable.

But, just five days after the Herald ran the story about MDAS’ community cat program, columnist Fred Grimm lambasted and ridiculed elected officials for ignoring the relevant science in creating Miami-Dade’s program, which, he argues, “amounts to songbird annihilation, a government-sanctioned massacre of birds, lizards and small animals.” In addition to all the usual scaremongering, Grimm promised that “there will be expensive repercussions” and lawsuits.

All of this is, quite frankly, getting old. As is the so-called science Grimm refers to, which, more often than not, has little to do with science and lots to do with agenda-driven attempts (typically at taxpayer expense) to encourage lethal roundups of free-roaming cats. We’ve been hearing the same apocalyptic predications for years now. Miami-Dade is just the most recent instance.

Community cat programs are, contrary to what naysayers would have us believe, the most humane and effective approach for managing stray, abandoned and “feral” cats. It should be obvious, but it’s a point that bears repeating: Sterilized and vaccinated cats are better for the environment than intact and unvaccinated cats, and by definition they do not reproduce.

Nevertheless, it’s a point that Grimm and his fellow opponents conveniently ignore, implying that the “traditional” approach is working — that Miami-Dade can kill its way out of the “feral cat problem.” In fact, no community that went down that path ever saw the problem solved.

Grimm misses the larger point, too: Policymakers, and the public to which they are accountable, are fed up with a lethal approach that, for generations now, has proved costly, ineffective and unpalatable. The majority of the public wants trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs because killing cats is as unpopular as poison ivy.

By offering the public a humane, cost-effective method for managing the population of unowned, free-roaming cats, community cat programs, such as Miami-Dade’s, provide a considerable benefit to the entire community — and do a whole lot more to protect wildlife than any inflammatory rant in a daily newspaper ever will.

If you are a resident of Miami-Dade County, please thank your community officials for standing up for cats. They need our support now more than ever.