Legitimate concerns for public health have, historically, often positioned policy makers and public health officials at odds with animal advocates. The same “dog catcher” who protected the community from rabies was typically feared (and even scorned) by pet owners. Today, though, many communities have adopted policies and practices that effectively address both public health and animal welfare. Few examples better illustrate the point than Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) programs, used to manage community cats.
With TNVR, community cats are humanely trapped, evaluated, and spayed or neutered by a licensed veterinarian, and vaccinated against rabies before being returned. This stands in stark contrast to the “traditional” approach: complaint-based impoundment generally followed by lethal injection. At best, this provided a false sense of security, violating as it does the very premise of herd immunity that is enhanced by TNVR programs. In addition, surveys indicate the public opposes trap and kill.
In this presentation, I will (1) argue that TNVR is the most effective, and humane, approach to managing community cats, and serves the interest of public health officials, animal advocates, and the public, and (2) address some of the common misconceptions about TNVR and community cats more broadly. By recognizing the public health benefit of TNVR programs, advocates engage a whole new audience, mainly the public health community, in garnering support for such programs in a community.