PETA Threatens Florida’s Community Cat Act

Less than two weeks after the “Community Cat Act” received unanimous approval from Florida’s House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, the bill (SB 1320) is scheduled to be heard and voted on by the Senate’s Agriculture Committee Monday afternoon.

As I reported in my previous post, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association came out in opposition to the proposed legislation last week, their “concerns” (PDF) a mix of misinformation and scaremongering (similar to the various complaints made by Audubon Florida when HB 1121 was before the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee).

On Friday, I received word of another longtime TNR opponent stepping into the fray—and this one might surprise some readers: PETA. Read more

Florida Veterinary Medical Association Opposes TNR-Friendly Bill

Among the “values and objectives that are still revered” by the 85-year-old Florida Veterinary Medical Association is “to further the education of its members.” So why is the organization going out of its way to misinform them about House Bill 1121, “The Community Cat Act”?

The bill, authored by Best Friends Animal Society and supported by Alley Cat Allies and the Humane Society of the United States, made it through the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee with unanimous approval last week—despite opposition from, among others, Audubon Florida (which was trying to make the most of the Smithsonian/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service paper before too many people start asking questions).

Then came the FVMA with their “concerns.” Read more

Audubon Shows Their True Colors

Had David Yarnold waited just a few more days, the announcement might have been taken as an April Fools joke: Ted Williams is back.

“After doing the review we promised,” explained Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society, in a blog post Tuesday, “which included extensive fact-checking and a look at Ted’s work for other publications, we’re satisfied that there’s no larger pattern of missteps that would warrant further disciplinary action.”

Just a week-and-a-half ago Audubon “suspended its contract” with Williams amidst a firestorm of complaints about an Orlando Sentinel op-ed in which he suggested that acetaminophen poisoning was one of “two effective, humane alternatives to the cat hell of TNR.”

No pattern of missteps? Read more

Brighter Days Ahead for the Sunshine State’s Cats?

Feral cat advocates were more than ready for some good news when, last Wednesday afternoon, we got some. Florida House Bill 1121, supported by Best Friends Animal Society, Alley Cat Allies, and the Humane Society of the United States, made it through the 11-member House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee with unanimous approval. Among the key provisions of “The Community Cat Act,” as it’s come to be known, are protections for community cat caregivers (“release of a community cat by a community cat program is not abandonment or unlawful release”) and veterinarians participating in community cat programs (who would be “immune from criminal and civil liability for any decisions made or services rendered… except for willful and wanton misconduct.”)

As the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo), explained to Keynoter reporter Ryan McCarthy: “The basis for the bill is it’s not mandatory. It gives local governments an option if they want to deal with feral cat colonies.” [1]

The message didn’t seem to get through to opponents of HB 1121, however, who, as expected, brought to Tallahassee their usual misinformation and scaremongering. Read more

Natural Selection, Pronto!

Cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonata) in Cayucos, CA. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Marlin Harms.

Swallows evolve shorter wings to avoid cars, study suggests.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown increasingly skeptical of such headlines. Still, sometimes the research really does live up to the media hype. This would seem to be the case here, in an NBC News story about the recently published work of Charles Brown and Mary Bomberger Brown.

Collecting and studying the “salvageable specimens” of cliff swallows killed along the roads surrounding southwestern Nebraska’s Cedar Point Biological Station over the past 30 years, Brown and Brown found the numbers of road-killed birds “declined sharply.” [1] And the trend couldn’t be explained by the population of swallows living nearby (which increased over the study period), traffic volume (which “either did not change significantly or increased, depending on the metric used”), or the number of avian scavengers in the area (“as none showed significant increases in our study area”).

“Thus, none of the obvious factors that confound most road-kill surveys applied to our study,” explain the researchers in the most recent issue of Current Biology. [1]

So why the decrease in swallow mortalities? Read more

Audubon Editor Suspended “Pending Further Review”

It’s been a turbulent few days for Ted Williams. First, the editors at the Orlando Sentinel—who, it seems clear, were previously asleep at the switch—revised his op-ed, pulling the comment about Tylenol and changing his affiliation from “editor-at-large for Audubon magazine” to “independent column[ist] for Audubon magazine.” They also added a disclaimer: “His views do not necessarily reflect those of the National Audubon Society.”

As of Saturday morning, Williams was more independent than ever.

That’s when the National Audubon Society announced via Facebook that the organization “suspended its contract with Mr. Williams and will remove him as ‘Editor at Large’ from the masthead pending further review.” This comes in the wake of his inflammatory op-ed in Thursday’s Orlando Sentinel in which Williams suggested that acetaminophen poisoning was one of “two effective, humane alternatives to the cat hell of TNR.”

And although Williams will likely blame his dismissal (assuming Audubon won’t just wait until the smoke clears and then quietly bring him back on board) on the “feral-cat mafia,” as he describes us in one of his online comments to the story, the fact is he’s got nobody to blame but himself. Read more

Audubon Editor Suggests Poisoning Feral Cats

Armed with the recently published “killer cat study” from the Smithsonian Biological Conservation Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, TNR opponents are calling for increasingly extreme measures.

Travis Longcore was among the first, telling KCET reporter Judy Muller that “managing and controlling unowned, free-roaming cats will require euthanasia. There are not enough shelter spaces, there is not enough sanctuary space. And we have to stand up and be honest. But the thing is something is going to die in this equation.” Witch-hunt pioneer Stanley Temple chimed in a few days later with an op-ed piece in the Orlando Sentinel in which he referred to the work of Scott Loss, Tom Will, and Peter Marra as “a new study [that] for the first time provides a science-based estimate of the number of birds and mammals killed by cats nationwide.”

A week-and-a-half later came another op-ed, this one in the Baltimore Sun and penned by American Bird Conservancy president George Fenwick, who, like Temple, endorsed the Smithsonian/USFWS paper as valid science rather than the PR scam it truly is. “Local governments need to act swiftly and decisively to gather the 30 million to 80 million unowned cats,” argued Fenwick, “aggressively seek adoptions, and establish sanctuaries for or euthanize those cats that are not adoptable.”

All of which pales in comparison to the rhetoric unleashed by Audubon magazine’s editor-at-large, Ted Williams, in his own op-ed, published in today’s Orlando Sentinel. Read more

Key Lie Kitties

It was easy to miss,* what with all the media attention devoted to the Smithsonian/USFWS’s “killer cat study,” published less than 24 hours later, but on January 28th, the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex (managed by USFWS) released the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex Integrated Pest Management Plan. Regular readers will recall that the draft version, released two years earlier, proposed the roundup of any free-roaming cats found on Refuge lands, but failed to offer any evidence whatsoever in terms of their estimated numbers, location, or diet.

In other words, evidence that the cats are the threat USFWS claims they are.

Two years later, that hasn’t changed. Indeed, there’s actually more to object to, not less. Read more

The American Bird Conservancy’s Campaign of Killing

“The only sure way to protect wildlife, cats and people is for domestic cats to be permanently removed from the outdoor environment,” argues American Bird Conservancy president George Fenwick in a Baltimore Sun op-ed published earlier this week.

“Trap-neuter-release programs that perpetuate the slaughter of wildlife and encourage the dumping of unwanted cats is [sic] a failed strategy being implemented across the United States without any consideration for environmental, human health, or animal welfare effects. It can no longer be tolerated.”

“Evidence” of the slaughter, Fenwick suggests, can be found “in a long line of scientific studies”—among them the Smithsonian/USFWS “killer cat study,” Rick Gerhold and David Jessup’s “Zoonotic Diseases” paper, Peter Marra’s gray catbird study, and Kerry Anne Loyd’s “KittyCam” research. The trouble, of course, is with the quality of Fenwick’s evidence—or in the case of Loyd’s work, how badly it’s been misrepresented by Fenwick and ABC.

But let’s face it: a witch-hunt is a much easier sell when you can put some “science” behind it. And, although too few Sun readers probably realize it, that’s exactly what Fenwick’s up to: Read more