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Governor Vetoes Bill Pretending Outdoor Cats are Wildlife

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 28, 2015

Adorable but deadly (Photo: Richard Conniff)

Adorable but deadly (Photo: Richard Conniff)

Thank common sense for this week’s decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to kill this bit of misguided legislation.  It would have treated cats as wildlife and wasted public money on a methodology (Trap, Neuter, Release) that does nothing to control outdoor cat populations.  It would also have worked to the detriment of genuine wildlife, including birds and small mammals.

Here’s the press release from the American Bird Conservancy:

(Washington, D.C., October 28, 2015) This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation that would have used public funds to support statewide Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) programs for feral cats. The decision came on Monday, Oct. 26, after a lengthy public debate.

Under the proposed legislation (A 2778/S 1081), up to 20 percent of the state’s Animal Population Control Program Fund, which is supported by dog license fees, could have been allocated to TNR programs and away from the fund’s original purpose: to support low-cost spay/neuter of dogs and cats for low-income owners.

A diverse coalition of stakeholders, including American Bird Conservancy, Audubon New York, New York birders, animal welfare organizations, and sportsmen’s groups, rallied to oppose the TNR legislation, submitting numerous letters, emails, and phone calls expressing serious concerns.

“By vetoing this proposed legislation, Governor Cuomo has acted with

vision and courage to protect the wildlife of New York,” commented Grant Sizemore, Director of Invasive Species Programs for American Bird Conservancy, noting that studies have shown that free-roaming cats kill billions of birds in the U.S. each year.

“This bill was an effort to legitimize the systematic abandonment of cats,” Sizemore continued, “and to inappropriately require that public funds prop up a failed TNR strategy. We hope that other law-makers draw inspiration from this decision and recognize TNR is a ‘lose, lose, lose’ scenario for cats, wildlife, and people.”

In a public statement about his decision, the governor called the proposed bill “problematic” for a number of reasons, including evidence that shows TNR does not reduce feral cat populations and that feral cats have a major impact on wildlife, “including threatened and endangered species, habitats, and food sources for native predators.”

The governor’s message is consistent with the position of American Bird Conservancy and its Cats Indoors Program: TNR programs have been widely shown to be unsuccessful at reducing feral cat populations while simultaneously maintaining cats in the environment, where they contribute to unsustainable wildlife predation and serious public health risks. A 2013 study by scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified outdoor cats as the top source of direct, human-caused mortality of birds, and the mere presence of cats in the environment has been shown to negatively affect nesting birds.

Not only are feral cats a non-native predator, but they are also a source of potential infectious diseases and parasites, such as rabies and toxoplasmosis. Cats are the number-one carrier of rabies among domestic animals in the United States and require regular vaccinations to protect a cat and its community.

Cats are the definitive host of the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, which can lead to miscarriages, blindness, memory loss, and death in humans. Feral and other outdoor cats may excrete hundreds of millions of infectious eggs in feces, effectively contaminating the environment with this parasite.




7 Responses to “Governor Vetoes Bill Pretending Outdoor Cats are Wildlife”

  1. ConnieB said

    This news made my day! Kudos to Governor Cuomo and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and to all those who asked the Governor to veto this ill-conceived legislation.

  2. Johanna van de Woestijne said

    Of course Richard Conniff is one of my favorite science writers, ever, and here is bringing good news, so I like him even more. The cat photo though, with the accidental reality to it, everything about it, is just absolutely perfect with the post.

  3. Angela Cancilla Herschel said

    Study Finds Feral Cats Likely Driving Disease Among Deer:


  4. Angela Cancilla Herschel said

    Catching birds and other animals is yes what cats do. They are after all actually like little panthers.
    We have choices…protect from predation by cats, or not protect.

    Anyone who still thinks it is natural selection, might consider this:

    Wild birds,evolved alongside predators for millions of years … they co-exist in places like North America along with raccoons, fox, bobcat, and raptors etc. .

    Now, let’s look at the natural predators. Their populations are only so large there are only so many raptors, bobcats, coyotes, etc. per square mile, and therefore, only so many not as careful birds that will be killed .

    Now, into this existing system with no helping hand to the predators , let’s throw in for fun the domestic cat, man’s creation . Birds have had no time to adapt to this fierce hunter that hunts night or day, with something like often as many as 100’s of cats per square mile in urban areas.
    Think of the domestic cat as an introduced species . A mini-panther. Currently laws allow them to roam everywhere.
    But the truth is can we continue to stillreally think having a little “panther” cat out traveling everywhere is still a good idea?

    The National Geographic & University of Georgia Kitty Cams Project , ” A window into the world of free-roaming cats.’

  5. One of the ‘TNR’ kitty-sniffing imbeciles’ standard arguments is that cat depredation is part of ‘the circle of life’. This is of course an outright lie, like pretty much all their claims. The ‘circle of life’ as it applies to undisturbed, naturally-occurring wildlife assemblages, means essentially that prey species’ numbers are kept in check by predators such that a sustainable balance is achieved–specifically, the prey doesn’t become so numerous that it exhausts its food supply and starves, and the predators don’t become so numerous they eat all the prey and starve. Sustainable balance.

    Domestic cats have no place in ‘the circle of life’ as defined above. In most of the world (where I live in Alaska is an exception) there aren’t enough apex predators to suppress their numbers. Plus misguided, irresponsible people feed them, enabling them to exist at densities far beyond the environmental capacity for any natural predator. Another reason cats have no place in this ‘circle of life’ is that they’re not part of naturally-occurring fauna–anywhere.

    That’s why even their own wild parent species, the African and European wild cats (Felis lybicus and F. sylvestris) are not critically endangered through displacement and genetic swamping by their own ‘domesticated’ descendants. But those cats will never be anyone’s ‘pets’, so the TNR cat-hoarders don’t care about them.

    Felis catus (or F. domesticus, depending on taxonomist) were selectively bred to kill anything that moves, even when not hungry, to protect grain stores, and–according to some theories–to guard Pharaohs’ tombs. They have NEVER been part of the ‘circle of life in North, Central or South America, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, or any of the western Pacific, eastern Atlantic or Caribbean Islands. That means those balanced assemblages of wild animals haven’t had the opportunity to evolve means to compete with, avoid depredation by or withstand pathogens carried by invasive cats, because such adaptations require many thousands, if not millions, of years to evolve and become established.

    The kitty-sniffing extremists tell only two lies that are more egregious than this one: that TNR works and that they have scientific evidence to prove it.

  6. […] Governor Vetoes Bill Pretending Outdoor Cats are Wildlife […]

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