Many people still think that shelters kill animals (mostly cats) because people do not spay/neuter their pets. When I was first introduced to the concept that it’s actually how the shelters deal with their community’s animals, their policies and procedures, that kills them, I didn’t believe it. Spay and neuter was only a piece of the pie. Now, 20 years into this business, I not only see it, I live it.
Stray Cat Alliance began a Return To Field program at the Long Beach Animal Care Services in March of 2014. We return healthy stray cats to their neighborhoods, who do not have a live outcome at the shelter otherwise. When we first began, everyone said the sky would fall, i.e. the public wouldn’t stand for it, dead animal pick up would increase, disease would increase and there would be cats everywhere.
Well none of that happened. Even better, intake has decreased by 22% and the live release rate went from 27% in 2013 (before the program began) to 72% projected for 2017. The City Council of Long Beach gave Stray Cat Alliance accommodations for our work.
The word got out and other cities heard. The City of Garden Grove contacted us about running a Return To Field program for them. We are gearing up to start but in the meantime, I advised the Director to do 2 simple things: Leave healthy kittens alone (unless they are in a dangerous place like the freeway) and release ear tipped cats from traps instead of impounding them. In 2016, their then animal control agency impounded 1765 cats and kittens. This year we estimate impounds to be approximately 950 cats and kittens. Just 2 suggestions created an almost 50% reduction in intake. And happy cities and happy cats are the results. The goal is to spend the money on free spay/neuter programs that involve the community and save lives, not end them.
What is your community doing to reduce the killing of cats in the shelter? If you can ask them to do two things that would not cost any money, reduce the time spent taking in cats and allow them to use funds in a more positive way, isn’t it worth asking them to implement a Return To Field Program?
Stray Cat Alliance