We want to ensure a cost effective, legal, and long term solution. In the State of Arizona, it is illegal under Statute 13-2910 to intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly inflict any animal to physical harm, injury, cruel mistreatment, neglect, or abandonment. Also there is a strong likelihood that other cats will simply move in, in what is called the vacuum effect. We have over 20 years of documented proof that traditional ways of dealing with free roaming cats do not work.
The “catch and kill” method of population control (trap a cat, bring it to a shelter, have the cat euthanized), has not reduced the the number of free roaming cats. The cat may be gone, but now there is room for another cat to move in.
According to The Humane Society of the United States we are currently killing over 400 cats per hour at the municipal shelter level in the United States. This is at a cost of $2 billion per year to tax payers according to Business Wire Features.
By creating a hole in a neighborhood free roaming cat colony, we encourage fighting, marking of territory and breeding. In addition, female cats in distressed colonies tend to produce more offspring than those in stable colonies. So, “catch and kill” actually makes the problem worse.
Cat extermination has been tried – and failed – in other countries and other municipalities. No method is 100% effective in eliminating cats. Cats which escape, breed 2 to 4 times a year, averaging 4 kittens per litter, quickly re-occupying areas. National studies by veterinarian researchers at the University level and animal control professionals, have shown that when cats are removed from an area, more cats move in. If you sterilize the population, you will stop the constant flow of kittens and the colony will keep other cats from moving into the area.
Eventually, through natural attrition, the colony dies out. Complete removal of the cats will result in additional issues, such as a population boom in rabbits, rats, mice, pigeons, and other pest species which compete with, or prey upon, desirable wildlife species.
Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) appreciates your concern about free-roaming (feral and tame) cats. There are no local ordinances that cover such issues. MCACC CANNOT come and pick up cats unless they have bitten a person. Arizona law states that cats are free roaming and there are no licensing, leash, or mandatory spay/neuter laws for cats. The issue of free roaming cats is a property management issue and is no longer up to the local animal control municipality. MCACC now requires an intake fee of $96 per cat. However, the cost to sterilize a cat is as little as $25 per cat.
MCACC advocates the development of a TNR program in every community where feral cats are an issue. After many years of study, MCACC has decided to take a proactive stand in the way free roaming cats should be handled and controlled. “Trap, Neuter and Return” (TNR) is a proven, humane method of cat population control. In September 2002, Maricopa County and the Board of Commissioners issued a resolution to make Trap, Neuter and Return the official means to solve the free roaming cat issue in Maricopa County.
No, The Arizona Humane Society does not trap or pick up cats. They do charge a fee to anyone who brings in feral and/or trapped cats for euthanasia. The schedule is as follows:
$20 for the first feral or trapped cat and $75 for each additional feral or trapped cat you bring to them at any time (same day or in the future). The fee is in response to the tremendous strain that the increase in feline intakes puts on the shelter resources.The Arizona Humane Society is a nonprofit organization that depends solely on donor funding.
It’s also because they are pursuing TNR (trap/neuter/return) solutions, believing TNR is a more successful solution to reducing their feline intake, as well as cat overpopulation.
Relocating the cats may seem like a solution, but that may cause many other issues, among them civil and criminal prosecution.
“Relocation” is considered animal abandonment and is illegal in Arizona. ARS 13-2910 states: “Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly subjects any animal under the person’s custody or control to cruel neglect or abandonment.”
It may not be. They may rescue cats with donor dollars, but donors to animal shelters usually give money to “save cats” not “kill cats” and as euthanasia numbers go up, donation dollars may go down. If you pick up a stray cat yourself, you may find there is no shelter to take it to. Even when there are services, they are often inadequate to meet the huge demand for help.
Animals congregate in certain habitats according to the availability of not only food, but water, shelter, and companions. Removing food often does not result in cats simply moving out to look for other food sources if other attractants (dry shelter, a male cat drawn to females in heat, a frightened tame cat comforted by the presence of humans, etc.) are strong. If the cats have been sterilized, then they will no longer roam parking lots and common and public areas seeking mates, but they will be roaming in search of food. The cats will not “go away” if you stop feeding them.
Female cats, especially pregnant cats, often will stay where abandoned. Owners of seasonal houses often return to discover a tame cat and kittens in residence, and there was not one scrap of human-provided food to be had. Hunting enabled her to survive until discovery by humans, although many of these cats become ill and sickly. If an unsterilized female remains, males will certainly visit her. So even though males will often move out to search for new food sources, a cat in heat will certainly cause them to return, or attract new males. Abandoned kittens will usually stay where abandoned and starve until someone stops to pick them up. If no one stops, they may stay there and die.
Removing the cats poses many other issues and can be deemed abandonment and could result in criminal and /or civil prosecution. There are the legal risks of removing and euthanizing free-roaming cats that could belong to someone (a lost pet), as pets are property in Arizona, and collars, tattoos, microchips, and other methods of identification are not always visible.
Killing cats is another matter entirely. Destroying cats oftentimes becomes a public relations nightmare. If removal involves large-scale euthanasia, people often will not report the cats. The fact is, removal programs that kill almost every cat are unpopular with most average citizens, and removal almost always fails to solve the issue.
Removal fails when property owners/managers arrange the removal of cats, but not all the cats are captured. Remaining cats breed and soon complaints resume. It is also very expensive. Trapping every cat is hard work, and may take numerous days or weeks.
Once the cats are sterilized and no longer roaming looking for mates, the cat management plan would be ineffective if those same cats are roaming the area looking for food. With a feeding station in place, the cats can be confined to an isolated area and once their needs are met in that area, studies show they will stay in that area. Many of the business owners we work with report they rarely even see the cats.
Neighborhood Cats has extensive information on this subject.
The first step is to call one of these great nonprofit organizations. They lend humane traps, schedule clinic appointments for sterilization surgery and offer instruction and assistance.
The Spay Neuter Hotline TNR Program at 602-265-7729
If you require additional assistance after speaking with them, please contact us. We are happy to provide you with educational flyers or to speak with your community.